How to convince your C-level to invest in long-term marketing strategies in stagflation


Investing in brand building is a powerful strategy, especially in times of plenty.

GfK real-world sales data suggests that continued brand building directly influences long-term success. It reveals that global brands that continued to advertise and innovate throughout 2009 succeeded in higher post-recession market share — the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising, found these companies increased market share by an average of 4x during the recovery phase. 

In current times, shifts in buying behavior, high inflation, and volatile interest rates are causing customers to spend less and to carefully reconsider which brands and companies to support. Disruptive market entrants, heightened customer expectations, and the ease in which customers learn about new brands means that it’s very easy to lose customers. 
In this environment, businesses that consistently express and prove their brand equity and strength stand to retain customers and win market share.

Strong brands do more than endure — they thrive.


Brand strategy should be one of the top three priorities on any CMO’s agenda. Unfortunately, constraints and competing priorities prevent marketing leaders from placing brand building at the center of their marketing activities.

Defend brand investments

Marketing leaders are feeling the effects of stagflation just as much as customers. While marketing budgets have climbed from the historic low of 6.4% of company revenue to 9.5%, budgets are still lower than pre-pandemic spending, which reached a high of 11.2%. 

Within this challenging environment, marketing leaders are called to justify their spending to the C-suite. This places marketers, in a difficult position, as the value of brand building isn’t always clear to stakeholders. Executives within an established business may view branding as a solved problem. They might request budgets being redirected towards short-term marketing activities with more visible and immediate impact.

So, how do marketing leaders convince stakeholders to invest in brand building? The answer is different for every organization. Controlling for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity, will give marketers the insights to secure the investments for their brand(s). Let’s explore how.

Controlling for volatility: utilize the latest insights

The world is changing at lightning speed. Accessing real-time data is critical to keeping pace with change. 80% of marketing leaders see data and analytics as important to winning customers. Despite the importance of data, nearly two-thirds of marketers are only moderately confident in the data they receive.



The first step in quantifying brand strength is to measure the choices people make. This includes insights on how people view your brand(s), how your brand compares with competitors, what consumers buy, what they repeat buy, and how loyal they are. Furthermore, it’s important what consumers value most. Once you understand these factors, you’ll be able to identify how much premium people are willing to pay for your products. Stronger brands can demand a higher premium than weaker brands.

Understanding why consumers choose your brand is complex.

A holistic framework to understand brand performance looks at consumers' perception of the brand from various angles. It integrates different driving forces covering the connection of the brand to the category, the emotional and rational brand image as well as the consumers touchpoints with the brand.
Equipped with the latest insights on the perception of your brand and the competitive landscape allows you to act with confidence. These insights also inform stakeholders that your brand building strategy is consistent, but adaptive to consumers and market realities, and is worth believing in.

A holistic understanding of brand perception comes down to main brand drivers:

  1. Mental Availability — how likely your brand will come to mind in buying situations. Strong brands are highly associated with categories and consumer product expectations and come to mind easily.
  2. Brand Knowledge — represents consumers’ understanding of your brand, its purpose, values, imagery, and products.
  3. Brand Attachment — assesses the emotional connection consumers have with your brand.
  4. Brand Experience — measures the quality and consistency of experiences that your brand delivers to consumers on various online & offline touchpoints.

Providing certainty with clarity of vision and purpose

Winning over stakeholders requires having a clear vision that is backed up with relevant insights and actionable steps. A first step in creating a shared mission is to demystify brand building and explain the role that each stakeholder plays in your brand strategy. With clarity in the “Why” and on roles and responsibility, it’s easier to collaborate to drive company revenue. 

Marketing leaders communicating clearly-defined brand promises aim to create consistent brand experiences, that support in creating a strong brand. 

Other benefits of a strong brand include:

  • Reducing customer acquisition costs — brands that clearly articulate their mission and purpose have control over how customers perceive them. This enables them to increase engagement with potential customers with a great fit to brand values.
  • Improved retention rates — once customers are acquired, and willing to pay a premium price, consistent and positive brand experiences keep them loyal.
  • More successful product launches — customer advocacy and brand recognition ensure that product launches require less investment to be successful. Speed to consumers is increased as less persuasion by commercial teams is necessary.
  • Command a price premium — the stronger a brand, the more it generates a brand pull that endures the storms of consumers budget limitations in turbulent times. 

Democratizing access to insights will ensure that all teams are working with the latest, most relevant data and have a common understanding of the strategy in place.

Inspire action by making the complex simple

Utilizing a holistic brand building framework is particularly effective for storytelling and also the way consumers think about a brand does not operate in silos. Brand building drivers operate as a network, with each aspect of the brand contributing to brand strength. 

By knowing how those brand drivers impact the equity of your brand(s) in any specific category or region, you’ll understand what is important to build a strong brand and how well your brand is performing on the important levers within the market and category.
So, which dimensions of your brand performance should be your number one priority? Should you prioritize mental availability? At what point do you start improving overall brand experiences across different touchpoints? What about deepening the emotional connection between customers and your brand?

Developing the right strategic plan is key.

The first step in developing the strategy is to quantify how strongly brand levers drive brand strength in the categories they operate in. For instance, how relevant is emotional connection to your brand when marketing high-involvement products?

Brand levers intensity of influence on brand strength


Reduce ambiguity by declaring clear priorities

A key strategy for reducing ambiguity in today’s complex environment is to understand where your brand is positioned in the market. One reliable way is by using GfK’s category navigation grid, which helps companies understand the status quo of their brand perception by consumers.
The status quo of your brand in combination with the overall strategic direction will give you the starting point of brand building. Power brands, for instance, are well-established, creating opportunities to move into neighboring categories. Small brands, in contrast, must typically focus on building mental availability with consumers in order to grow.
Which brand wins should you be proud of and which gaps need to be focused on? Identifying priorities requires clearly mapping brand performance against the most important brand drivers.

Clear priorities will show the board where marketing investment is paying off over time.

Reducing ambiguity requires understanding of the current brand perception of consumers vs. the intended positioning, the company objectives, and the competitive landscape. This places marketers into a strong position to plan actions to grow their brand.

How to develop clear brand development priorities

  1. Understand the current brand position in a competitive environment – is the brand a power brand or a mainstream brand?
  2. Identify the overarching brand levers — is it important to focus on building mental availability or to focus on sharpening the brand image? 
  3. Refine the tactics — if the focus area is brand building, which touchpoints best to focus on? If the priority is sharpening the brand image, where is the gap between intended and perceived brand positioning

Create a winning brand strategy

By controlling for volatility and uncertainty and by reducing complexity and dealing with ambiguity, marketers have the top-level insights they need to measure the impact and performance of each brand building element. 

For marketing leaders, utilizing a clear roadmap identified by the most recent data, trusted and relevant insights on a strategic high-level view, will help to convince the C-suite to invest in brand building.

There are ways of measuring the performance and impact of each brand building element to enable brand growth. GfK’s Brand Strength Builder provides a 360-degree understanding of your brand and its relationship with consumers. 

This enables marketers to build the revenue-generating brand they want and create experiences that connect with consumers on a meaningful level.

Along with evaluating how the brand is performing on all brand drivers, marketers can compare their brand(s) against competitors, giving them the right insights to identify growth opportunities.

The strength of any brand starts with investing in the right brand building activities. GfK Brand Architect's advanced analytics module built for marketers, GfK Brand Strength Builder empowers you to understand how brand drivers can be leveraged to create high-performing brands.

Use your brand to grow your revenue. Find your brand's strength with GfK Brand Architect.

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