Three Strategies that Will Help Your Brand Find the Upside of Down.

At Sklar Wilton, we often use a boat analogy to describe businesses operating within the world. It goes like this: Your business is a boat; and whether it is a small sailboat or a large cruise ship, it must face the water just like every other boat. We can do our best to predict weather patterns with modern resources, but the best defence is to come well prepared so that you can work with the storm rather than against it. Put up sails to leverage wind power, invest in rainwater filtration, or start producing life jackets. Whatever it may be, use the unique characteristics of today to succeed tomorrow.

Right now, the world certainly feels like we are in a storm. Consumer confidence as well as business confidence is low in Canada. Despite experts predicting a recession in 2023, many Canadians feel as though we’re already in one. When the masses believe we’re in a recession, they act like we’re in a recession, and it results in us falling into a recession like a self-fulfilling prophecy.

These are three strategies to keep your boat not only afloat but use the wind to your advantage in these stormy economic times:

Use Signals from Today to Plan for Tomorrow

The best way to handle change is to plan for how it will look on the other side. A major disruption such as an economic recession will evolve consumer priorities, shift shopping behaviours, and radicalize relationships to brands. The signals of today such as the redefining of essentials, rapid adoption of technology, and low hope for climate redemption, will dictate how things look in the next few years.

Studies show that companies who focus on long-term strategies tend to generate more shareholder value, create more jobs, and contribute more to economic growth than those that react to the short term. Future-oriented businesses must invest in research of modern signals, such as the work demonstrated in our Disruption Audit, so that they may prioritize, prepare, and pivot their business for long-term success.

Casper, a DTC mattress company, is succeeding by planning ahead. The company recognized signals in the early 2010’s that an appetite to shop online paired with a desire for convenience was looming with Amazon’s rising popularization at the time. And although mattresses are a necessity, mattress shopping was inconvenient and awkward. Casper saw an opportunity to create a new buying experience.  They offered mattresses direct-to-consumer online, packed them into reasonably sized boxes, and provided a trial period to remove any buying fears or frictions. This future-thinking inspired a wave of imitators that caught on to the means of operating only after the original had made its mark. 

Walk the Talk When it Comes to Brand Values

It will come as no surprise to say that today, values speak volumes. Political stance and ethical viewpoints have made their way to the cultural forefront. While music used to hold this spot, band t-shirts have been replaced with actions of solidarity, protest posters, and social media shares.

The awareness that company values are increasingly important has attracted a flood of cause-washing businesses that use ethical language to get themselves into the good books of their customers. But modern consumers are not easily fooled. With the accessibility of data, those that are social media savvy will dismantle an ethical façade quickly and publicly. This has forced the only way for values to be respected is through tangible action. Companies should align on their core values and put them into practice through every facet of their business. Whether it is direct donation, shifts in process, inclusive hiring, or negative carbon footprint practices, only those that go beyond lip service will be making a meaningful difference and perceived as authentic.

Patagonia cannot go without mention in this vein. In 2022, the founder donated the entire company to fight climate change, fulfilling values that the company has been advocating for. This means the company’s non-voting stock, worth close to $3 billion, will be owned by a collective that will use all profits that aren’t reinvested into the business to fight climate change. And this is just one of many initiatives the brand takes. They are best in class for having their values trickle down into every one of their actions for consumers to see. 

Appeal to the Emotions that Matter Most

During times of change, some emotions become more prevalent than others and it is the marketer’s job to know which emotions to win with. After two years of isolation from friends, political tensions, and restricted living, consumers are looking for ways to rectify the emotional toll they’ve endured by indulging these emotional areas. To name a few: there is a desire for community, a need for joyful moments, a craving for comfort, and an appetite for control.

Emotional indulgence often comes in the form of a brand’s offering. Consumers want to know brands haven’t abandoned them through tough times and that they’re here to help. Maintaining a presence is important, not just to boost awareness & affinity, but to build empathy and strengthen brand love. It will benefit the marketer to recognize these emotions and appeal to them in whatever way makes sense for the brand.

Lego’s online community brought relief to those looking to connect with others when it didn’t seem possible. The community allows fans of Lego to make a profile, share their creations for the world to see and engage with other likeminded enthusiasts. This element aided Lego’s impressive success during the pandemic while others struggled. In recognizing this success, Lego rolled out marketing that spotlighted user creations, encouraging more to join while celebrating existing members in a circular pattern of engagement. 

Consider these three strategies as you sail towards the storm, and you may just come out stronger than before. There is always an upside of down, but it does not arise without some effort. Planning ahead, taking action, and active listening are some of the ways to get there. Happy sailing.

Interested in diving deeper? We make it our business to stay on top of the trends that impact your business. Through our proprietary Disruption Audit and Trends Analyses services, we help decode what is happening in our world to give you a more fulsome view of the future and chart a clear path forward with actionable business strategies. Email us at futureproofing@sklarwilton.com