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The Future in Focus

LRQA Podcast: Brand assurance | A new way to think about risk

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In consumer staples, brand is everything. In fact, for many fast-moving consumer goods brands, it’s not unusual for ‘intangible assets’ to account for more than 100% of the company’s market value. In this episode, we speak to Sales Director Stuart Kelly about brand assurance, what it is, why it's important and how businesses can build their brand assurance.

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LRQA: The Future in Focus

What do we mean by brand assurance?

Pretty simply brand assurance is about a shift in mind set, it’s really about protecting the brand and not just the operations. It means broadening the focus I guess from what would historically have been compliance across a business to one of true business improvement and performance management.

So really moving from what would have been a traditional audit programme of annual point in time audits to having much more real time insight in what’s going on across a business, so it’s protecting the brand not just the opps.

It’s about looking at public perception, it’s about looking at the claims that the brands making and making sure that you can stand behind those claims and showing that continual improvement towards things like health, environment, the carbon footprint that the brand is leaving on the earth, the people that it’s working with and the communities that it’s impacting.

How is brand assurance different to risk management?

I think one of the key areas where it’s different is really around that piece around not just compliance and not just operations, it’s about demonstrating that desire for improvement and that ability to ongoingly improve and reduce the risk across the brand.

It’s about real time flexible interventions and not just the snapshot in time. So, it’s much more about being confident that the culture of the organisation is the right fit for what you’re trying to achieve, rather than reacting to situations in the past and reacting to things that are happening, it’s being more aware of what’s going on around and adapting your processes, your methods, your risk priorities to deal with them before they become real events and real issues for you.

Why is brand assurance so important?

Brand assurance is more important now than ever because leading brands have always been expected to be safe. It’s now about how they do business, it’s not just about safe products for their consumers, but it’s about how they do business. It’s the legacy that they’re leaving on the planet and it’s the ability of their consumers now to see beyond old reports, to see beyond websites and see the reality of what’s happening around the world with that brand.

So, to me it’s important because it’s also now about integrity, it’s about not just making claims and hoping you can achieve them but rather it’s about those longer-term commitments that you’re making as a brand and your aspirations and being very honest and open about what you are doing.

The world’s now much more transparent than it ever has been and consumers have the ability to see what’s going on around the world and across a brand much more than they ever have before. And they’re not taking things at face value anymore, they’re questioning, they’re challenging, they’re looking for brands that meet their footprint, that meet their desire in terms of what they’re doing on this earth and that now becomes much more important so that brands can take a stance but more importantly continually improve and show transparently how they’re doing against that.

What are some of the crucial aspects of brand assurance?

I think there is a few to call out. I think the first one for me is that one size does not fit all. So building a traditional model of audit and check and verification is only part of brand assurance and therefore you need to think about what’s important to you, what’s important to your brand, what’s important to your consumers and what risks do you face that are unique and special to you. So one size does not fit all and we’re finding increasingly clients asking us around these areas are looking to us for advice and support around how we can improve their brand assurance programmes to cover some of these aspects.

I think the second thing for me is that it needs to be dynamic, it’s not something that you can do as a static, once in time view of life it’s something that you need to think about changing and moulding as a reality of the world around us changes and moulds. And we’ve seen some great examples of that over the last few years with the tragic war in Ukraine, with the Covid global pandemic and really the rapid shift that businesses have had to take to adapt to those circumstances and to continue to trade and to build their products for their consumers. So it needs to be dynamic, it needs to be moving all of the time and recognising how the world around is changing at a much faster pace than ever has in the past.

And I think the other thing for me is that it needs to now have trust in some of the data that you have and trust around predicting those risks so that you can react to them before they become reality.

So one size does not fit all, it needs to be dynamic, you need to be real-time, you need to be thinking about it everyday and reacting to what’s going on around you and thirdly think about predicting what’s going on around you so that you can react to it and be in better shape before it actually hits you.

How can businesses build their brand assurance?

I think one of the key words to building brand assurance is data. I think businesses need to think about looking at where they are today, about having that real-time visibility of where the business is sitting. Looking then at dealing with the priorities that the business has in front of it based on its aspirations, its objectives and its statements that its making to shareholders and consumers, and then dealing with those risks in a proactive way that enables it to put the company and ultimately the brand in control of its destiny rather than reacting to what’s going on around it.
So, data to me becomes really quite critical in actually having that intelligence and making the right decisions around priorities and having that control for your business or your brand.