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Sten Bråthen - Strategidirektør

Brand management and growth in 2024 - NO

Merkevaredagen is always a source of inspiration and reflection. Much of what you hear are things that make you think that "I've heard this before", but reminders and new angles still make you think that "this is important", and "I have to take this with me into everyday life". For me, this year's Merkevaredag was a reminder of two things in particular: Brand management is more important than ever, and that growth is easy, but profitable growth is difficult.

Brand management is more important than ever.

To me, the brand is something that exists in people's minds, not in the marketing department. To quote Theofilakis' first law: What is not true but is experienced as true is absolutely true!, or Perception is reality, as the political strategist Lee Atwater said in the 80s. Byron Sharp & Co have added new terms to the 90's Aaker, Kapfrerer and Keller frameworks. Mental accessibility, category gateways and relevant associations that give the brand a relative position against the competition have become a standard in many marketing departments.

Brand management is about managing the brand's actions to create the right perception in people's minds. Here, several of the speakers at Merkevaredagen discussed how this is increasingly about "stakeholder management", which Anne Marie Brady touched on, and how important it is to get the organization involved in developing the brand, which Camilla Forberg illustrated well. In the 90s, the marketing department was probably more often a "separate thing" that dealt with advertising. When the marketing department has reached the point where it is more closely integrated into business development, it also places higher demands on the brand management so that everyone from the CEO and CFO to customer service understands what we want, why we want it, and what values it creates.

In a media market where the traditional tools (read: long commercials) are challenged, consumers are increasingly price conscious and "enlightened", EMV is growing, and even GenZ prioritizes price over brand, as Alexandra Palm from Opinion could tell us, then it should ring many alarm clocks with us who make a living from brands. Brands and brand management will only become even more important in the future.

Growth is easy, but profitable growth is difficult

Growth is easy, but profitable growth is difficult, said Holden Bale of Merkle. Where he highlighted very interesting considerations around digital transformation, it is also worth linking this to Olenicks' Blue Ocean presentation and Lars Erling Olsen's presentation on the power of habit.

The Blue Ocean book may have been published 20 years ago, but the thinking is just as relevant today. In order to create (profitable) growth, one should re-think their strategies and find their blue oceans instead of working to be the best in a red ocean where all the competitors fought with the same means for the same customers. Perhaps the easiest way to create growth is to look at who is not shopping in the category today - as Nintendo did with both the Wii and the pink DS.

Not everyone is lucky to find their blue oceans, and anyway most have a challenge that is often underestimated; namely the power of habit. It is easy to think that consumers are rational in their choices, but when almost all of our decisions are made unconsciously and out of old habit, a lot is required of a marketing department to build a credible business case when their goal is to change ingrained habits and associations built up from childhood. But don't forget that Kvikk Lunsj has not always been the Easter trip chocolate - it is possible.

Byron Sharp & Co has established a credible truth that to grow, one must be mentally and physically available, and that reminding infrequent users of the brand to choose us is central. This undoubtedly has great validity where consumers have our brand in the assessment set and we are competing to be chosen x times more than we are today.

What many may be lacking is the awareness of who does not shop in their category, or does not have your brand in their review set. Who are they, why aren't they acting, and what can you do about it? A fairly easy place to start this thought process is to break down the brand tracker most people have and take a closer look at the non-users and those who don't have your brand in their review set. It can give some aha experiences, and also indicate how tough a job you have to change ingrained attitudes and habits.