Don’t let 2024’s volatility derail your business goals.

In today’s business landscape, volatility is the norm. From economic uncertainties to changing consumer preferences and a historic presidential election, corporations must be ready for anything. In times like these, having a robust brand strategy isn’t just an option; it’s a necessity for survival and growth. It may seem counterintuitive at first, but in our experience, focusing on your brand is the most impactful way to bring flexibility to your business.

1. Start by defining your brand vision.

At the heart of every successful company lies a compelling brand vision. In the strategic brand platforms we build for our clients, we define this statement as your company’s “desired future state.” While there are many schools of thought for defining long-term company goals (10-year targets, big hairy audacious goals, etc.) we believe the most effective vision statement will be one that feels true to your organization. In volatile markets, where change is constant, a strong brand vision serves as a north star, providing clarity and direction.

So, how do you know if your vision statement is good? Whether you have an existing vision statement to evaluate, or you’re starting from scratch, an effective vision statement can answer these questions:

  • Does it specify a future state?
  • Is it aspirational?
  • Is it authentic to the core values and purpose of your organization?
  • Could it energize leadership, employees, colleagues and stakeholders?
  • Is it one sentence?

Here’s another tip: since your vision statement defines where you’re going, your mission statement should define how you’ll get there. If you already have a defined mission, you could reverse engineer a compelling vision by asking yourself, ‘if we successfully achieved this mission, what’s the biggest, most exciting impact we could have?”

Companies with a clear brand vision have a distinct advantage. They are better equipped to make strategic decisions, adapt to changing market conditions and stay focused on long-term goals. When faced with unexpected challenges, executives can refer to the brand vision as a source of motivation, keeping the organization aligned and moving forward.

2. Operationalize your vision with brand architecture.

With all the volatility in recent years, we’ve seen an uptick in M&A and corporate restructuring. When there’s a significant change in how you go to market, having a well-defined brand architecture is essential.

Brand architecture refers to the relationship between all your brands, products and services. By getting clear on the roles and positioning of each brand within the portfolio, you can effectively target different market segments while staying flexible enough to respond to changing customer needs. And, when you ladder that architecture all the way up to the company vision, you’ll be able to see how each piece of your business is strategically poised to contribute to your goals.

Client example:

Over the past few decades, JDH has acquired several regional agribusiness companies to expand their regional service offerings. Even though there are three distinct subsidiaries in the JDH brand portfolio, operational functions like HR and accounting are shared. This relationship inspired a brand architecture based on a centralized vision, mission, values and promise and unique positioning for each company.

3. Don’t forget about employer brand.

Today’s competitive talent landscape means attracting and retaining top talent is more challenging than ever. This is where employer branding comes into play. Employer brand refers to the reputation and perception of a company as an employer. It encompasses everything from company culture and values to career opportunities and work-life balance. It says to prospective employees, “here’s what we expect from you and what you can expect from us in return.”

In volatile markets, where employee loyalty is tested, a strong employer brand can be a game-changer. Companies with a positive employer brand attract high-caliber candidates, reduce recruitment costs and enjoy higher levels of employee engagement and retention. It’s a lot more expensive to hire someone new than keep a great employee in-house.

Plus, a strong employer brand acts as a shield against market volatility, as employees are more likely to remain committed and motivated, even in challenging times.

Client example:

For global agribusiness company Scoular, we needed to build a brand that could empower current employee-owners as well as a global audience of recruits. Once we defined their platform, we created statements that both internal and external audiences could rally behind to express their brand promise.

External tagline: Let’s get growing.
Internal rally cry: Own what’s possible.

4. Stay flexible with performance marketing.

Once you’re confident in the internal strategic direction of your organization, it’s time to thread the needle all the way through the sales funnel. When the market is unpredictable, every advertising dollar counts. Traditional marketing approaches like television, direct mail and print media are a great way to build awareness at the top of your sales funnel. When you need to drive consideration and conversion further down the funnel, a versatile strategy like performance marketing can help.

Performance marketing is a data-driven approach focused on maximizing return on investment (ROI) and driving measurable results. It uses various digital channels and technologies to target specific audiences, track conversions and optimize campaigns in real-time. Our clients love this approach because they experience a level of precision and accountability that complements traditional media.

By analyzing data and adjusting strategies on the fly, companies can minimize risk, optimize resource allocation and capitalize on emerging opportunities. Whether it’s through search engine optimization (SEO), pay-per-click (PPC) advertising or social media marketing, performance marketing enables companies to stay agile and responsive in the face of uncertainty.

Client example:

biBerk, a small business insurance company, was looking for a way to grow as quickly and efficiently as possible in a crowded digital marketplace. After establishing a baseline of ROI data based on their current marketing efforts, we implemented a combination of flexible, but hyper-focused, best-in-class search strategies. Through real-time internal dashboards, we could monitor monthly trends, set long-term goals and adjust detailed action plans on the fly.

5. Partner with an agency that can zoom out and dial in.

Marketing and advertising agencies span more capabilities than ever before. There are mega shops who do anything and everything as well as niche shops who specialize in services like performance marketing. In the past 40 years at Ervin & Smith, we’ve tried a little bit of everything. Ultimately, the most effective way forward is to combine a deep understanding of our clients’ businesses with a range of specialty skills to support those bigger goals.

By developing a comprehensive brand strategy that encompasses brand vision, brand architecture, employer brand and performance marketing, we help companies not only survive but thrive in today’s unpredictable business landscape. If you’re ready to take your brand to the next level and weather any storm, contact us today to learn how we can help.

Leanne Prewitt

President & Chief Executive Officer

Shaped by her background in creative direction, Leanne leads the agency’s culture and creative vision and also oversees the operations that allow a team of marketing, design and media specialists to create powerful and effective work for their client partners.

Leanne began her professional career in New York City working for some of the nation’s leading agencies. In 2016, after a five-month sabbatical around the world, she returned to her hometown and joined Ervin & Smith. Her global perspective and expanded professional experience influence the work she does today.