Year in Review: 4 Lessons on Brand Health from 2017

Marketing
4 min. read

Sofie Lundberg / December 19, 2017

Tracking brand health is an integral part of business success. Loosely defined as ‘how effective your brand is in helping you achieve your aims’, even consistently successful brands need to ‘check their health’ on a regular basis, especially in relation to fast-changing industry and consumer trends.

Here, we take a closer look at some of the brands that proactively tracked and improved their brand health in 2017, and how they did it.

1. Axe: “Adjust your brand to changing times.”

Axe, known as Lynx in some markets, is the biggest male fragrance brand in the world and has for a long time set the bar for male-targeted marketing for grooming products. In 2015, despite solid sales numbers and annual growth, Axe identified a potential issue for the brand’s future: it was relying on old-fashioned and increasingly outdated marketing messages.

After researching its target audience and adjusting its marketing strategy, Axe has emerged to oppose the traditional masculinity it once advocated.

In 2017, they took their innovative brand message one step further. Utilizing data from Google, they collected popular Google searches beginning with “is it okay for guys…”. The popular search terms that were revealed included themes such as sexual experience, sexual orientation and gender roles.

With this campaign, Axe is successfully shining a light on men’s insecurities and concerns in regards to their masculinity in a bid to “break the cycle of toxic masculinity by providing guys with resources to live more freely.”

Claire McHardy, Global Brand Manager at Axe, said, “We’ve discovered that there is a huge amount of pressure on guys to ‘be a man’ and this is really holding them back from expressing themselves. So we’re on a mission to expose that pressure and empower guys to be whoever they damn well want.”

Key Lesson:

Regardless of sales successes, it’s important to continuously analyze key trends and brand perceptions to know how your audience is evolving and how your brand needs to adapt to them.

Don’t be afraid to adjust your brand message to suit changing times and attitudes.

2. Beano: “Don’t be afraid to innovate.”

The world’s longest running weekly comic with 79 years under its belt, Beano has seen a successful digital transformation.

Emma Scott, Founder and CEO of Beano Studios told Marketing Week, “We developed a brand hierarchy where we looked into what we stand for. This is how we came to our internal strapline that ‘everyone should think more kid’. If everyone did that, the world would be a better place. But we wanted to do everything through a digital lens.”

Insight into their target audience – children aged seven to 11 – revealed that they were underserved by other media outlets. “They are massive consumers of media but are predominantly finding media aimed at adults”, says Scott. “With YouTube, a lot of the content will be fine but also a lot won’t. They are at that golden age when they’re still pretty innocent. Yet their media doesn’t meet their needs.”

In a bid to innovate and integrate the brand into the digital world, offering entertainment to these young consumers, Beano Studios was launched last year and the Beano.com website was overhauled.

In its own words, the brand’s mission is “to make rebellious, funny entertainment across a range of media; TV, digital, theatrical projects, consumer products and the much-loved comic and annual.”

Source: Beano.com

Key Lesson:

Don’t limit yourself to one medium or be afraid of innovation.

Expansion and growth comes from continuously learning about how your brand is perceived and how you’re catering to your target audience.

3. McDonald’s: “Challenge perceptions.”

McDonald’s has long been subjected to rumors surrounding the contents of its products. Despite the enormity of the brand, it still recognized a growing need to shift public perceptions.

This kind of perception-changing campaign is nothing new for the fast food giant; similar criticism was successfully challenged in their 2009 campaign, ‘the big nothing’. However, with the growth of social media and viral clickbait content came a renewed force for the rumor-spreading, and McDonald’s again saw a decline in brand health.

Utilizing social listening and consumer insights, McDonald’s identified the problem as a lack of knowledge around their supply chain and a need  for more authentic marketing messages. They decided to deliver their message via satire in a bid to turn negative rumors into positive brand messages..

Emily Somers, VP of Marketing at McDonald’s, told Campaign that the Leo Burnett campaign “helped us strike the right tone by playfully poking fun at the absurdities people believed about our food.”

Key Lesson:

You may need to address and respond to audience perceptions that contradict your brand message.

When you do, ensure you use an appropriate tone of voice, using the power of authentic marketing to connect with consumers in a more relevant way.

4. Starbucks: “It pays to listen.”

With their agile business strategy, Starbucks is a huge proponent of market research, continuously using this as a basis for making key brand decisions.

At the end of 2016, its new Blonde Roast was introduced as a direct result of the brand listening to its target consumers.

Brad Anderson, Master Roaster at Starbucks, said, “It took eight months and more than 80 different recipe and roast iterations before we landed on the exact flavor profile our customers told us they were looking for. They told us they wanted a flavorful, lighter bodied coffee that offers a milder taste and a gentle finish.”

Starbucks continues to involve the consumers in their product decisions, even creating the Starbucks Ideas website to encourage their audience to submit ideas on how they can improve. This lead to the selection of coconut milk as their primary non-dairy milk option.

By including their audience, lending them a voice and proving they listen, Starbucks continues to set an example when it comes to tracking and responding to brand health.

Key Lesson:

It pays to listen.