November 14, 2022
Optimizing uncertainty in 2023
There’s only one thing certain as we head into 2023: uncertainty. How bad and how long will the recession last? What will be the lingering effects of COVID-19? Will inflation ease? Will political unrest around the world stabilize? Will supply chains relink? What hashtag will become ubiquitous next? #quietquitting #greatresignation #wfh
Based on our experience as both business owners and brand consultants, we know uncertainty breeds opportunity. So here’s how we see making the most of your brand platform in the year ahead.
1. “In-sight” will be the new offsite
A pending recession will cause many businesses to think hard about their need for physical office space — whether opting to downsize their existing footprint to accommodate hybrid work or opting out of commercial real estate entirely and staying fully remote. Either way, the fact that we’re working together apart makes every meeting, every training session, and every team-building event an opportunity to inspire brand alignment. Creativity in how those gatherings are presented, communicated and capitalized on will be critical in 2023.
2. Templated brand assets improve consistency across channels
Building on the idea of a more robust Brand Standards Guide is creating systems for consistent brand asset generation and management. We’ve been seeing increasing success with setting up clients on cloud-based creative collaboration platforms like Adobe XD and Canva. Although we initially worried about maintaining design integrity, these resources have helped ensure ongoing execution of marketing programs is consistent and affordable. By saving resources on these daily communication pieces, clients can invest in more strategic brand campaigns that move the dial toward achieving their business goals.
3. AI content generation will be the buzzword
At the end of 2022, the release of ChatGPT sparked renewed discussions about the role of AI in content writing. As a writer and a Gen Xer, I’m naturally skeptical about these tools. But in experimenting with a few, I’m seeing how they could facilitate the writing process — producing preliminary drafts, conducting quick research, and offering more sophisticated proofreading support. A word of caution: AI can’t define a unique tone of voice, generate a distinctive value proposition or establish a point of view. So when working in tandem with a strong message and creative writer, these tools will help amplify content generation activities.
4. Your brand standards guide can lead the way
We started talking about optimizing brand standard guides to be relevant to contributors beyond design and production departments during the pandemic when we saw an uptick in this idea during the global work-from-home experiment. As hybrid work arrangements continue to be the preferred choice of operations, we now see that brand standards guides are the ideal vehicle for keeping all internal stakeholders on the same page. By integrating the two, our clients can keep everyone aligned on critical brand processes and communication protocols — including inclusivity language guides.
5. Branding is a dial, not a lever
Threats of uncertainty often fuel pressure to press pause on rebranding and marketing activities. One of our favourite clients, John Jarosz of Sightglass Partners, offers a great analogy regarding innovation — that you have to think of it as a dial, not a lever. And I’d argue that marketing is the same thing. Of course, you should scale back your investments when economic times are tough, but completely turning off the tap can be detrimental in the long run. Not only does it take time to ramp back up — but it also exposes you to the risk of being left behind when economic pressures ease.
As John describes in a piece he recently published in Forbes, “Brand loyalty plays a larger-than-usual role in consumer decision-making when pocketbooks get tight. So a recession is a particularly good time to focus on any product and process enhancements that prompt an emotional response.”
“You can reduce customer temptation to switch to a lower-priced alternative by focusing efforts on customer support, onboarding experiences, communication, visual design enhancements and brand touchpoints. The more relational connections you can make, the more likely customers will retain your offerings when forced to make tough choices.”
Plus, do you know what companies do well in a recession? Start-ups. So if you’re looking to protect your market share from new entrants — it’s essential to keep communicating your distinct brand experience both externally and internally.
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