The New CMOs Guide to Rethinking Brand Strategy at Struggling Companies

CMOs are responsible for the way a brand speaks to its consumers. We take this as a given: marketing is the communication function of a business, responsible for sending out the right messages to the world. What we often think less about, but is no less important, is inbound communication.

The reasons behind the failure of a company are numerous. Perhaps their pricing plan was too ambitious; maybe they failed to innovate to stay ahead of nippier competitors; or perhaps they didn’t migrate successfully online.

But behind this primary explanation lies a deeper cause, and this underlying problem will be the same the world over, no matter the specifics of the company’s decline: they did not adequately understand the needs and desires of the consumer.

Yahoo didn’t understand that consumers weren’t going to be content paying for their email, and that it would be better to monetize through sponsored ads, as their competitor Google decided. Strada—along with other high street restaurants—are struggling hugely, in part for the simple reason that consumers don’t think their food is as good as the meals you get in independent restaurants. Meanwhile Snapchat is dying out by the day, because Instagram replicated their features, and then improved them.

CMOs are responsible for the way a brand speaks to its consumers. We take this as a given: marketing is the communication function of a business, responsible for sending out the right messages to the world. What we often think less about is inbound communication. The CMO is also the person to listen to what the world is saying back to their brand.

Locate the fire’s source

There’s no smoke without fire, and this is true when a business is struggling. While it sounds terrifying, in fact, it’s a positive. Because as long as you can find the root cause, you can start to fix it. There are two places you should be looking, when thinking about finding answers to why your brand is struggling: within the pool of people who already use you, and the pool of people who don’t.

Firstly, your advocates. This is a group of people who, on some level, subscribe to what your brand stands for and the value you provide, even if they’ve fallen out of love in recent times. They are a great source of information about what’s gone wrong. Ask them detailed questions to get down to the bottom of precisely what’s changed (or not changed enough) , so you can understand what’s made them lose interest.

  • What was it that first attracted you to our brand?
  • Where do you first remember noticing our brand?
  • Which one advert do you remember most?
  • What’s the one product we should never stop making?
  • Which of our products would you never consider buying? Why?
  • If our brand ceased to exist, which brand would you buy to fill the same need?
  • In an ideal world, how would you access our products?
  • What’s the one thing that stops you from buying our products more?

It’s data you can use to pinpoint exactly what was going right, and where things went wrong. This gives you a good starting point to evaluate what needs to stay, and what needs to change.

Top tip: If you undertake this exercise regularly (say once a quarter), you’ll be much faster at spotting any downward, negative trends. This will give you an advanced warning on what to change, before anything becomes terminal.

Discover what you’ve been missing out on

As much as people who already subscribe to your brand can help illuminate flaws in the current customer experience, what they won’t be able to tell you is how to enlarge your audience.

In the competitive times we live in, there’s no room to stand still. You need to be growing, and looking to the next consumer segment you can reach all the time, otherwise it’s likely other brands in your niche will get to them first, or they’ll be the first to jump on hot new trends and habits.

For people who have heard of your brand but aren’t buying into it, you need to get to the bottom of why this is.

Talk to them about which brand they use instead, and why. Quiz them on why they don’t see a need for your product in their life. Understand the crucial hurdle that’s keeping them from giving you a chance.

For people who’ve not heard of you altogether, work out what their interests and habits are. By establishing behaviour patterns, you can work out how you could be appearing in their line of sight.

Cast your net wide, across demographics and geographies, to understand how people live their lives, and think about where you might sit within them. By launching a survey and screening in only respondents who don’t name your brand first, when asked to think of a company in that area, you’ll be able to speak directly to the people you’re missing out on. Start amassing information about who they are, what makes them tick, where they’re most receptive to advertising, and what activities they’re engaging in online and out in the world.

Here’s how to approach audience segmentation work with Attest.

Our consumer trends studies are a great way to start understanding how different segments of the population behave. From commuters, to parents, to foodies we delve into how these different segments of the population behave to help enlighten brands on how they can accurately start targeting and converting them.

Reshape on the back of what they say, and get feedback as you go

Once you have worked out where you’re going wrong (courtesy of existing customers) and how you can extend your reach (from speaking to people outside of your existing base), you need to concentrate on the ways in which you can craft marketing strategies that will reinvigorate your audience and appeal to new groups.

Of course, the legwork of sparking and planning a marketing campaign will have to be kicked off within your company, but there’s no reason that you can’t keep consumers involved every step of the way.

With Attest, you can go back to the same group of respondents time and time again. So no matter how many iterations your campaign needs to go through, you can test everything from print adverts, to audio snippets, to video clips until they’re pitch perfect. It’s a case of communicating effectively: as CMOs are wonderful at outbound communications, but its the addition of these inbound communications that will ensure you’re getting the tone right the whole way through.


The role of a CMO is to start conversations about their brand, which really means listening before speaking. Once you’ve mastered the ability to do this at scale, you’ll be confident that everything you say is relevant and meaningful to your audience.

For a brand that’s lost its way, and a new CMO coming in to rethink the brand strategy and get it back on track, there is no better place to start than consumer understanding.

If you’re ready to start speaking to your current and future consumers today, we’d love to help make success a reality for your brand. Get in touch to find out how Attest can work for you.


Content Team 

Our in-house marketing team is always scouring the market for the next big thing. This piece has been lovingly crafted by one of our team members. Attest's platform makes gathering consumer data as simple and actionable as possible.

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