Post-recession branding: What Next? Part 2

In the last post we looked at the first recommendations on post-recession branding. This second post looks at the final two recommendations, and adds a conclusion.

5. Fuel the fan club

This long-term approach was favoured by 90%+ of the panel, and involves engaging employees and loyal consumers, areas still un-tapped by many brands. A good example of engaging brand users is Jordans Cereals' re-vamp of their email newsletter and blog. By making these more inspiring and interesting the team have doubled the number of email subscribers to 80,000.
Picture 6

6. Growing the core

This was voted the most effective technique of the past 12 months, and remains a key growth strategy going forward. The advantage of this approach versus stretching into new markets is that the core is often where the brand has the strongest equity, and makes the most money. A good example is Knorr's launch of Stock Pots in France, UK and China. This innovative new jelly format is rejuvenating and modernising the core bouillon business.

Picture 7 

7. Beware of stretching too soon
The importance of core brand growth during the recession was confirmed by 52% of our panel focusing on "selling more of existing products" in the last year, +8pts versus the pre-recession period. Extending the core range was flat at 36%. In contrast, stretch into new markets was down sharply (13% vs. 23%), as companies cut back on expensive new product development.

However, for the next 12 months the trend reverses sharply. 33% plan to focus on stretch, at the expense of selling more of existing products. This key form of growth drops back below even pre-recession levels.
We support the need to start working on innovation now, to be ready for when the economy picks up. However, we advise against rushing back too fast into brand stretching, and neglecting the good work done on growing the core during the recession. Our recommendation is to keep the recession-enforced discipline of focusing on fewer, bigger ideas and to maintain growth efforts on the core business. 

Picture 9

In conclusion, the research confirms that the long over-due changes forced on us by the recession are here to stay. The wake-up call has been to re-focus on the fundamentals of clear positioning, core growth and being distinctive. The wacth-out is not to go back to the bad old habits when the economy picks up, but rather remember the hard-earned lessons of the last 12 months.