Recession Puts Renewed Focus on Brand Development

Conference Board reports manufacturers need to make brand strategy adjustments amid declining consumer loyalty.

The economic downturn coupled with corporate misdeeds has soured consumer trust in businesses and their product lines, meaning manufacturers need to re-evaluate their brand strategies, according to a report released March 10 by the Conference Board.

Brands will be more difficult for corporations to manage in the post-recession economy, said John Dodds, director of global brand and communications for specialty gasses manufacturer Air Products and Chemicals Inc. and chair of The Conference Board Council of Corporate Brand Management.

"Companies simply won't be able to do things the way they always have," he said. "But they can succeed by adapting their brand strategy to reflect what changes the recession has brought to their business and what it might mean for customers. This will poise them for growth when the economy rebounds."

In the future, consumers will be more educated buyers and have much less brand loyalty or trust than before, according to the report, "Corporate Brands - Meeting the Challenges of Changing Times." Complicating matters for companies is the proliferation of social media Web sites that have enabled consumers to share information that often criticizes corporate brands.

Marketers will need to communicate to their CEOs the link between the brand and revenue and customer preservation, according to Jeffrey Burchill, CFO of FM Global, who addressed the Council as a guest. Executives may know there is positive value in corporate name recognition and a strong brand, but they are unsure how that relates to the bottom line, he said.

Branding professionals need to focus on strategy and impact related to revenue and customer retention in the short term and potential growth in the long term, Burchill said.

"Talk the language that the C-suite and especially the CFO understands, not the jargon of marketing and brand positioning," Burchill said.

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