Welcome to the new world we talked about so much in the past. This one in which speaking gave space to creating; creating to experiencing; experiencing to making mistakes and making mistakes to learning and learning to doing. The human being is the only animal that stumbles twice on the same stone, and blames the stone. We are immersed in a new crisis and instead of looking at the stone, the covid-19, we can transform this crisis into opportunity. David Schmittlein of the Sloan School of Management (MIT) said: “We need new ways of thinking that we haven’t always given enough attention to.” Schmittlein is correct with his observation; as Albert Einstein was right with one of his great maxims: “A person who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new.”
A new time for a new world
Starting with the recognition of the important role that SMEs play in driving the world economy and its contribution to sustainable development, being a key factor in reducing poverty and promoting development, is a good start.
According to the International Council for Small Business (ICSB), SMEs represent 90% of the business sector worldwide, generate between 60 and 70% of employment and are key in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
In Spain, SMEs are the engine of the Spanish economy: according to the latest data from Cifras Pyme (they are prior to the emergence of covid-19), they represent 99.8% of the Spanish business fabric and generate 66.4% of the jobs. And according to Eurostat data, they were responsible for 53.3% of imports and 51.1% of exports made in our country.
In the photo as of March 2020, the SMEs in Spain were 2,803,769.
SMEs (0-249 employees) 2,803,769
SMEs without employees (0 employees) 1,569,992
SMEs with employees (1-249 employees) 1,233,777
Micro-companies (1-9 employees) 1,067,775
Small (10-49 employees) 142,028
Medium (50-249 employees) 23,974
Large (250 or more employees) 4,777
Total Companies 2,808,546
On reports prepared by the D.G. of Industry and SMEs from data provided by the Ministry of Employment and Social Security (MEySS) on companies registered with Social Security as of March 2020.
In Europe, small and medium-sized companies also have special economic relevance in job creation and, also, because they generate half of the intra-community trade in goods, being responsible for 51% of imports and 45% of the exports that are produced. within the EU.
Since the start of the pandemic, a wave of concern has swept through SMEs around the world. In this scenario overflowing with uncertainty, SMEs are highly exposed both on the economic and labor fronts. Sadly many will have to close, some will be able to survive and others, perhaps the least, will be reinforced. The day after will not be easy, but it will be less complicated if what is at your hand can be attended to now. And one of those important aspects is Branding.
Branding for SMEs.
We cannot underestimate the importance of branding for small and medium-sized companies. Branding surrounds us on a daily basis. It often controls and affects our actions and behaviors even in the smallest decisions. Branding is important and crucial for all companies, regardless of size. It is a misconception among many entrepreneurs of small and medium-sized companies to think that branding is only for large companies or multinational corporations.
Among the aspects that will stand out the most in the post-de-escalation scenario will be: hygiene, safety and, across them, trust. But human treatment, empathy, attention to detail and closeness, both geographic and emotional, will also be valued.
Humanize the distancing.
Most people think that the digital age is about technology, I recommend re-highlighting the figure of the human being. Today from anywhere in the world with a good idea and with internet access, your brand can be relevant and interesting.
Before the crisis caused by the covid-19, 80% of Spaniards were looking for brands with values beyond quality or price. The main values that the citizens appreciated in the brands and that they conditioned in the purchase were: coherence, transparency, trust and honesty, according to the study Brands with Values®: The power of the consumer-citizen.
And the values are not said, they are lived. You don’t say “I am trustworthy”, you act generating trust.
A change in consumer behavior was already taking shape: there was an awareness that aroused around more responsible consumption, in the valuation of brands with purpose, a demand for sustainability and commitment to society and the environment, values of the companies and to put in a prominent place the treatment, the relationship. In short, the power of consumers placed the choice of brands with values in a prominent place; and this pre-covid-19 reality will certainly rise. Whenever there is a crisis, the instinctive reaction is to lower prices. And in a context of rampant economic crisis, such as this one, in which the purchasing power of the majority will be diminished, the value for money will be analyzed with a magnifying glass. Prior to this crisis, most consumers assumed that when they bought “cheap”, it was that these products could have been obtained or manufactured or manufactured in less responsible or irresponsible environmental and / or social conditions. One of the doubts that assails me is whether the decision to pay a little more for a product of a brand with ethical behavior compared to similar ones will be maintained, among those who can, and if they will prefer a product from a brand that respects the environment, worry about social issues that are close to or that take care of their workers. At the rational level, no one could be against the above, what’s more, the power of consumers could push most companies to be more ethical, responsible, committed and sustainable. But emotionally, when there are no coins in the wallet, we will have to see what the reaction would be.
Consumer power on the rise.
According to the 2018 Forética Report on the evolution of CSR and Sustainability: The optimist’s reward, 68.5% of consumers declare that they have stopped buying a product or service based on aspects of CSR. In addition, 89% of those surveyed stated that, between two equal products, they would buy the most responsible, and within these, 63.9% would be willing to assume a higher price.
90% of millennials would like brands to give them the power to make decisions within them and with effects throughout the value chain. While young people bet on brave brands, baby boomers (50-65 years old) continue to bet on brands that generate confidence. The challenges that SMEs face in this new post-covid-19 world, with a digitization on steroids, with questions in bulk and with a clear confusion about how consumers will react, are monumental. We only sense that consumers could react gratefully with their lifelong stores. That they could take better care of their euros until we have more clarity about the future. And that there are also many who, even with fewer resources, know the impact their purchasing decisions have to contribute to the construction of a new society, more aware, ethical, fair, humane and sustainable.
This is where Branding has a lot to contribute
A brand is not what you say, but what you do. A brand is the soul of your company, beyond its size. A brand is a promise fulfilled, a contract with society and with your employees / team, it is a sum of values and a purpose that helps your essence to be flexible with the situation but consistent with its DNA. For many companies, the time to rethink what kind of brand they were was with the beginning of the Digital Age. Many did not. Today they have a second chance to review what kind of brand they are, what they represent, why what they do is relevant and how they commit to building this new world that we are heading for. A rebranding can make us reevaluate companies, countries and citizens. It can transform the fate of failed and declining proposals and make them relevant, desired and, above all, understood again. The faster you start working on your brand, the faster you will begin to get results from a strong brand. By laying the foundation and foundation for your small business brand, your potential will be unleashed. To build future-proof brands it is essential to build an internal and external audience of believers. Understand how to create unique brand experiences, improving customer experience, and building brand loyalty.
Building a sense of connection, pride and belonging.
Branding demonstrates, tangibles, that sense of belonging. It has that function for people who are part of the same group and also for people who do not belong. Brands are undergoing an exciting paradigm shift where the business world will never be the same again. Branding in this new era is the main difference between being recognized and going unnoticed. That is why the most successful brands are working so that their presence is noticed and their absence is felt.
Brands need to recover that creative capacity; understanding creativity as the act of looking where others have looked and seeing what others have not seen and subsequently doing what others do not do. The business world will never be the same again. Organizations, companies and society are changing. In this marriage between brands and consumers there is something that must evolve so that companies sell more and their business plan is fulfilled: investing in the brand because, if there is something that needs to be promoted at the moment it is trust between consumers and brands. The brand is important for the results and, therefore, the resources destined to its development must be reflected in the budgets. This strategic issue must fall on the CEOs, who are responsible for these budgets, but above all for the income statements. They are the first to add value to the brands they represent. In these difficult times, when companies do not have many resources to invest, it is when a well-positioned brand gives real value to the firm, reporting income and benefits. The product is only a part of the brands. The purpose of the latter is to identify the former, but in these times there is more talk of prices than of value and more and more categories of articles are handled with continuous changes. For this reason, I insist that the communication of brand values and of the attributes that the consumer perceives as positive and that are associated with it must not be weakened.
Why invest in your brand? 5 reasons
1. Be inimitable
Branding improves the recognition of one of the main components of a brand, its visual personality, the “face” of a business. It is what people instantly recognize. A powerful and unique brand design. Simple enough to be memorable, but powerful enough to give the desired impression of your business.
2. Build trust and awareness
Good branding builds trust and awareness. The stronger, well-established and well-known your brand is, the easier it will be to build trust. By constantly investing and building a strong brand for your business, your brand will be seen as an authority and market leader in your field.
Branding creates awareness, recognition and attention in the market. The demand for your products and services increases. People are more likely to buy from a brand that connects with them and is perceived clearly and legitimately, and that communicates with them as individuals.
The father of the most valuable brand in the world, Steve Jobs, stated that “it is about values. It is a complicated and noisy world, and we are not going to have the opportunity for people to remember much about us. So we have to be very clear about what we want them to know about us “.
3. Build believers
Good branding wins new clients and maintains existing clients. Many employees need more than just work: they need something to work for. A strong brand allows you to inspire confidence in your team. They feel like they are working for a company that is special and unique.
When employees understand a company’s mission and raison d’être, they are more likely to feel the same pride and work in the same direction to achieve the goals the company director has set for himself. Having a strong brand is like turning the company logo into a flag that the rest of the company can display.
4. Brand for success
The brand helps increase sales and achieve higher profits. Creativity and ingenuity can equip SMEs with the branding strategies they need to promote their products and services in the market. The brand helps SMEs to achieve the identities they want to have. This translates into a better relationship with its target customers. The most profitable companies, small and large, have one thing in common. The branding project often comes at a critical time for organizations. Properly executed, they can be an important catalyst for change. Knowing how to harness the power of the new brand can become itself the symbol of a new strategic direction. Even big companies need investment and care if they want to maintain their vitality and relevance.
5. Increase in the value of the brand
Branding generates financial value. Companies that are publicly listed on the stock exchange are often valued many times more than the actual assets of the company. Much of this value is due to the branding of the company. A strong brand often guarantees future business.
Whether a company is in a position to borrow funds for expansion or to implement an IPO, being perceived as more valuable will make the process advantageous to the entrepreneur. The greater the dedication of a company to building the value of its brand, the better the financial performance of its efforts. A consistent brand will mean that the company is well positioned for any future expansion it wants to do.
Decalogue for SMEs. From reasons to actions
1. From the logo to the brand. The logo reflects part of the brand. The brand is and communicates the essence of what you represent: your soul, your character, your personality.
2. From product to experience. The client does not want to buy products, he wants to consume experiences. The first is forgotten, the second is forever stored in memory and memories.
3. From honesty to trust. Honesty is taken for granted, trust must be won.
4. From monologue to dialogue. To dialogue is to interact with the consumer, who today is eager to participate.
5. From quality to the inimitable. Quality is a standard that is taken for granted. Getting to the inimitable is what makes the difference.
6. From the individual to the community. It goes from the solitude of the consumer to sharing in community, to creating values and purposes on which to unite common interests.
7. From continuing to be followed. The new world generates followers. The brand must create to be a leader, not copy.
8. From after to real time. From later, tomorrow or next week to instant.
9. From service to relationships. The service sells, the loyalty relationships.
10. From complex to simple. Be simple about. The complex arouses mistrust.
Digitizing to humanize.
And finally, everyone at home has discovered the infinity of digital tools to communicate, to buy, to sell, to find, to manage and for so many etceteras. While practically 80% of companies in Spain never commercialized or sold products online, covid-19 has accelerated the omni-channel and digitization agenda. One of the areas that is most relevant is the integration of the online world and the physical world. The urgent need for the traditional “off” dimension to be integrated with the digital “on” dimension. Hence the creation of the “Brandoffon” concept. The success for 21st century brands comes from merging these 3 components in a coherent, consistent and constant way: (Brand) + physical world (Off) + digital world (On). Brandoffon is already palpable for anyone because it summarizes that integrating and complementary vision between the different worlds in the same universe. Pure on or off strategies no longer make sense. Being in both spheres is no longer the debate, but how you are, who you are for and what you are for. Brands that embrace this concept will be able to help people shop where they connect and connect where they shop. That is, helping helps each other.
Those companies that do not bet on this merger, to “brand-off” their brands, will be lost in the future. The future for brands will not be after the de-escalation; it is today. Rather, it is now. Fear of change terrifies many entrepreneurs and is understandable. To them I tell you that a mind full of fear has no room for creativity and new ideas. And it is time to connect with creativity, new ideas and a new look. There is no time for fear.
We were in the twilight of a data-driven society, and the pandemic caught us off guard. And although the data economy and digitization are inescapable, society will give new value to the only human capacity that it cannot automate: emotion. From our purchasing decisions to the way we work, share and behave.
In the business world, most company managers do not believe (yet!) In the power of Branding, in the force of emotions, in the transcendence of stories, in the value that an admired, beloved and recommended brand creates.
To finish: the stone and the human being.
The distracted tripped over it,
The violent used it as a projectile,
The entrepreneur builded it with her,
The tired farmer used it as a seat,
Drummond poeticized it,
David used it to defeat Goliath,
And Michelangelo took from it the most beautiful of sculptures.
In all cases the difference was not in the stone, but in the person. The stone is a virus today and it will be up to each one how to react and what to do about it.