As companies—solo to giant—begin the ardent process of finding their new normal during the COVID-19 era, it is vital to assess shifts in brand value.
Brand value evolves inherently over time due to shifts in competition, new technologies, and changing demographics and tastes. The changes are often gradual. On the other hand, a pandemic causes significant shifts in market dynamics and influences how brands and their products and services are viewed in the eyes of the customers.
As the c-suite deals with market and cash flow uncertainties, it is equally important for marketers to foresee shifts in brand value.
In today’s environment, how do B2B marketers assess and realign their brands in the new normal?
Elements of Value
A good place to start is to take your brand through a value exercise. “The Elements of Value,” published in Harvard Business Review in 2016, is as relevant today as ever. Based on the research of Bain & Company, the authors identified 30 elements of value that drive consumer decision-making.
The attributes that comprise the elements of value are built on Maslow’s hierarchy of needs by focusing on “people as consumers” and looking at their “behavior as it relates to products and services.” Their heuristic model is easy to understand and use as building blocks for developing brand messaging.
They are grouped into four discrete sets (functional, emotional, life-changing, and social impact) and explain the inward- and outward-facing needs of consumers.
Building Blocks of Brand Value
What makes the firm’s study viable is the research behind it. Bain & Company used client observation and analysis to correlate the 30 elements of value with business performance. Surveying 10,000 U.S. consumers on their perceptions of nearly 50 companies based in the U.S. through the use of a Net Promoter Score (NPS), they paired the results with revenue growth.
The pairing proved that companies doing well on multiple elements would have more loyal customers and grow revenue faster.
What’s important is how these elements influence business performance and their impact.
The Importance of Quality
As can be expected, quality is the essential element of the 30, so much so that a product or service that does not attain a minimum quality score can’t make up for the lack of it through the other elements.
Scoring Higher Up the Pyramid is Also Crucial
The study showed that to gain brand loyalty, a brand must score high on elements that are tied to emotional feelings. For example, digital-only retailers perform well on functional elements like “saves time” and “reduces effort,” but fall short on “emotional connection.”
This finding may be why digital-only retailers changed their business model (pre-COVID-19) and started to open physical stores.
As the study’s authors point out, “digital technologies are transforming physical businesses too rather than annihilating them.” An example is eBay’s “Up & Running” program for brick-and-mortar-only retailers.
Of course, how the digital versus physical will play out now and post-COVID-19 is unknown. Will the fusion of digital and physical channels be strengthened or weakened?
For smaller businesses, a digital focus is indisputable for ensuring resiliency during the pandemic. But what about large companies like Apple, where their physical stores are why the company scores high on the emotional elements? And, even beyond retail, B2B brands that relied on shows and conferences to strengthen brand loyalty are now faced with a digital-only sales model.
Navigate Brand Value in a New Era
Understanding where your brand stands on value is critical, and aligning the “elements of value” to the company messaging is essential.
Do your products or services have hidden “elements of value” that are now relevant to your customers? Is your brand messaging aligned to these?
There are often hidden values that can help a brand stand out from the competition and meet customers’ needs better without the necessity of a product or service overhaul. The “hunt for value” mindset is critical.
The current pandemic may have shifted what your customers perceive as necessary and who the competition is.
For example, a digital product feature or service available a few months ago and not considered critical is now a game-changer in gaining market share. During the pandemic, brands that were able to move quickly by offering digital alternatives are the ones that have survived (so far) the best.
Brand Value Tweaks
Here’s how some brands realigned their “elements of value” and leveraged the current situation to adapt and meet their customers in a way that resonates and speaks to their needs.
Dads with Kids Post Lockdown
BMW TV ad “Rejoin the Road” centered not only on its traditional key elements of sensory appeal for guys (acceleration) but also on post-lockdown dads getting some much-needed drive time (while tending to their kids).
Building on Strong Brand Values Even Further
Zappos, known for its customer service, leveraged their strengths in “saves time” and “avoids hassles,” to further their market lead by adding a “Customer Service for Anything” campaign during COVID-19.
Skechers, even in a time of stores being closed, substantially grew online sales by focusing brand messaging on comfort and quality to resonate with quarantined consumers.
Creating New Ways to Connect
Airbnb, hit hard as travel came to a complete halt, came up with an innovative way to keep both hosts and travelers connected. The Company’s Online Experiences lets virtual travelers experience woolly sheep in New Zealand, pasta making with Silvia in Italy, or dancing like a K-pop star in South Korea.
Treasure Hunt from Within
Home products brand Simplehuman quickly learned its touch-free features were important to consumers who were mindful of virus-carrying germs. Known as “tools for efficient living,” the company leveraged its “keep yourself healthy and touch-free” messaging to gain greater customer appeal and new customers.
Crisis in a New Normal
eBay launched an accelerator program for brick-and-mortar-only retailers (no e-commerce site) to help them transition to the digital space. Called “Up & Running,” it allows new businesses to run an eBay store for free for three months with no selling fees, and even take advantage of free educational webinars and business support. It is an innovative yet simple way to reach a new market segment for the company while building its brand image.
These brands demonstrate how, even in a crisis, there are hidden opportunities, and by assessing their elements of value and realigning brand messaging, they can create new markets and better brand loyalty.
As Stanford economist Paul Romer stated, “A crisis is a terrible thing to waste.”
Get ready to build more brand value and customer loyalty.
The time is now.