In tough economic times, companies stop supporting their brands and cut their marketing budgets to save costs. But that’s the worst thing to do.

With competitors’ eyes off the ball, now is probably the best time to launch a new company or new brand, believes Ingrid Budge, managing director of Metamorphosis Brand Transformation and marketing training company Metamorphosis Skills Transformation.

An innovation and brand transformation guru, Budge counts big names and brands such as Tiger Brands, Adcock Ingram, Nestle, Barloworld, Mr Price, Nedbank, Rainbow Chickens, Kansai Plascon, Coca Cola, Woolworths and Brandhouse amongst her clients.

But she says that the business climate is changing in favour of smaller companies. “The rules have changed. It’s exciting times and the playing fields are beginning to level. Now the big brands are being challenged which means that they should be spending more to support their products. Unfortunately, many are not, making this the best time to entice people to try something new.”

But you have to know what you are doing, she warns.

Speaking at the launch of a four module Skills Transformation course aimed at small and medium sized businesses, she acknowledged that that’s not always easy for smaller businesses that do not have access to the expensive and sophisticated training and skills development programmes that are available to their larger counterparts.

Whereas most marketing training is largely theoretical, Budge’s day to day consulting as well as the consumer research arm of her business will allow her to offer skills development based on practical experience and in depth knowledge of trends in today’s fiercely contested market place through Metamorphosis Skills Transformation.

She believes that it is important to understand that, historically, in South Africa, people have had very few brands from which to choose when compared to the United Kingdom or Europe.  As a result, they have up until now tended to be very brand loyal. Even the poorest consumers have always invested in premium brands rather than risk spending hard earned money on products that they would have to replace.   

“With the economic crisis, people have only a certain amount of money in their pockets and many are being forced to buy down and try something else. They are also realising that some alternatives are just as good. It’s not hard to see why many entrepreneurs have begun to flourish,” she notes.

Although fast moving consumer goods (FMCG) such as washing powder, soap and lotions come to mind, Budge believes brand building cuts across all sectors and includes the services sector, information technology, restaurants, clothing and more. For example, whereas holiday makers stuck to big brand hotels up until now, they could consider a move to a good Bed & Breakfast, big brand fast food outlets may lose ground to local restaurants offering better value. 

But many smaller businesses are not yet ready to fill this gap. In fact, she says, many of these sadly tend to fail even when they have good products and opportunities simply because they do not build their brands and don’t understand the market they are entering or within which they are operating.

“We will share specific tools and processes – things to look for and steps to take to grow a brand, to minimise risk and maximise your potential. We will share what’s relevant and what’s happening in the market today. People will leave the course able to apply what they have learnt and see the difference as quickly as the next day,” Budge concludes.