We're living in a world where loyalty to brand is exceedingly low. And according to retail data, it's only getting lower. So how can retailers improve their chances of getting noticed? Branding. We had a chat with John Barkle, the Head of Brand of New Aim and former Head of Brand and Loyalty at MyDeal, to discuss the best and worst of branding in 2022, and why retailers need to start their branding journey now.
Looking at branding in 2022, what are key tactics that retailers need to remember to create a strong and sustainable brand?
“So there are two things here,” he says. “They need to be distinctive; they need to become famous in their own right and become known for more than just product equity that they have. The other thing is consistency. [Retailers] need to make sure they’re investing in their brand; they’re giving it the time to resonate with consumers and build that brand salience. You can control the narrative, and you can do it on any budget, as long as you are consistent and you stick to the message.”
Why is brand important in 2022?
“Brand is always going to be important. Brand was important in 1922, it’s important in 2022, and 100 years from now, it will still be important,” says Barkle. “Brand is what we use as a shortcut in the brain to figure out whether we like something, whether we trust something, and whether we’re going to purchase from somewhere. And that’s why brand is important today.”
“But speaking specifically to 2022, brand loyalty is the aim of the game here. That’s what is going to be the measure when you can no longer win on price range and experience and when you are unable to control the customer experience end-to-end. In such a fast-changing economy now – which doesn’t look great, it has storm clouds – brand is what’s going to be the insurance policy.”
Brand doesn’t just apply to retailers. It applies to service providers, suppliers, and even online sales events.
“Even influencers have their own brand!” Barkle tells us. “But sales events are a perfect example. Click Frenzy, which has been around since 2012, has built businesses – and I speak to that with authority – it has built businesses up; it is an amazing channel that only comes around a few times a year. And itself is a brand that people know – there’s your brand salience. When I think of Click Frenzy, I think of amazing, exclusive discounts that I’ve never seen before on the internet; that ‘Break the Internet’ sort of thing. That’s Click Frenzy as a brand; that’s not the retailers that sit with it.”
John Barkle, Head of Brand at New Aim
According to Power Retail Trajectory Reports, there has been a dip in those heading direct to a retailer website as the first point of search, now 16 percent in June, down from 21 percent in February. At a point where loyalty is low, how can branding help improve the relationship between customers and retailers?
“Broadly speaking, when we’re talking about brand-building, there are many businesses that have built their brand by re-selling other brands that have become famous in their own right. Let’s look at MYER or David Jones, for an example. They are not famous for anything other than the fact that they have the products that [consumers] want; they have the products that are famous to [the consumer]; the fashion, cosmetic brands. So they become a destination to get those. In that sense, even if you don’t go through you directly, you still have to be brand-building so shoppers can recognise you when they go through channels like marketplaces.”
Are there any retailers with great branding examples that you look to for inspiration?
“I really do love the MyDeal brand,” laughs Barkle. “No bias! It was my baby for six years, and what we got to change it into was a distinctive personality and putting the joy in shopping. But I have to look over at my friends at Catch and say they did an amazing job, too, and what they’ve built up. Coming away from retail for a moment – let’s take a look at what other brands are doing to inspire. I love the Google ads, for example, and what they’re doing with the AFL. Even Uber Eats and those ads, and what MenuLog are doing – there’s a really good lot of competition of creativity out there to build an experience.”
What would be a piece of advice you would give a retailer who wants to improve their brand?
“Start now,” he says. “You can build a brand at any scale; it’s about getting the fundamentals right. Some of the big players still don’t get it right on brand because they’ve never go the fundamentals right; they’ve never had the consistency; they’ve never had a good channel approach in making sure they own a message.”
What are the fundamentals?
“Consistency, and having a personality. We don’t change personalities as humans. So if you see a brand as human, then you don’t need to chop and change,” That’s the marketing campaign. The fundamentals of brand are that you have a personality, you have a tone of voice that is consistent across any way that you communicate with that company.”
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