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Chief Strategy Officer, Issue 24

Where we look at how to get more women in senior leadership positions

9May

The last year has seen strategic planning become increasingly difficult, with new risks coming thick and fast. From Trump’s bombastic approach to governing a country, to the uncertainties of Brexit, it is now harder than ever to set a concrete direction for the company. This means strategy leaders have to be flexible and put in place agile plans that can adapt quickly to changing circumstances.

In light of the political polarization that caused Trump and Brexit - that has worsened since - it is often difficult for brands to know whether or not to involve themselves in discussions. Toyota, for one, lost $1.2 billion in value as a result of a single tweet from Donald Trump. Equally Pepsi’s recent cringeworthy campaign using Kendall Jenner to exploit the protest movement has been widely condemned.

Some, however, have succeeded. Nordstrom, for one, faced considerable pressure from campaign groups including Grab Your Wallet to drop Ivanka Trump’s clothing line, which they eventually did, citing poor sales. Even if this were the case, given the backlash against the Trump family following the election, it has been interpreted as deeply political.

However, unlike the huge Toyota share price drop, Nordstrom had an initial
drop of 1% for 4 minutes after the tweet, before the share price ended 4.1%
up at close. Given that Nordstrom’s motives remain unclear, it is hard to gauge the success of this, although if share price is anything to go by, if it
was a political move, it seems like it
has been a success.

One thing that helps in ensuring that a company can survive a changing global climate is a consistent brand. In a recent interview with us, Erin Ilgen, Manager of Brand Experience at Lexus, defined a successful brand strategy as one that aligns with the values and beliefs of your company’s culture. ‘It needs to authentically represent and affirm the characteristics and strengths of your business,’ she said. ‘In addition, the brand strategy needs to speak to your consumers. It needs to emotionally connect with them in a way that they believe that your brand is aligned with their needs, wants, and individual tastes.’ Essentially, if your brand is consistent then you can respond to events in a way that will not catch your audience by surprise and potentially cause a PR nightmare.

This is not an easy thing to achieve and requires a careful balance between authenticity and agility. You have to stay true to yourself - your company’s history and values - or you will seem fake to your audience. You also have to understand the demands of your demographic. A youthful demographic will likely be more against Trump than an older age group, at least if voting data is to be believed, but this is no guarantee. It is also important to commit to a movement. Pepsi likely would have identified the protest movement, Black Lives Matter and so forth, as of significance to the youthful audience they were chasing and image they were trying to portray to do so. Unfortunately, they got it horribly wrong with an entirely misjudged advert that ended up satisfying nobody on either side of the political spectrum. This is a valuable lesson. If you are going to try and score political points as a brand, don’t half arse it. Go all in, or don’t even try.

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