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Survival Of The Fittest: Adapt Or Die

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By Samantha Bond

It feels like only yesterday we were calling in the New Year and already we have seen the collapse of 3 long-standing British brands.  As the initial shock subsides, I find myself asking whether we should really be mourning the potential loss of these household names?  Is it really survival of the fittest in 2013?

Whilst my childhood nostalgia is reluctant to let these brands be forgotten and written into history, I can’t help feeling these companies became complacent – thinking their heritage and past success made them immune to new competition. It is difficult to ignore the stark fact that all three companies have in common their failure to adapt to a rapidly changing marketplace and adequately respond to their customers’ needs.

A More Crowded and Ever-Changing Marketplace

Increasingly, the marketplace is becoming more and more saturated, as new brands enter the mix with innovative strategies and their finger on the pulse.  As a result, to compete in today’s environment, it is clear that brands need to work harder and represent much more than their product or service. But how do they do this?

Only recently, Corinne Muchbach, Forrester’s CMO and Market Leadership Professionals Analyst, highlighted the importance of offering a cohesive brand experience that incorporates digital channels and resonates with consumers.  This was identified as being a key competitive differentiator.  Dan Pappalardo, Executive Creative Director and Co-Founded of Troika, describes this as the need for brands to create a multi-platform ecosystem – a holistic relationship of diverse yet interrelated experiences which tell a coherent brand story.

It is therefore important to connect with consumers at every relevant touch-point. However, incorporating digital channels does not mean creating a profile on every social media site and basing success on the number of Twitter followers. Notably, HMV has close to 185K whilst Blockbuster has over 600K and still this didn’t save them. Thus, whilst companies head in droves for Facebook and Twitter, brands often forget that key to creating a brand experience is engagement.

Listen First to Engage with Your Customers

A vital part of engagement is listening to your customers. It is already well known that consumers have come to expect a two-way dialogue with brands, and yet, even now many fear criticism and fail to interact and respond to comments, leaving consumers despondent. Trendwatcher describes online culture as raw and extremely human, stressing the need for companies to become ‘human’ by being honest and transparent, rather than acting like robots.

However, it is arguably not enough for brands to take steps just to ‘keep up’ with the competition. Those who lead the way in 2013 will stay ahead of the game by creating new and innovative ways of engaging consumers to ensure they stay top of mind – such as branded content. Brands that become publishers, regularly producing rich content online – mixing branding with entertainment – have the potential to create compelling brand experiences. However, this is no mean feat as brands must master the ability to deliver the right type of content, via the right channel, for the right person.

Put Your Consumers at the Center

Thus, in order to deliver a winning brand experience and compete in today’s marketplace, it is fundamental for brands to put their consumers at the center of their business strategy, understand what they really want and re-evaluate old strategies and assumptions. This is something that came too late for some UK high street brands – and whilst they will be missed – half-hearted efforts and complacency will inevitably deliver one result:  failure!

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