Brands Bring Certainty in Uncertain Times

by David Heitman

If you’re like me, you spent some time between college bowl games watching our elected officials in Washington fumble with the economy, only to kick the deficit can down the road another few months. It did little to alleviate the uncertainty most individuals and corporations are feeling these days. Yet, Wednesday rolled around, and we all got back to work, knowing that we’d have to create our own certainties.

Working with company leaders and their marketing teams, as we are privileged to do here at The Creative Alliance, renews my hope that the entrepreneurs, visionaries and creative risk-takers will be the strongest force to mitigate the economic woes that loom ahead. Thankfully there are people who believe in their vision, commit time and treasure to what they believe in and end up creating jobs, partnerships and great products and services along the way.

From the customer side of the equation, the uncertainties of the future loom equally large. With money scarce and financing harder to come by, consumers and B2B decision-makers are looking for cues to make smart decisions they won’t regret down the road.

That’s where brands come into play.

Brands are belief systems that provide certainty in uncertain times. During tough economic cycles, while many people will chase the low-cost provider with no sense of loyalty, others will look to brands as safe havens of reliability. These are the people you want as your customers anyway, in bad times as well as good. They are relationships built on value and trust—the lifeblood of sustainability in all economic conditions.

Branding is even more crucial in a B2B context than in consumer behavior. No one ever got fired for buying the wrong brand of mouthwash. B2B branding is a high stakes game where strong brands create lasting customer relationships, command premium pricing, build an army of loyal brand ambassadors and fend off competitors—even the ones that charge less.

A company that invests in building and sustaining a well-crafted, credible brand has thus purchased an insurance policy against the race to the bottom of low-margin, profitless existence. So while their competitors may be cutting back on customer service, visibility and innovation, the true leaders in their respective industries will be making the investment—maybe even the sacrifices—to keep their brands visible, relevant and trustworthy in the eyes of the right type of customers. They will take the time to hone their value proposition so finely that their brands emerge as the smart, safe choice among all other options.

As Matthew Harrington, CEO of Edelman said in a recent AdAge interview, “At a time when government is hamstrung in its ability to generate economic growth, this is an opportunity for business to demonstrate vision, leadership and create sustainable value through innovation.”