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Overcoming the Challenge of Established Brand Perception

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Intellectual property is, as might be reasonably concluded from the name, property created by the mind. The practice of intellectual property law then contents itself with the actualisation and protection of that property through registration, monitoring and legislative systems. All good so far.

For the IP owner however, there is a further level of immensely valuable intellectual property created, through the way in which they conduct their business, communicate with the market and how they put their created brands to work for them. This creation exists only in the minds of their existing market and consists of how the marketplace perceives their company, products and services.

Some would liken it to goodwill, and it could be usefully argued that the two are certainly closely related, but they’re not the same thing. Brand perception stands as a vision of who the market believes a business to be and once established, it can be remarkably difficult to shake.

This then can present a challenge in a fast-moving world demanding that many well-established (and even well-loved) companies pivot to meet rapidly evolving tastes and opinions. As an example, when your customer base indicates increasing preferences for healthier foods, you might expand your menu or eliminate older, less-fashionable items. But what do you do when the existing brand perception means that the market does not beat a path to your door to purchase this new menu?

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This was exactly the challenge faced by UK bakery giant, Greggs, in 2011. Famous for their sausage rolls, pasties and cakes in a market increasingly hungry for healthier foods and modern ethics and image, they needed to transform how their base perceived them. Perhaps a big ask from the almost 80-year-old company?

CEO Ken McMeikan was quoted in 2011 as saying “Trading conditions have proved to be more challenging than we had expected. We do not anticipate that the second half will bring any alleviation of the tougher consumer spending environment.”

Understanding the perception of your brand and the value proposition contained within it, can do a lot to help you drive forward in shifting perceptions while retaining your existing goodwill. In the intervening years, how have Greggs fared in challenging the perception of being ‘outdated’?

In March of this year, Greggs announced a 31% surge in profits for 2019 along with a full year sales growth of 13.5%. In the interim, they have broadened their product range – launching a new vegan sausage roll and vegan steak bake. The number of outlets has grown from over 1500 in 2011 to 2050 in 2020. The road has been long and periodically, bumpy. They have driven forward adapting, testing and changing

Holistically speaking, there are several moving parts to building, creating, expanding, protecting and crucially profiting from, your intellectual property. It’s easy to forget in the whirlwind of activity what represents likely the most important aspect of all – what it means to the end user of your product or service. In the end, it all comes down to people.

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