brandThis is part one of a three part series providing the essential marketing strategies you MUST drive during this downturn.

Imperative #1: PROTECT YOUR BRAND.

You might be shaking their head thinking, “my business is too small to have a brand.” Well of course you have a brand. Your brand is the essence of your company. It’s your promise to your customers. Your brand is what makes you special and defines why customers keep coming back to you.

Think about this. What would you think if Coca-Cola announced it was moving operations to China to save money? That would be so counter to the company’s all-American image that it would cause a backlash against the company. It breaks their implied promise to America.

Similarly, what would be your reaction if Trump Hotels started a line of hotels to compete with Motel 6? You would be shocked because it is so inconsistent with the brand promise Trump has nurtured. It might meet a short-term customer need for value, but in the long-term the brand would be ruined!

Everything you do and everything you don’t do defines your brand. And if you don’t carefully protect and market your brand even when times are tough, your brand will be defined by what your competitors say about you.

In the age of social media, there’s another new element that can jeopardize your brand — the constant buzz on the Internet. Today, every individual can have a stake in creating the image of your company. A bad experience in a restaurant can fly over the internet immediately over Twitter. Bad service will be reported on any number of sites that review businesses. For the first time in history, public opinion is really PUBLIC – immediately, pervasively and permanently! In this environment, listening to your customers, monitoring the buzz and reacting immediately to protect your brand is more important than ever.

One last comment about the importance of forming an impenetrable shield around your brand — in a recession, people turn to who they trust. Keep them trusting in YOU and your brand promise. Don’t do anything to react to short-term conditions that will jeopardize your success in the long-run.

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