Does your marketing strategy need a step change?

6 signs that your business needs to consider a step change project

We’ve been reflecting on the end of the year, where long term strategies are approved, the annual plans for 2019 are now locked in and we have pipeline projects with our clients in place for 2019 activations. As much as we enjoy the long-term strategic planning process, we also love this next part, where we help bring the plans to life and see the positive commercial impact on our client’s businesses.

However, with only weeks to go until the New Year, there is still uncertainty on the horizon – Brexit, public concern on the environmental impact of consumerism and High Street performances (where despite increases in sales, businesses are still struggling with profit growth e.g. This all means that despite ‘locked in’ plans we should be prepared to be agile, flexible and adaptable.

With these uncertainties, sometimes brands need to make a ‘step change’. The need to make a step change doesn’t always arise in a positive situation – sometimes it occurs when remedial action is required to turn around a brand’s performance or arrest its decline. Or sometimes it is a positive – a brand may be in steady growth but there is internal appetite to accelerate growth.

So in this two-part blog, we ask do you need to think about a step change project?

What is a step change project?

The Cambridge business dictionary defines it as “a change in a situation that is much bigger than usual” with a positive step up in direction. This usually occurs when a significant growth opportunity or issue presents itself and requires either an increase in resource, investment or strategic approach.

6 signs that your business needs to consider a step change project

1. Shift in customer or consumer behaviour

Being aware of social macro trends influencing your customer’s or consumer’s behaviour is key to any strategic marketing plan; is the demand still there?

Example:Step 1 A recent study from PwC Global Insights suggests that bricks and mortar shopping is on the rise again to a five-year high, as well as (unsurprisingly) mobile increasing its growth as a shopping channel.

What this could mean for your step change project: Be aware of trends and ensure your strategy is appropriate to the needs and behaviours of your consumer. Using the example above, it may not be time to give up on stores yet as shoppers seek in-store, tangible, memorable experiences. Your strategy may include how your brand supports your retail customers to enhance the in-store shopping experience and drive footfall.

2. Reaching market/category leadership

Having often seen many brand or corporate visions to be the number one brand of choice or to increase market share in their category, we ask them - where next? What other categories should you and can you enter and truly disrupt?

Example:Step 2 Confectionary brands such as Malteasers, have done this well – entering ice-cream, hot chocolate pods, cake, milkshakes and even luxury truffles categories under its core confectionary brand umbrella.

What this could mean for your step change project: If your brand is category captain it’s no time to sit back; saturation in one category could mean you have all your eggs in one basket. We like Marketing Week’s term ‘Category Escapology’; is your brand equity and proposition strong enough to enter and capitalise on a new category?

3. Competitive entrants

Step 3At any time new entrants can appear into your category, driving your consumers to switch. They can be either substitutions that better meet your consumers’ needs/pain points or new players with a fresh offering in your category.

Example: We couldn’t talk about challenger brands without mentioning BrewDog and their fearless, brazen marketing campaign being talked about as one of the best this year.

What this could mean for your step change project: With the British public cheering on the underdog (especially the ethical and independents) and inexpensive marketing via social media gathering cult status and momentum - do you need to challenge the challenger? What learnings can you take from them?

4. Complacency

Have you relied on the same distribution channels and the same activation tactics year on year without thinking - is there another (even better) way of reaching your consumers?

Example:Step 4 Dollar Shave Club have shaken up the men’s grooming category by providing subscription ‘shaving plans’ of razors and shaving products, delivered to your door on an established schedule and customizable to suit the needs of the consumer (meaning they never need think about running out and switching at shelf again).

What this could mean for your step change project: Is the only (and best way) to distribute your product through the mainstream retailers? What other channels suit the needs of your consumer and can you set up the infrastructure execute it?

5. Static team

There’s a lot to be said for a solid, committed marketing team with years of your brand and category experience. But are you missing a growth opportunity simply because it’s easy to repeat as you have always done?

Example:Step 5 You may not want to go as extreme as a Chief Marketing Officer job swap (like Britvic and nutrition bar start-up Tribe’s short-term experiment) but shaking up the team could offer a different perspective.

What this could mean for your step change project: Embrace the external view, you may not have the training or skill sets within the current team but invite consultancies, agency planners and even internal teams from other departments to approach your business challenges with fresh perspective.

6. Significant change in market

It’s hard to imagine that the concept of Brexit is only less than three years old. Remainer or Brexiteer, one thing we’re agreed on is the uncertainty this brave new world brings for us in 2019 and beyond.

Example:Step 6 Rumours circled recently that should there be a Brexit no-deal, we could see Mars bars disappear from shelves within weeks (should there be a blockage at Dover, two vital ingredients that are imported could cause a ‘Mars bar extinction’). This stat was enough to get Michael Gove’s attention.

What does this mean for your step change strategy: Keep watching and adapting; the modern UK economy has not experienced change on this scale before, and confident predictions are difficult. However it’s been suggested that the hardest hit sectors will be financial services, automotive, agriculture, food and drink and chemicals & plastics, says a study published by Oliver Wyman consultancy and law firm Clifford Chance. Invest in expert legal advice, look to identify markets with growth opportunities and be prepared for hard decisions in markets that are no longer commercially viable.


Do these challenges sound familiar? These are broad trends but there will be many more specific trends influencing your consumers, market and category.

Click here to subscribe to be the first to hear about part 2 of our step change series and how we can help your brand step change in 2019.

We can help

  • If your organisation needs help with long-term strategic planning, additional resource to bring your plans alive or the capability and training programmes to strengthen your team – Labyrinth Marketing can help.
  • A great example of this, is how we helped pie manufacturer, Pukka, to develop a long-term strategy to define how they could step change their growth and meet ambitious 5-year targets. Read our Case Study here

Let’s get connected:

Call      Vicki Pledger 07740193939

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