Sales strategies – it takes two
Sales are driven by two strategies: brand building and activation. Brand building strategy is the marathon to activation’s sprint. Whilst brand building creates demand, activation converts it, focusing on short-term activity that drives immediate sales by making the path to purchase as easy as possible.
Activation drives sales volume
Short-term activation campaigns often drive sales volume, causing behavioural triggers to boost purchases by leaning on tactics such as pricing discounts, offers or incentives. From new product features to promotional events, these tactics appeal to customers’ functional reasons to buy. In financial crunch-times, it can be tempting to dial up spend on these ‘sprints’, because short-term results give marketers reassuring visibility and easily map sales data against spend. But business sales are not a solo race. Brands are often jostling with several front-runners. When it comes to price-led activations, this can result in a ‘race to the bottom’, conditioning consumers to expect lower prices and hold-off on habitual full-price purchases – Holland and Barrett’s ‘penny sale’ and My Protein’s pricing discounts are good examples of this. Brand partnerships can also dampen a brand’s premium perception – enter Tiffany’s recent collaboration with Nike… This strategy only adds value when used in conjunction with, not instead of, brand-building activity. For B2C brands, the general rule is to invest 60:40 in brand and activation activity. When done wisely, investing in both can contribute to brand health – but marathon training requires sensible planning and ongoing effort to ensure success.
Brand-building is best for long-term growth
‘Brand’ is the gut feeling someone gets about a product, service, or company. To create this feeling and drive long-term business growth, companies need to continually put in effort to build their brand. The gratification and payoff may be delayed, but significant. As featured in Forbes, an MASB analysis shows that brands contribute on average 19.5% and in many cases over 50% of enterprise value when properly measured. Les Binet suggests, ‘if the profit performance of a campaign is judged over time periods of less than 6 months, then rational campaigns will be found to be more profitable. However, over the longer term, emotional campaigns are almost twice as likely to result in top-box profit growth’.
Branding builds emotional associations and memory structures for consumers by creating consistency, memorability, and distinction from competitors, more likely to result in repeat purchases, more stable purchase cycles and continued sales. Brand building short-cuts decisions by tapping into consumers’ emotional, not rational, brains. Ultimately, feelings are more memorable than rational messages and these campaigns become more effective over time; this is thanks to a bias called the exposure effect, which suggests that familiarity increases likeability.
To build emotional associations and preferential attachment, brands need a clear and compelling brand positioning in market, being mindful of which competitors exist in category to navigate the clearest way forward. At saintnicks, we often start this process by conducting a competitor audit, and identifying your clear purpose, vision and ‘onlies’ – aka, your brand’s unique strengths. Identifying these unique selling points alongside customers’ unique buying states is also helpful. If your brand wants to steal share from a market leader, it requires a clear differentiated strategy.
Why the red thread is a no-brainer
A true ‘red thread’ in strategy occurs when one idea is clearly communicated. It is the distillation of your brand’s positioning. To share a few examples, Apple plays to innovation with “think different”, Lego to playfulness with “what if” and Range Rover to capability with “above and beyond”. Establishing the ‘red thread’ feels good, but it’s only half of the puzzle. The next step is implementing it successfully so it can go deep, influencing all business decisions, experiences and touchpoints, from the people you hire, your internal environment, your branding and marcomms, and your ways of working, all the way to product and service developments. The result? Buyers get the gut feeling you want them to have about your brand. Hello clarity. Hello memorability. Hello sales.
Brand strategy is only as good as your comms plan
To land your strategic idea in a compelling way – likely through a brand campaign – it’s crucial to identify which media environments complement or emphasise the core idea.
Let’s take Nike as an example, with their idea around inspiration, made famous through the quote “if you have a body, you are an athlete”. The brand booked TV advertising around Olympic slots to challenge buyers’ assumptions about what an athlete was (high-performing, physically elite, competitive) with their ‘Find Your Greatness’ campaign. The campaign landed the idea that anyone of any size can be a great athlete, affecting consumers’ notions of elitism. The genius behind this idea was that it appealed to a large customer buying segment at a time where media consumption was helping to fuel inspiration. Nike was the helper, making amateur runners the hero. The strategy and planning work fit hand in glove.
The value of an external strategic partner
Bringing in an objective, expert strategy team adds value when (re)defining your brand strategy as it provides an opportunity to align, engage and direct stakeholders and brand teams, identifying blind spots and untapped potential. To identify a strong ‘red thread’ idea, we unearth business problems and identify opportunities with clarity, marrying together your brand’s commercial goals with stand-out strategic and creative execution. We’ll ask the difficult questions so you don’t have to, seeking out pertinent truths to push your brand further. Once a red-thread idea is implemented, it streamlines future brand activity.
We’ve summarised 10 useful questions below – if your team can’t clearly articulate the answers to them, it may be an indication that some branding work is required:
For brand strategy
- How does the brand currently position itself?
- Why does the brand exist, beyond making money?
- In one word, why do customers buy your brand?
- Is the category growing or in decline?
- What market conventions exist?
- Who is leading the way in [insert red-thread idea]?
- How can we do it better?
- What is the one human problem we are trying to solve?
- What media channels can you innovate with to display [insert red-thread idea]?
- What unusual places would you not expect to see [insert red-thread idea]?
We are a full-service partner, working with brands to deliver brand strategy and activation campaigns. Looking to level up? Let saintnicks take you further.