Marketing Week reported last week that consumer perceptions of clothing brand NEXT have fallen, despite growing sales. It’s an odd state of affairs as, generally, you might assume there’d be a direct correlation between brand and sales performance. It’s also a cautionary tale…demonstrating that even the strongest brands need to be nurtured and protected as an ongoing process if they are to continue to inspire loyalty and confidence. The apparent dichotomy of brand and sales performance here is not as difficult to fathom as it first appears, however. The growth in sales can be attributed to an impressive commercial strategy that has enabled NEXT to steal a march on its competitors with a winning combination of physical and online sales, putting control of what to buy, when to buy and how to buy in the hands of the customer. Brand perceptions, meanwhile, are based on varied factors including, quality, value and reputation and, once these start to ebb, brand loyalty becomes more precarious.
What this means for NEXT is that sales growth could be jeopardised if the company’s competitors can offer the same commercial incentives to buy and a brand with equal or greater prestige. But what does it mean for you?
It’s a reminder that brand matters. Whether you are a supplier of commodity products with a customer base that makes buying decisions based on price or a contractor that works on high prestige £multi-million contracts, there is one fundamental fact that all companies need to remember: there is always competition and where all other variables are equal, it’s brand that makes the difference.
We’ve talked in previous blogs about the meaning of brand and the difference between a brand and a logo, so let’s not labour those points here. Sometimes, the mistake that companies make is not as complicated as misunderstanding the true meaning of branding; sometimes it’s as basic as simply seeing no need for branding.
At the core of all of this is the fact that a consistent and memorable brand that your customers will understand, trust and remember is as important to your business as the building where you’re based or the product that you sell. It’s part of the infrastructure of a successful business. But the good news is that it doesn’t have to be an expensive investment. What’s more, your initial investment in determining your brand values and embedding them in your business will last and last.
The trick is to create a blueprint that can be applied to everything you do and to ensure that it is both meaningful to your business and relevant to your customers. It’s not a matter of spending lots of money on a brand, simply a matter of applying your brand consistently.