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Brand Leadership For An Anxious World: Building A Manifesto

We look forward to your collaboration on the Brand Leadership Manifesto for an Anxious World and look forward to helping your organisation navigate towards the horizon of resilience and hope.

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Conversations with our clients and their consumers around our 20 offces over the past few weeks have led us to many observations. There is one that underlies them all: That while uncertainty fuels fear, true leadership creates hope. At Interbrand, we have asked ourselves the question:

How can brands respond to help organisations build their business resilience and their customers’ hope?

What follows is the beginning of a brand leadership manifesto for a world in tension between fear and hope: an anxious world. We have decided to conceive this manifesto as an open, living platform. We will update it with new observations, welcoming contributions that add to its depth and relevance.

We look forward to your collaboration on the Brand Leadership Manifesto for an Anxious World and look forward to helping your organisation navigate towards the horizon of resilience and hope.

In the immortal words of Nelson Mandela: ‘Part of being optimistic is keeping one’s head pointed toward the sun, one’s feet moving forward.’

Building a Manifesto Brand Leadership in an Anxious World

01. You might be selling an If, not a What.
02. Confidence = (Safety +Trust) x Meaning.
03. You will operate in the booking economy.
04. You compete with cash and savings.
05. Make the essential emotional, and the emotional essential.
06. See your brand as a liquidity engine
07. Ambition, not purpose (creates investor FOMO).
08. Someone is already rethinking your category.
09. To avert disruption, attract talent upstream and down.
10. Make your customers your advisors.
11. Make your brand a powerful ingredient.
12. Question hope. Escape fear. Love probability.
13. Recalibrate your range.
14. Your brand is your future organization’s cultural glue.
15. Evolve channel strategy into personal logistics.
16. Lead the conversation.
17. Turn your consumers’ risk propensity into an advantage.
18. Are you in the neighborhood?
19. Become a ritual.
20. What’s your second business engine?
21. To preserve your core, get radical about it.
22. Act like your future self.
23. In an emergency, respond. Beyond it, lead.
24. Offer brutal honesty and credible hope.
25. Global comms make the promise. Local actions deliver.
26. You are wearing your inside out.

01. You might be selling an If, not a What.

In volatility, you are more likely to sell options and futures on products and services rather than products and services themselves.

The demand for fexible conditions - from trials to returns to extensions - means your customers are actually paying for rights. You are trading in what could be.

How do you increase demand by building fexibility into the core of your offer - and business model?

02. Confdence = (Safety +Trust) x Meaning

The maths of beyond is simple. Confdence = (Safety + Trust) x Meaning. Our ongoing conversations with consumers indicate that their primary questions will be; is it safe? Is it valuable? Is it meaningful?

They will accept a marginally higher physical and economic exposure only for what they see as truly worthwhile – or, conversely, they will make risk aversion and good value their primary flter.

Safety, trust and meaning is what we look for in close friends. And in times of uncertainty, they’re whom we turn to.

What moves will make your brand a safe, trustworthy and meaningful choice for your customers – and employees?

03. You will operate in the booking economy.

Have you considered rethinking your brand as a booking platform?

Many businesses will need to adapt their business model, removing density to create propensity.

They will rebuild their customers’ confdence by giving them control and personalisation of space and time through planned, at-my-time experiences. Once the distinguishing trait of luxury showrooms, appointments are likely to become a norm for wide varieties of stores, clubs and dealerships.

In many cases, e-commerce will be fanked by b-commerce.

While this may not affect every business directly, it will change customers’ mindset, behaviour and disposable time.

How do you evolve your business model and experience to thrive in the booking economy?

04. You compete with cash and savings.

In times of uncertainty, savings and cash are your toughest competitors.

Design pricing models and fnancing solutions that reframe value and create access. Make fnancing a strategic edge, not an opportunistic shortcut.

Consider transitioning to a subscription model. When facing an excess of demand, you will protect your members. When facing demand defcit, you will protect your liquidity, growing data along the way.

What’s your optimal pricing strategy?

05. Make the essential emotional, and the emotional essential.

Your demand may have been driven by purely functional drivers, or even price. In anxiety, household essentials become heroes. Whether you help keep people connected, insured or clean, step forward. Create an emotional bond with your brand. There’s never been a better time.

Or you may be in the business of emotions. As fear wraps the future, hedonism and ostentation will be replaced by an investment in things that endure and hold their value over time. Refocus on your product’s worth and meaning.

How will you transform your relationship with your customers?

06. See your brand as a liquidity engine.

Headwinds in demand will create an increasing focus on protecting, preserving and raising capital.

If on the defence, hunt for capital. Make your brand the stalwart for value creation, future revenue and balance sheet strength, attracting investor backing and securing liquidity.

And if on the offense, hunt for under-leveraged assets. Look closely at their potential for shortand long-term value creation. Are you algning your brand strategy and metrics to your liquidity requirements?

07. Ambition, not purpose (creates investor FOMO).

A lofty purpose can blind you. A clear ambition will guide you.

Set an inspiring, credible and measurable ambition with a clear time horizon. It will excite and drive your people - and take them to the edge of possible.

It will build and communicate leadership focus and accountability, and ultimately give investors clarity, confdence and interest around your potential.

How do you defne an ambition that is a worthwhile investment?

08. Someone is already rethinking your category.

The demand for seamless, contactless customer experiences will accelerate the confuence of categories and supply chains into broad competitive arenas.

Whether you’re in cars, cabs, airports, airlines, or hotels, customers will expect and value frictionless transitions to and from your adjacencies. Similarly, spheres such as health, tech, ftness, hygiene and genomics will orbit around the same human needs.

The boundaries between offering hospitality for a night and a workspace for a day will blur. As threats will change and multiply, so will opportunities. Be ready to restart by reassessing your competition and competencies.

How do you redefne your competition and expand your competencies to thrive in your new arena?

09. To avert disruption, attract talent upstream -and down.

Fear of disruption will contract supply chains in terms of both control and location.

This may force you to develop and/or acquire upstream and downstream competencies and capabilities.

Additionally, a pivot to a direct-to-consumer model may require a shift in both supply and demand creation and fulflment.

How will your brand attract and secure new types of talent?

10. Make your customers your advisors.

Don’t see your customers as targets or data points, but as partners. Be inspired by what inspires them – their hopes, their dreams, their realities.

Listen. Build with them. Break silos with them. Work at eye-level. Decide with them where to focus resources – especially when these are limited.

How can you change your operating model to see the opportunities they can?

11. Make your brand a powerful ingredient.

With limited resources, collaboration will be a key model to achieve more, better, faster for your customer.

At times like this, the value of expertise and the humanity of collaboration are celebrated more than the muscle of competition.

In automotive, collaboration will most likely be the only viable way to sustain investment aimed at making electric mobility proftable.

Be unashamed to be the ingredient of a greater ecosystem. Conceive unexpected co-labs. Think of your brand as an active principle with clear benefts. Engage other to build new formulae. Use partnerships as passports to new arenas and audiences.

How do you make your brand a powerful ingredient that is sought after by partners and customers alike? How should you choose your collaborations?

12. Question hope. Escape fear. Love probability.

Blend empathy and statistics to navigate chaos. Harness the value of customer proximity and learn the language of probability.

Quantify the unknown. Become a master painter of scenarios.

We’ve helped many of our clients quantify the likeliest outcome of their moves through advanced modelling, giving them confdence – and returns.

How do you understand the now and model the next?

13. Recalibrate your range.

For the frst time in a generation, the developed world has experienced scarcity, and ‘essentials’ have gained space on supermarket shelves – and people’s minds.

Businesses also fnd larger volumes of fewer products more effcient and simpler to manage. Whether it’s brands, lines, variants or sizes, a streamlined offer is best positioned to face strong headwinds.

Is your offer optimised? What’s the minimum viable range that addresses your customers’ needs?

14. Your brand is your future organization’s cultural glue.

Whether through remote working, robotics or something entirely unexpected, distance will become a defning experience. What will create cultural unity, fruitful collaboration and emotional alignment in the absence of physical proximity?

Workplaces are some of people’s most important communities and catalysts for innovation. While they are unlikely to disappear altogether, their role will probably change.

See your brand as the permanent connective tissue of your organisation. Bring it to life through routines, rituals, world class technology and ongoing communication.

Does your brand have the power to fuel remote collaboration - and be the glue that binds the future you?

“Whether during a pandemic or normal business operations, the best Salesforce initiatives are born from the passions of its employees” says Salesforce CEO’s Marc Benioff.

15. Evolve your channel strategy into personal logistics.

With direct-to-consumer a less vulnerable route to market, personal supply chains, offering consumers complete control of their immediate environments, fourish.

Consider how streaming has substituted disrupted experiences such as museums or theatres.

Customising activities such as viewing, ordering, collecting, assembling, discussing, sharing and enjoying gives rise to near-personalised logistic chains.

How do you segment your customer base and reinvent your channels to make logistics personal?

16. Lead the conversation.

Increased remoteness, latency and fear will deprive customers of the intimate cafés and ringside-seats of their previous lives. They may also disrupt your traditional interactions with them.

So lead the conversation, in two ways. First, create content that creates desire and/or utility. Check out Nike for world class, relevant content.

Second, be a platform. Help your customers become a community, not just a target audience. How can you inspire and facilitate conversations that will make you an essential presence in your customers’ lives?

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Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Tags assigned to this article:
branding leadership

Ashish Mishra.

The author is MD, Interbrand India

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