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Espousing trend-tracking in brand building

Ensuring that organisations develop future-proof brands formed the focus of a seminar jointly organised by YellowWood and Blackbox, strategic marketing consultancy firms, recently in Lagos with the theme, 'Future-proofing your Brand and Business: A Review of Trends Shaping our World'

SPEAKERS at the seminar and principal officers of the two companies, who recently signed a partnership deal, tied their discourse around the importance of trends' tracking in the market place. They maintained that trends were becoming more important in marketing strategies and that businesses needed to be aware of the growing trends in their market if they wanted to be constantly relevant at all season.

The lead speaker and CEO of Yellowwood, a South Africa-based firm, Mr. David Blyth observed that customers today were sometimes more informed than the marketers because of easy access to information in the various media. It was, therefore, increasingly difficult, he stated, to easily convince consumers about products to buy, adding, "It was why organisations must be abreast of the trend in their sector if they do not want to be outsmarted and become stale".

To Blyth, "If you do not follow the trend, you will a loser. And you need to track the trends for you to protection your market share and ensure growth. With the widening gap between how companies and consumers go about their lives, organisations need to know their customers better in terms of segmentation. Brands are established more quickly these days but can also disappear as quickly as it was established so, businesses need to future proof and take themselves out of their comfort zone".

According to Blyth, branding and marketing had changed from just creating messages and telling the people; the messages are used to communication and shape consumers' behaviours by creating experiences that make people talk about the brand rather than just telling them what to do.

He continued, "The key broad shifts happening in the world have to be considered; economy (recession hang-over), technology (flow of knowledge), environment (people and plant) and socio-political shifts (emerging markets like China, India and Russia).

"Organisations need to manage how they react to shifts and be smart about it; companies are no longer in control of what is said about their brands; it is essential to get involved with consumers and shape how they think".

He added that organizations that want to be future-proof must think local while acting global, especially for African firms. He believes that using African symbology in marketing would help a great deal and not just adapting marketing ideas drawn from developed climes into local setting. He also maintained that co-creating communication with the consumers rather than telling them in a one-way communication is also a critical element for any brand that will endure into the next age.

For him, the definition of status was fast changing away from being what people wear, drive, and physical things attached to people to what people do, experiences they have, pleasures engaged in, stories and skills acquired.

Commenting on the importance of value in the marketing process, Blyth said that organisations should not see the value of a product as just the price but its benefits over cost.

He also argued, "What are the values that have meaning to people? Consumers that have less to spend don't want products that make them feel poor. Companies have to constantly benchmark themselves against the competition. We live in an interconnected, dependent world, so competition can be local, regional and global.

"The benchmarking mustn't be based on brand owners' interpretation of value but on the customers' perception of value".

The Managing Partner, Blackbox, Abdulhameed Abubakar, who commented on the critical role customer care plays in build winning brands, noted that poor customer service was a critical problem in Nigeria as its true role in brand-building was yet to be fully understood and properly applied.

When asked during the interactive session if customers actually knew what they wanted, Abubakar said although sometimes customers didn't quite know what they wanted, yet, it was good to get their input and merge it with what the firm's thinking as this would give consumers a feeling of belonging and see themselves as part of the process.

Abubakar also noted that people seldom experienced brands in isolation because they were likely to recommend a brand they had experienced to another person.

He stated, "Customers want to be part of the narrative; they want to participate and they should be given a chance to. Brands should also collaborate with consumers and other brands to elevate and enhance the customer experience".

Speaking on the essence of the seminar, Abubakar said, "We feel that we need our marketing professionals to start taking interest in trend marking and following the trend in the marketplace. Marketing has been a one-way interaction; we are having this conversation because we would like to get people thinking, and make them understand that they are not in this alone. You need to collaborate with individuals, communities, employees; you need to learn new bahaviours. New behaviours cause revolution."

The Guardian, Nigeria

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