Get your brand in shape for 2024

Terry van Rhyn gives some advice on keeping your brand afloat in the year ahead.

Those of you who are regular readers of this column will know I am prone to using surfing and sailing analogies. But, in the dark damp days of winter, what better than to picture a sun-kissed beach and the waves rolling onto the shore?

Out you paddle on your surfboard, ready to catch a big one. Will the perfect wave come along? The only certainty is that the waves will be different from yesterday and will no doubt be different again tomorrow as well. You just have to put your faith in the skills that you have practised and carefully honed to ride them successfully.

With our world becoming increasingly gloomy and uncertain with macro factors influencing consumer behaviour, it’s a time when we should all pay attention to getting the basics right. Brands or businesses focused on building a long-term marketing proposition will always be able to better navigate the turbulent waters.

In business, staying ahead of the curve is not just a goal – it’s a necessity. As we kick off 2024, the winds of change will determine how the waves roll in and we simply must pay attention to identifying new opportunities. But it’s important we remember that a considered marketing strategy is not just about campaigns – it is also about crafting a consistent, underlying brand message and positioning that your consumers or “tribe” can identify with.

Planning out your brand marketing is the cornerstone to sustained success. It’s not just about selling a product; it’s about selling an experience, a lifestyle, or a set of values that must resonate with your target audience.

Businesses must invest time and resources in understanding their brand identity as it looks from the outside. Step into the shoes (or onto the surfboard!) of your consumers, customers or clients. Look beyond the logo and colour palette: what is the defining, unique story that sets your brand apart?

In an era where consumers are increasingly seeking authenticity and true connections, you need to plan your brand marketing narrative so that it will build trust. This involves creating a consistent message across all touchpoints, from social media and website to traditional channels such as radio, TV and print, all the way to packaging and point of sale.

Brand marketing planning is about laying the groundwork for implementing the campaigns that are required to add the dynamism needed to stay relevant in a constantly evolving market environment. Campaigns are the bursts of energy that propel a brand forward, creating excitement and driving short-term sales. Successful businesses find the balance between the steady pulse of their brand identity and the timely, strategic execution of campaigns.

Building brand equity is an investment in the future. You are looking to create a reservoir of goodwill that pays dividends in customer loyalty and positive word-of-mouth recommendations as well as a resilient brand that can weather market fluctuations. It’s the life-jacket, if you like, that will keep you buoyant in choppy seas and businesses that prioritise the long-term vision over quick wins will find themselves with a competitive edge to catch all the waves.

Looking ahead, several marketing trends are set to shape the wave profiles in 2024. From the ongoing rise of immersive technologies like AI and AR to the continued dominance of video content, staying attuned to these trends is crucial. But remember they are tools within the larger framework of brand marketing planning, not standalone solutions.

I am sure we have now all realised that personalisation, sustainability, and social responsibility are not fleeting fads—they have become integral parts of consumer expectations. In 2024, businesses must integrate these values into their brand narrative, reflecting a genuine commitment to making a positive impact on customers, community and environment.

Finally – and some more surfing jargon coming up – when you are riding this gnarly wave, everything is happening at lightning pace. But you can’t slow down or cut back, even a little bit, as your competitors will drop in and take advantage the moment that you hesitate.

There are many techniques you can deploy to stay upright: and if you’ve put in the practice and laid down the groundwork, you will be able to find a way to shape your ride and own it.