What does the crisis mean?

‘Crisis is the new reality’ is one of the most important statements made by Luc Suykens (Procter&Gamble) at the yearly MIE conference on February 6. He stated that crisis has become a reality we have to deal with, as there has been a crisis for over 10 years now. But what does this imply exactly for our business? Does it mean that consumers will only opt for Private Labels of even for Hard Discount? Are brands becoming obsolete? Or does it mean that we need to start doing business differently? At least it means that we have to start doing something!
After a very inspiring day at MIE 2013, I became confident that brands will never become obsolete; we just have to start doing business differently.
Customer centricity was an important theme during the day, and with reason. It is time for us to start listening to our customers; to take time to think and work together on building brands that are relevant even in times of crisis. In these economic times where consumers go back to basics, it is about the little things that make our life worthwhile. Brands need to bring that little extra that consumers value, brands need to have an ideal. You can only build these brands when you take the time to learn from your consumer.
A very nice example of listening to your customers was brought by Beautiful Lives who did a project for De Efteling. Even though everyone working at De Efteling is carrying the same DNA as the brand itself, they have a bigger ideal. De Efteling wants to bring little bits of their guests’ experiences in the park to their everyday life. De Efteling went back to basics, to the family life, together with Beautiful Lives. They took the time to visit guests at home, watched how they behaved and learned how to create a little fairy tale moment every day.
Taking the time to listen to your customers is something not only an inspiring brand such as the Efteling can benefit from. In the services industry also, where brands have a more practical image, listening to customers is important. In the presentation by SSI, MindWorld and Eneco, it became clear that 43% of customers consider themselves to act in a sustainable manner, an important part of the market you do not want to miss out on. Eneco is valued by professional organisations – such as Greenpeace – for their sustainable way of doing business. For years now the Eneco customers have been using green energy, yet many of them are not aware of this fact. As a result Eneco is not mentioned in the top 10 of most sustainable brands. A sustainable brand is not something you become only by doing, you have to tell the story and listen to your customer to learn how to bring this value across. It’s all about perception.
In our own case which we presented together with AirFrance & KLM, it also became clear that extra value to your brand is what you can bring when listening carefully. As Charles Hageman (AFKL) stated, when you make the effort and take the time to listen to your customers, you may be strengthened in your assumptions, you may pick up ideas that were declined at first or you may come to entirely new ideas. One thing is for sure: you will bring extra value to your brand.
In a time where crisis is the new reality and resources are scarce, our customers are really our greatest source of inspiration, so let’s take some time to listen to them.

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