‘Kill brands, shut stores and restructure’ to come out of COVID-19 stronger says Mark Ritson

Mark Ritson has declared that brands placed in a holding pattern due to the COVID-19 crisis should take this time to streamline and reorganise their business in order to emerge “stronger, leaner, with greater market share and with a better team than they had going into it”.

“If you’re in freeze mode it’s pure strategy. Now you can kill brands, you can shut stores, you can restructure organisations, you can streamline,” Ritson said, going on to compare these businesses to a car in need of repair.

“If you know businesses like I do, even the most successful businesses have lots of old shit, old appendages that it never really got rid of because the car was moving too quick to fix the wonky fender. Suddenly the car has stopped and you have time – one of the few blessings here – to get out and fix the car before you can restart the engine.”

Ritson said that brands should take this opportunity to ‘streamline’ their organisations

Further to the point, Ritson said, during a web seminar hosted by Clemenger BBDO Sydney, that despite many organisations being unable to ‘drive’ right now, finding a way to “keep the engine ticking over” was important for a brand’s long-term health.

“Even if you’re in freeze mode, the recession will be an uplift from where we are now, and the post-recession will be a big uplift. It’s a mistake to think you can just suddenly ramp up advertising as the economy improves,” he said.

“That’s true of short term effects. But, the short effect of marketing, if you follow the good research, it’s about 30 or 40% of the benefit. The other 50, 60% is the long term value of comms.

“And I think that’s the point here. If you turn that off completely when recession hits, post-recession your brand is going to take a year to catch up versus some of the others.”

Ritson’s message was delivered to CEOs and senior marketers from across Australia in the seminar. During the session, Ritson stated brands should be focusing on strategy rather than research, to be executed in 2021 or “whenever the new normal happens”.

Ritson gave five key areas to focus on, starting with consumer targeting and revising the brand portfolio.

He explained: “First, who are we targeting? And who are we not? And that, as you probably know, wraps up in the long and the short of it because a good brand is doing mass targeting to everyone for the long and targeting particular segments for the short.

“Answering that question, and the balance between the two, for next year has to be on your list.

“Next: brand portfolio. You’ve got too many brands. This is an almighty opportunity to take time to work out which brands you want to keep, not which ones you want to kill.

“Kill them and kill them so that the consumer doesn’t even remember them being there.”

Ritson explained that brand positioning should be revised to ensure it is not “full of generic nonsense” and that codes should be revisited to keep marketing distinguishable to brands.

“This is a chance to go back and remind ourselves what are my four or five codes and am I using them enough?” Ritson said.

“I think these, for me, are the challenges that you should be thinking about while you have some time to think about them,” Ritson concluded.

Ritson’s ‘Marketing in the time of COVID and preparing for growth’ can be viewed here.


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