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Building Strategy in Turbulent Times | PR Ireland

Building Strategy in Turbulent Times

Surely after the bleak days of the 2008 recession which saw Ireland being blown out of the water economically and financially more than even the global markets could have predicted, strategic thinking for the future should have been top of the agenda for every Irish business when it came to their marketing and public affairs if they were going to survive then and now.

All sectors of the economy argued that we were due a smoother future when Central Statistic Office (CSO) figures showed that the Irish economy in 2014 was starting on an upswing from zero, emerging from the rotting carcass of the Celtic Tiger.

The Central Statistics Office in 2016 published national accounts data, revealing that real Gross Domestic product (GDP) growth was up 26.3% from 2014. The country was definitely on the way up again. Public finances were looking a whole lot healthier in terms of the economy, the political field seemed to be stabilising under a Fine Gael/Labour mandate from the public and strategists were surely looking forward to a more rosier future.

But any type of strategist worth their salt should know that any business which takes its markets for granted or outreach as given is facing a perilous future.

Companies sticking with conventional techniques for strategy-making – even in the face of extreme volatility is to their detriment and that of their customers, shareholders and other stakeholders.

Thinking of strategy making as continuous rolling ball of motion and generating a moving dynamic enables company executives to build on what is best for coping with uncertainty from the marketing tools they have invested in.

This in turn should lead to more flexible and agile strategy making which are key to not only the company but to most importantly their intended markets whether they are on the national or international scale.

Companies which use scenario planning attempt to forecast how political, economic, technological and social conditions may evolve and that is to their advantage. They then inevitably, it could be argued, develop best case or worst-case scenarios that are best placed to assess weighty strategic moves.

This should make and company want to aim and plan against what could be termed, plastering over, or acting in a reactive instead of proactive manner. This is not how any company should bolster it’s current and future strategies in times of turbulent economic growth or potential slowdowns.

Take for instance, the Irish fast food chain Supermac’s, they knew surely what they were doing when whey took on the massive financial and global reach of US competitors McDonalds. They wanted to ‘End the McBully’ when in 2019 they won their trademark case against the multi-billion-dollar company.

Seen as a “small” Irish company by international financial bigwigs, in what could best be termed as a David and Goliath legal battle, the firm won its long running case against the American fast food giant to have the right to use the Big Mac trademark cancelled.

In a landmark judgement by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), the office said that McDonald’s had not proven genuine use of the contested trademark as a burger or as a restaurant name.

McDonald’s had previously succeeded in putting a stop to Supermac’s plans to expand into the UK and European markets on the basis of the similarity between the name Supermac’s and the Big Mac.

This in turn meant that the judgement against the main argument put forward by the US company was gone. This in essence is an example of strategic marketing at its very best. SuperMac’s owner and director Pat McDonagh was in a “little guy verses big guy” scenario from the very day he opened his chain of Irish outlets by using the word “Mac’s” in its trading name back in 1978 when it was established. This was long after McDonald’s entered the global market in 1955 and here in 1977.

This legal battle which ended up in the European Courts raised the profile on an Irish take out and fast-food company onto the global stage – it was a long-term strategy in volatile markets that was moved and shaped by the marketing moves of McDonald’s.

It could be plausibly argued that Supermac’s management and marketing teams had identified long term extreme put plausible scenarios as opposed to a most likely scenario of being beaten down legally by the American conglomerate.

By thinking signposts and trigger points as never being static, one can see how McDonald’s will always have a battle on its hands to stop, smaller national fast-food companies from piggy backing on their global success, as they know and can pre-empt cultural trends and habits perhaps that little bit better.

Although methods have been developed to help cope with uncertainty by companies, most executives constantly struggle to consistently apply them to make better decisions. Being on top of or being better able to cope with volatile markets requires ever evolving strategic development.

Companies which move quickly to adopt a more dynamic approach will pull ahead and stay ahead in the months, years and decades to come regardless of whatever market they are attempting to trade in. Those companies which stick with their “reactive rather than proactive” ways inevitably risk being swallowed up by volatile and hostile markets.


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