Posted on the Creative Bridge website: June 23, 2017

The landscape is changing. The world we are operating is changing at an even faster pace than before. Geopolitical changes have caused a shift in policy. Technological innovation has sped up how we access information and given us ever more information at our fingertips. As people access products and services at phenomenal speeds, their opinions are formed at the almost the same rate. Their attitudes and behaviour towards products and services are affected by what they are exposed to, causing them to change.

Closer to home, the sector has had its fair share of change too; funding cuts have resulted in housing associations re-thinking how they deliver a valuable service to its residents and communities. For some, this means reaching into new markets and entering into competition with commercial entities. One thing that hasn’t changed in ten years is the need for more affordable housing and the constant need for the sector to make its voice heard.

A recent global brand report says that it’s more important than ever to strengthen brands to remain relevant, stand the test of time and cope with rapid changes. Housing associations reaching new markets and entering into competition with commercial entities means that they can no longer afford to not pay attention to their brands.

The time has come to carefully consider your brand, if you are to compete in the same arena as commercial entities or inject commerciality to your organisation to generate higher surpluses.

How do you build a brand that stands the test of time? Your branding is what will get potential customers to notice your organisation. They will form perceptions about who you are and what they can expect from your organisation, services you offer, homes you are selling or renting. This makes them feel a particular way about you and influences their attitude and behaviour towards your organisation. Those perceptions are what make up your brand. To build your brand is to manage those perceptions.

What is that perception? It’s a reflection of your purpose, your business mission, who you are, how you differ from the competition, what you are promising the target group and what they need. Anything else will not succeed.

Consistent representation of your perception builds recognition and trust – developing a brand that doesn’t just describe the attributes of the product or service but also explains the functional benefits and conveys the emotional benefits.

Be purposeful. Consumers appreciate that organisations seek to make money, which in turn brings about jobs and security to many people. This is no longer enough. They expect for organisations to have a higher purpose – to improve lives and the world. The new generation of consumers want to know how the organisation is contributing to the wider world before they part with their hard earned cash to purchase an organisation’s products and services. Therefore, your purpose becomes your foundation for future growth.

The sector certainly has this one nailed. Some may struggle to properly articulate their purpose in an authentic manner, but they have a purpose.

Be authentic. If you give your organisation a personality that resonates with who your consumers are, they will pay attention to you. A Marketing Week article on the subject suggests that the eight values comprising authenticity are the abilities to be genuine, original, unique, expert, visionary, passionate and honest, and integrity.

Defining your authenticity may give an organisation the opportunity to shape future perceptions especially if the organisation had any historical baggage that may affect this.

Be different. The traditional housing sector is one that had become commoditised. You will need to distinguish yourselves from your peers and tell consumers why they should choose you over the other choices they have. Defining the point of difference give you the ingredients with which to tell people what to expect from you.

Be noticed. Use your key differentiator to get noticed. The aim of your brand is to get noticed over the next brand. Create an impactful and visually appealing visual identity and engaging marketing communication.

Be elastic. Your brand does not only serve the organisation now, it helps you gear up for the future. In an ever-changing environment, you have to make sure your brand can adapt and react to the changing landscape.

Where do you start? Organisations will have to review their brands for relevance, commerciality as a starting point. Checking what those perceptions are, what is the personality of the brand? Does it align with the organisation’s mission, vision and values? What is your brand story? What does the marketing collateral look like? Does it effectively and consistently represent the brand?  What has been the customer’s experience when dealing with the organisation? Only when you have a clear understanding of where you are now, can you start to add the blocks to build a strong brand.

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