Covid brandscape: evolution or revolution?

At the beginning of lockdown we’d just begun analysing the results of our regular survey of brand values in the asset management sector. Our third bi-annual review of the top 50 asset managers (as defined by by AUM, by IPE in 2019).

This was originally just intended to be our standard like-for-like survey, but given the timing, and the rapid change afoot, we’re going to be able to use it as a short-term benchmark because we don’t think our conclusions this time around will have the same shelf-life of our previous reports.

The report itself will be ready soon but, now that we’re benchmarked, and we’re already able to observe more change underway, we throught that we really should make some predictions.

What do we expect to observe for a shorter timeline? In a post-lockdown world, whatever form that takes, we can probably take a few things for granted:

1) There is an awful lot of change still to come

This isn’t about working from home, it’s that as circumstances change businesses will need to adapt. In tumultuous and difficult times the business that can best adapt will survive. After all, successful adaptation is really what ‘survival of the fittest’ was always about.

While we feel like we might be getting a handle on Covid19, all we can really be certain of is further shocks to the system are incoming. Spreadsheet wealth has rallied, to an extent, but real-world impacts are yet to be felt and prospect of a next greater recession looms large.

Evaluation and realignment in the face of change is essential. At the end of May we saw this sentiment reported positively by MSCI in that since the beginning of the crisis equity markets have rewarded strategies focused on innovation and corporate agility.

Already, we’ve noted an uptick in interest around brand strategy, which makes a lot of sense (albeit from a very small, self-selecting sample).

2) The realisation that your brand is really your employees

Employees are your advocates, not just your staff. They’re the frontline of collective endeavour, around which the myth of a business is spun. In the end, however you try to present the brand, it’s really just the cumulative actions of all the people that do the actual work.

If change has occurred it’s vital that clients and employees alike understand what this means. And, this means addressing brand. For any business to succeed, it is essential that it is able to articulate:

  1. who it is;
  2. what it does, and;
  3. why its desired audience should pay attention. If that’s in flux, then confusion abounds because a brand is, at its essence, an entirely intangible concept.

A brand is only made real by its consumers’ tanagible experiences with a product, and how they fulfil the brand promise and its values. For any service sector, the relationship becomes the product, in the absence of anything tangible.

In the face of market upsets and faltering performance, it’s the relationship which holds the business. Beyond this, the investment industry’s only palpable product is the end-point realisation of an investment. If that product is in question then strong relationships become more important than ever.

3) Digital-first relationships (CX)

This is a pretty obvious drum that we’ll continue to bang. The accelerated global shift to digital-first relationships forces a greater emphasis on the role of digital engagement and customer experience. Does your digital presence facilitate the needs and goals of your users; that goes for prospects, clients, counterparties and employees.

Any brand making claims of customercentricity really must evaluate their online presence and capabilities. If the online experience doesn’t deliver brands are creating credibility problems for themselves.

While we’re confident of seeing the above predictions play out, we’re aware that forming a response to our ever-changing circumstance is not easy. We’re going through much the same ourselves.

To this end, over the last few months we’ve been offering a free ‘brand clinic’ service to provide some support to those in need of a little inspiration or direction. Respondants have presented us with a challenge they’re facing and we’ve offered an few hours of our time to see how we could help. Unsurprisingly, it’s been quite popular.

What has become apparent though, is that just addressing brand isn’t enough. We keep finding ourselves led towards ‘real’ concerns, which are usually issues surrounding digital presence and CX.

Most commonly the issues are how to ensure brand consistency across online and offline channels, visually, in messaging and in experience. Or how to represent brand in a meaningful way though content creation, so our predictions above are borne of recent experience rather than just speculation.

If any of this resonate with you please do get in touch, otherwise we’ll look forward to updating our view on brand values towards the end of the year.

Fin International Fin International is an integrated creative agency building brands for the investment industry. More about Fin
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