In Times of Uncertainty, Be a Honey Badger Brand


Written By: Nathalie Gil

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We continue our content series ‘Splitting the Yarrow: Foresight in the Face of Uncertainty’, exploring how your brand can fight intuition and embrace risk when markets shout for prudence.

Fear is the nemesis to brand growth. At times brands may want to sink their heads in the sand. Here we cover three ways you can make your brand to be more fearless, much like a honey badger.

Bitcoin is a brand that has embraced its honey badger attitude.
Bitcoin is a brand that has embraced its honey badger attitude.

#1 While others freeze their budgets, invest more.
When uncertainty hits, it is natural that companies decide to stop investment and wait for a better moment to come. However, large corporations have learned this secret a long time ago.

This is not about spending money recklessly: Harvard Business School defends that companies that succeed in times of recession follow two rules: they lean their operations efficiently, yet keep healthy investment on future growth via brand building, research and development. Their study shows that, in recession, these more aggressive brands tend to grow more than twice the amount of conservative ones.

Sony have learned this the hard way. By freezing their investment in both advertising and innovation during the last recession, they lost position to giants such as Apple and Samsung. They haven’t recovered since.

#2 Break away from old models, even if these were created by your brand.
Uber transformed the taxi industry in an app, Bitcoin made banking transparent, Tesla transformed cars into gadgets. This last decade is full of examples of brands that saw uncertainty as an opportunity to reshape their category. Adam Morgan’s best seller Eating the Big Fish explains this game changing brand behaviour as the ‘challenger brand’ strategy.

However, maverick behaviour is not limited to those carving a space in a new market, but also for leading and established brands. At Facebook’s headquarters, all new employees receive a company culture booklet. A particular page reveals Facebook’s intrinsic value of breaking free from old models, even if these were implemented by their company.

Facebook is a established brand with a bold mission.
Facebook is a established brand with a bold mission.

#3 Capitalise on new behaviours.
When you see challenges ahead, be courageous enough to truly adapt. Brands in tune with these shifts can give certainty and comfort to consumers. Aldi, Lidl and TK Maxx all benefitted from a new, emerging shopper during the last recession: the savvy shopper.

These brands had won in highly competitive categories. This because they understood consumers’ need for the ultimate in the value/price equation. Netflix and Deliveroo have also seen the decrease in out of home entertainment as an opportunity to bring cinema and restaurants to the comfort of our homes and pockets.

Smart brands see challenging times as an opportunity not to cut costs, but to cut loose from the status quo. As honey badgers do, where the average brand sees snakes, they see food. Next time you discuss the difficulties your category faces at these uncertain times, see how this may be the door to a blue sky future for your brand.

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