Friday, 23 December 2011
Despite the doom and gloom merchants who seem to be surrounding us today about where the economy is going and for how long we will have to live in recession there are still may areas of growth. Not everyone and everything is in recession. So I thought I would share a few strategic thoughts as to where I see growth in 2012.
In every market their are always growth opportunities, even if it is just for insolvency practitioners, accountants and journalists! But, ignoring these sectors where is real growth coming from? It does not take long before you can see that if you want to look for growth, you just need to look beyond the news headlines.
Headlines Aren't Real
Headlines tell (and continuously repeat) what's happening as an average across the entire economy, so slow growth coupled with a reduction of public sector spending means that slow adapting traditional companies will be feeling the pinch, particularly if their growth has disproportionately come from public sector spending. The key reason why headlines aren't real is that they only really report bad news (apart from that final ahhh... story) put in for the human touch element. Bad news sells and grabs headlines, while success never gets a mention.
Headlines only show averages and I've never met anyone who is average. No-one is ever average and so no business is ever average. So when looking for growth and success turn off the TV, radio and throw away the newspaper and on line news and start by looking at what's happening in the real economy.
The high street is dead according to the every expert with up shops empty or closed and yet people still shop in ever increasing numbers and we are building more of them than ever before. Go tell companies like Apple, John Lewis or any of the major supermarket chains about the collapse of retail and they will laugh out loud at you. Retail is not dead, it is just changing and changing faster than many retailers can adapt.
Twenty years ago I worked with retailers advising them to add more value by making their stores more consumer friendly with information and better zoned retailing layouts. Today, retailers need to be adapting to embrace a web active consumers, bricks with clicks stores like John Lewis who will have grown their online e-commerce business to be around 20% of their business integrating it with their modern well designed retail estate. To ignore online in many sectors is like King Canute trying to hold back the tide, but working with it you can appeal to many customer groups by using online an integral part of the retail experience.
Successful retailers are providing modern inviting retail spaces with mixed offerings of retail and consumption are doing well, particularly as part of larger venues. Strategically the big are getting bigger and the others must look to diversify. The number of retail environments is increasing, with many others planned. The changing nature of our retail environment to larger integrated retail centres which is the key driver of change as consumers move from convenience shopping to shopping as an experience event, 2012 will see that strategic shift accelerate, Click here to see local data company You tube explanation for more details.
Knowing where the consumer is going in 2012 is vital for success for many UK businesses. Consumers are buying more and more high quality items. Luxury top-end brands are growing fast and the UK has several strengths to capitalise on, companies like the revitalised TATA Jaguar / Land Rover Group of top end vehicles has never been stronger, both at home and abroad. Land Rover's new Evoque for example had a pro-order of 27,000 vehicles, and both companies are investing in new plant and new models.
This changing shift in purchasing behaviour opens business opportunities for forward thinking business owners to look at higher value consumption, top-end brands are growing globally at over 20% with our ability to design great products is a great strength, from fashion to architecture we are world class and the opportunities for growth are significant.
The Green Market
The green agenda is also a huge growth market in the UK, and its not just solar panels, although this is a great success and one which will survive the Governments ill-judged slashing of the Feed In Tariff (FIT). peopel buying green products and ethical, traditional and home made sre all opportunities for 2012.
The Green agenda, being promoted long-term through the Green Deal, where not only green products are going but also where huge growth for the home improvement market will come from in 2012, supported by new financial channels opening up to fund these domestic sector.
If you would like to learn more about consumer growth trends then here is a good source of of trends for 2012 at trend watching.
The growth of SMART mobile phones is now a major emerging market, this growth currently 650 million in use set to grow to 1.3billion by 2016 provides a whole new market to exploit.
As the world goes mobile so whole new markets are emerging, from gambling to live offers and app building mobile customers are one huge growth market which smart companies are getting into.
Exporting, that old business strategy chestnut is always a mythical panacea for any struggling economy and a favourite for politicians looking for a quick solution to any problem.
Exporting though is not a catch-all, for example exporting to Greece may not be the best idea in the near future, but to elsewhere provides an excellent opportunity for UK business to exploit. BRIC countries, (Brazil, Russia, India and China) provide excellent opportunities for growth. These countries are developing huge new middle classes looking for the type of products which we design, make and retail.
Companies such as Paul Smith have demonstrated an excellent business strategy of balancing their business model with the classic third, third, third split of income which is up £20 million to £196 million this year evenly split across UK, EU and rest of world (ROW). By balancing their income streams they have driven their profits to £24 million this year.
Don't be frightened of looking at export markets as a strategy, we are an excellent exporting nation, people love British products, from cutting edge technology to fashion through to our heritage and education and you should be looking at these opportunities in 2012.
The middle East is a new emerging market as it redefines itself after the impact of the Arab Spring in 2011. Companies such as Coca-Cola which is currently investing nearly $1 billion in the Middle East, click here for article. With oil becoming even more important supported with stable high prices, countries such as MENA (Middle East and North Africa) provide growth opportunities for UK companies. Their growing populations of young well educated and online connected middle classes (Face book and Twitter created and sustained the Arab Spring) these are sensible markets for many businesses to look at moving into.
There are many sectors of the UK economy which are doing quite well and some are doing better than ever. The companies doing well in our economy demonstrate good strategic planning and are set-up to succeed. They can respond faster to changes and take advantage of changes to and within their markets. For 2012 their are going to be winners and losers as always.
The evidence is that those with a plan to succeed will do better than those without. Those who have a clear well defined strategic plan focused on where they want to go and with a plan to get them there will be more successful than those who wing it.
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Our services: business planning, strategic planning, business development and support services.
Thursday, 1 December 2011
What makes a great BRAND?
Despite what marketing people passionately believe most people don’t think about brands, they just get on with their lives. The coffee they buy, the supermarket they go to and petrol station they visit happen almost by accident. In Britain today we are too busy to think through these everyday inconsequential purchases, focused on saving time, not forgetting something or rushing from place to place on a tight deadline. So do brands matter and if so why and how?
Let’s start with the basics, the consumer has choices, endless choices if they choose to use them, but in many everyday cases as in my examples above, the consumer sacrifices those choices for simple expedience. The inability to see (or value) brand differentiation, between Starbucks and Costa, between Tesco and Morrisons between BP and Shell, and yet they each fight for space in consumers minds through tiny differences which if we stop and think about do actually exist and we the consumer do actively value.
So much more than First Impressions
So in today’s Britain, what is important about a brand? Is it the halo effect, the first impression, like the smile on the front of a car or is it something more, something deeper and more tangible? Ask the owners of Sunny D (the 90's orange juice lookalike) and you will find that the halo effect does not last if your brand is not true to itself and to its consumers. Customers have to believe in a brand, it must tell the truth, be transparent and honest if it is to be successful. Gerald Ratner (former MD of Ratners the jewellers who said about his products "because it's total crap") also found out that in today’s world everyone must truly believe in the brand, not just the marketing department but the whole company has to believe it and most importantly practice the brands beliefs.
Being clear and precise is also important in the company’s messages for a brand to succeed, a strong undiluted brand message must enthuse internally but must also consistently connect with customers through touch points, look at Innocent, Dorset Cereals or Apple as classic examples of touch point. They also demonstrate a clear story delivered with passion about who they are what they do and why they matter. This focused and consistent message is not just a marketing message but an ingrained set of values which consumers buy into with passion. These brands not only position themselves as premium players in their fields and earn more but they also continuously find new ways to spread their key messages to customers, they have a clear brand strategy to achieve it.
Everyone Lives the Brand
Another vital aspect of any brand success is that the people within that brand demonstrate what they preach, they live that lifestyle, support that brand and contribute to its success. It is their lifestyle, it is a part of the way they and their brand do business.
Great brands go beyond the brand to understand its real value to existing customers but also to tomorrow’s customers. Whether it is a family run local shop or a global supermarket chain great brands position themselves so they develop and hold a market position to develop long-term success.
Great brands also develop their own uniqueness, not just the product or service but the whole package is how we do it around here. There needs to be not only consistency but the brand hand writing and value on how they do it. The best brands always develop singular simple signals for customers, cutting through jargon to create clarity without patronisation.
For brands to succeed in today’s global markets these golden rules have never been more important as consumers have never had so much information, but if you follow these simple rules of brand success you can develop and maintain a great brand.
If you want to develop your company's brand and are looking for some advice on developing your company, its marketing, its sustainable competitive advantage then contact us at Cowden Consulting to see how we can assist you, or read more about us in this blog or at Cowden Consulting.
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