Tag: SME

Business Teachings of a Teenage Witch


My boys are crazy about this animation from the creators of Ponyo and Spirited Away. I have now seen this movie more times than any of my all time favourites (no I won’t list them as there are some embarrassingly cheesy choices in my feel good movie selection) and I couldn’t help starting to analyse the content a bit more.
Turns out, Kiki has real entrepreneurial spirit we can perhaps all learn from!
To explain, Kiki is a with in training and it is custom for witches to leave home and live in a different city or town when they reach the age of 15. Kiki can fly but that’s about it it seems – her mum has not had enough time to show her potions and I am not sure dad is into witchcraft at all considering his car loading troubles.
Once in a seaside town, unexpected events lead her past a bakery and she observes how a lady lost her baby’s dummy, pregnant bakery owner to the rescue… Kiki offers to fly after the lady and her push chair to save the trip home and promptly gains her first reputable recommendation ‘your new delivery girl is great’.
So, putting broomstick and business together, Kiki sets up a delivery service – more or less with a flying start.
It’s just a story of course but it does remind how important it is for existing business owners or startups to keep their eyes open for opportunities and possible business expansions. Meeting people and finding out about their problems might just inspire the next brand extension that breathes fresh air into a venture – opening opportunities for a fresh look at existing methods, the market, changes and trends in technology, in what consumers or B2B clients require, internal processes and innovation.
Just because you have always done something doesn’t mean you can’t add to it, build on it or change completely if you discover a gap in the market.
I have a number of clients that have successfully launched new parts to their business, reacting to new government legislation, changing trends in the travelling industry and in medicine – they all kept their eyes open and even though things like this involve risks, they can equally involve great rewards.
Let’s get that broom out the cupboard in the new year and start some flying around the competitor landscape and business scene – who knows what ends up right under our noses.

brand extension, SME

SME Branding Lesson #20 – Function Over Form or Form Over Function?

20120724-074444.jpg
I’m on holiday – thus the rather sporadic and short entries – but I always look out for anything branding related that can help my SME clients.
This one is a tricky one – it’s a design issue for sure but one a brand manager has to handle. Does your brand identity have to be forced onto every object even if it distracts from its clarity and even destroys its legibility?
Brand guidelines generally contain rules on how not to distort, change, discolour or deconstruct a brand icon or name – but perhaps we need to add another rule and send it to supermarket giant Sainsbury… How not to space out your brand name or website address!
Especially if people won’t consider your business a household name (yet) clarity is paramount and designs such as this example from Sainsbury can do more harm than good.
Sometimes it’s perhaps better not to feature a name or logo if it is confusing and detrimental to a brand – or find a different brand vehicle, pardon the pun…

brand management, graphic design, SME, vehicle design

SME Branding Lesson #12 – To Brand or Not to Brand…

… advertise that is the question.

I recently came across an article written by a marketing expert that suggests SMEs spending time and money on branding really are wasting their time. As I read on, I realised that he may have simplified the subject and based his conclusion on comparing brand advertising versus direct response advertising as parts of a marketing strategy for SMEs.
Pretty much all major fashion, lifestyle and consumer goods brands practice a mixture of both, but we probably mostly remember them for their brand advertisements.  Distinct imagery, a clever tag line, sometimes just an image and a logo – welcome to the very different sibling of  direct response advertising.

Miu Miu Advertising Campaign
Showcasing the brand. Then the product.

It’s an investment. It’s not instant gratification. It’s hard to track and hard to justify, but it seems to be working for the big boys. So why shouldn’t SMEs do the same?
Brand advertising is not meant to sell a product or service directly to a potential customer. Brand advertising skillfully nurtures potential buyers by keeping your name and what your business stands for in the mind of the consumers so when they eventually get to make a buying decisions, your brand is one of the few they will consider.
As such, it may take months for a campaign to show results. Equally, it will take repeated appearances of adverts – but in my mind most importantly, companies that successfully use brand advertising have spent years if not decades building up a public perception of their brand and their values so now they ‘simply’ have to reinforce this perception and introduce the next generation of customers to their brand.
I believe this is the major reason why it won”t work as effectively for local SMEs as a means of getting new business. Even if you had the money to place large double spread adverts in the local paper with little more than your logo and strap line on, chances are, people just won’t know your brand enough to understand.

A Case of Benetton

Benetton baby brand advert
Not seen before. In the 90s this had shock value. And it positioned the Benetton brand.

In 1993, clothing company Benetton launched a campaign for their new range featuring images such as a ‘branded’ HIV victim, a newborn, a guy on death row, a dying seagull bathed in black oil, soldier’s graves – basically anything you and I may consider boarder line fascinating / scandalous / tasteless.
Benetton HIV ad
Talking about tabu subjects when nobody else did. The Benetton brand had their own strategy for leaving an impression

Benetton have continued over the years to use their brand to raise awareness of social and environmental issues. They are doing it again now with their ‘UNHATE‘ campaign featuring politicians kissing. Somewhat easier to digest than those older campaigns, they still use shock to create attention for their brand.
Benetton UnHate Merkel Brand Advert
Just one of the series of adverts featuring kissing politicians. In Germany, we called it the 'Bruderkuss' and it was for real!

However, they don’t exclusively advertise like that. There are also specific sub brand advertising campaigns featuring clothes. Brightly coloured, fun and happy – a stark contrast to their other campaigns.
Benetton brand advert
Bright is beautiful. A lighter advertising campaign by Benetton.

What Benetton have achieved is to create an almost instinctual understanding within us about what they represent. This didn’t happen just by placing a series of brand adverts. It’s the result of lots of background activity to instill their values and opinions in the public mind – be it on the environment, RFID technology and Turkish child labour or denim sand blasting practice.
Without the strength and backup of a global advertising campaign programme that runs over many months and communicates your business clearly to the masses, your money will probably be better spent in a more direct approach to gaining new customers.

Creatively Direct

I guess one way to distinguish direct response from brand advertising is the more explicit connection between the advert and the product or service. There may be an offer or incentive, there may be a clear call to action, a listing of features or a value proposition and a strong emphasis on communicating the selling points/differentiation from competitors.
That does not mean it has to be or appear boring, with lots of copy and little ‘white space’ to let the brand identity speak as well as the product. There are some amazing direct response campaigns out there and the web hosts perhaps far more than print advertising at the moment because of the immediacy of possible reactions a mouse click away.
tontine pillow adverts
Levis_curve_1
Dove Direct response ad

Tridos direct response ad

Out of the Question

Going back to the earlier statement of branding being a waste of time for SMEs, I think nothing could be further from the truth. (I have actually just recently written about why I believe SMEs should bother to spend time and money on branding.)
Whilst SMEs may benefit easier and more measurably from response-driven advertising, it’s the branding activities that do the heavy-lifting, that establish a business in the mind of the consumer, influencing buying and response decisions.
Relying on direct sales marketing alone is short sighted. You only need one new local player on the market who is mastering their brand management and without having invested in creating loyalty to your brand, they have every opportunity to take over your position.
A thought-through strategy to get your business present on the market and positioned where you want it to be is as important as the right mixture of branding and marketing activities. You may not be a global brand, but there are lots of local small business brands that shine and there is no reason why yours can’t be one of them.

advertising, Brand Strategy, Branding, SME

SME Branding Lesson #11 – Be Straight in Your Communications

Tesco Pet Insurance Brand Communications
Brand communications that lost them my loyalty and custom.

I received a letter from Tesco pet insurance about the renewal of our policy. The letter suggested an upgrade of the policy and mentioned just on the side the new monthly fee. It was more than double to what I signed up for. I did the ‘usual’ shopping around and found a cheaper offer – with the same or nearly the same benefits. I called and spoke to a chap to cancel the policy and he mentioned that I did have the ‘save 50%’ special offer last year. Sadly, by then my mind was made up.
Why do I mention this?
In my mind, the brand communication went wrong in a few ways. The letter of renewal arrived late and gave hardly any time to consider. It mentioned nowhere the reason for the dramatic increase – e.g. the special offer from the last year – or any reasons why I should renew. It was written in typical lawyers talk mixed with marketing speech and fact I had to hunt down where the actual monthly costs were displayed (ok, so I am blind to right hand column advertising on google and facebook) made the whole experience annoying.
The Tesco brand positions itself as great value for money – their policy communications did not get that brand promise across.
What would I change?

  • Be nice to your existing customers! They have no real reason to stay loyal other than being happy with your product and service – and with the way you treat them. Whether you are a small business or Tesco, customers today expect to feel valued and not just like sheep led along…
  • Be upfront! Explain your charges, why they occur, why they increase, what the benefits are. You can always use the psychology of feeling loss much more than feeling a gain and highlight what the client will miss out on if they leave. Most importantly though, don’t try to hide any money issues.
  • Be creative! How nice would it have been to have received a letter or some other form of communication from Tesco a couple of months before the anniversary, perhaps something pet related, telling me ‘thank you’ (especially since I never made a successful claim) and told me about the new fees well in advance with reasons why and future benefits of staying on. (No claims policy comes to mind!!!) Even some clubcard offer relating to pets would have made a difference and not cost them much.
  • Be flexible! With rate increases comes frustration. Try to find a solution that keeps the customer happy and keeps you as their service provider. Perhaps you can tailor the service to match their budget even if it means they lose some benefits. They may prefer that to moving company. It’s at least worth a try.
  • Stay nice. That’s the only thing I can’t complain about Tesco. The chap on the phone remained nice and friendly and did not try to persuade me as I have experienced with other insurances in the past. If someone has made their mind up and wants to leave, let them go. They will be more likely to keep you in good stead than trying to convince them with more sales banter.

I shall await the new brand experience offered by Tesco’s competitor! Perhaps it will make me stay another year.

attitude, brand management, Brand Strategy, differentiation, SME

SME Business Lesson #10 – Be Patient and Grow Slowly

You are busy selling your products or service and business life couldn’t be better – or more exciting. It is at this point that it is tempting to expand your brand offering and to try and get more market share elsewhere.
Think twice before venturing into unknown territory. Your brand will be much stronger and probably more profitable if you concentrate on your core strength first. Make sure you achieve your branding goals, become the market leader or one of the major players in your sector and work hard on getting your unique selling point across.
Unless you like a risky gamble, only when your brand is well established and recognised by your target audience and has enough brand ambassadors to keep new and repeat business coming in, only then would I advise to look into diversifying.
There are bound to be implications for your core business –

  • Starting from the top, your business, brand and marketing strategy need re-thinking and adjusting
  • Not all your stakeholders will buy into your brand extension and may feel alienated
  • New infrastructure requirements will stretch your resources and challenge your existing and new brand
  • Your new brand will need some sort of investment – time or money – before it will be a revenue earner, so cashflow may be an issue
  • You will have less time to dedicate to a particular area of your business which may be detrimental to your existing client base
Brandingstrategyinsider.com has just published this article answering a question of an India based soap manufacturer and whilst it relates to large brands, but I think it is relevant for SMEs also.
“…one must first understand what brand associations are most closely tied to the brand in question. Any brand extension into a new product category must reinforce one of those primary associations without creating new negative, conflicting or confusing associations for the brand. If this rule is followed, the brand extension will actually reinforce what the brand stands for.” Brad VanAuken

You can read the article here: Can Brand Extensions Weaken A Brand?: Branding Strategy Insider. I had also posted an article back in 2010 about some of those weak or failed brand expansion attempts. And here are some more strange big brand extensions:

Donald Trump launched Trump Steaks
Donald Trump launched Trump Steaks

cosmopolitan brand flop
Cosmopolitan owned a yoghurt brand for all but 18 months

Stallone High Protein Pudding
Silvester Stallone gave his name to a high protein pudding. Yum.

barbie_golf_natalie Meyer
Barbie launched a clothing range (Image courtesy of Natalie Meyer)

In essence, businesses naturally need to expand or change to keep their brand and brand promise current, valid and fit for the future. But whilst it may be tempting to diversify early, time will be better spent establishing a strong brand identity and market position – and to truly understand how to apply your existing brand values to the new product or service.

brand extensions, SME

SME Branding Lesson #9 – Why Bother with Branding?

I keep writing about branding and how SMEs could approach the subject – but why should you in the first place? There are many business owners who are wondering why they should invest money into devising a brand strategy and building a brand when business is going well, they have a loyal client base who refer them onto new customers. Why bother changing anything?
1.    What remains of your business when you step out?
Not leaving your business vulnerable
Often, running a small business means you wear many hats, including that of the sales and marketing manager, the new business manager and the human resources manager. Your clients buy into you as much as your product or service. (Especially in the services industry). Imagine you are no longer there. Without a brand carrying your values, will they trust your replacement? Will they still perceive your business as a specialist?
Building a brand gives you the opportunity to transfer and establish your values and credentials into a larger organisation that can successfully represent you and strengthen your perception of being an expert professional.
2.    Differentiate yourself from your competition
Differentiate your brand
You may run a successful business without investing time and money on building your brand, but chances are, your competitor will be a step ahead of you if he does. If you appear as just ‘one of many ‘on the market, you may be seen as a commodity.
If your business has a brand which communicates a perceived value and a promise, it also offers an easy solution to a consumer’s problem without having to tediously find and analyse every other similar service. If they have to do that research, price will most likely be the deciding factor instead of quality, service and expertise and you are likely to lose out on business or on profit margin.
3.     Think ahead – and outsmart copy cats
Chase away the competition
If you have a great business idea, chances are someone will copy you to get a piece of the cake. Of course competition is healthy, but to be sure you stay on top, establishing your product or service as a brand will not only display its core strength, it will also mark your territory and your market position to businesses who have not yet built a brand reputation.
4.    Be consistent
Consistency in brand image
When it comes to building a brand identity, one of the main benefits is consistency. Consistency in how you visually present your company helps consumers and clients to recognise and remember your product or service when they come to make that crucial buying decision. It’s not just vanity, it’s an important part of marketing where you want to ensure that the right story gets told no matter where your clients get in contact with your business. Without a clear strategy and understanding about what that message should be and how it can be visually communicated, you run the risk of appearing undefined and forgettable.
5.    Be proud
Proud brand ambassadors
Building a brand is about ownership as much as about adding value to your business. If you and your team have a clear vision about what your company, product, service stands for, what you strife to do, who your ideal customers are, how you want to communicate with them, etc, chances are, you will all be a stronger team – in service, sales and marketing. When everyone sings from the same hymn sheet, you are well on the way to build a brand that has proud ambassadors among its staff – and businesses like Innocent, Apple, Google or The Co-Operative have shown the power of the people that are proud of their work place.
There are more reasons, some more business, some more design, some more marketing focused. I strongly believe though that whether you are a professional consultant, a small local business or a larger company, defining a brand strategy and getting a grasp of how you can create a lasting brand surrounding your product or service is an investment into your business’s long-term success.

Brand Strategy, SME

SME Branding Lesson #8 – Be Great and Stay Great Especially When You Are Wrong

It takes a long time to establish a brand and to become publicly known to the extend of some of our high street retailers, such as Marks & Spencer, John Lewis or Habitat.
It’s also a known fact that it is hard to ‘stay on top’. But what amazes me is the amount and magnitude of schoolboy errors such incredible brands make on a branch level.

M&S Logo Reflection
Diffused Brand Perception. Photograph: Christopher Thomond

We went suit shopping for my husband a while back in one of the largest Birmingham M&S stores. Anticipating the quality and service the brand promises, we were disappointed to find a badly organised suit section without any mirrors and with badly displayed garments that did not look in any way cared for.
We went to the changing rooms and frankly, by that time we were so frustrated with the experience that we thought it may help to talk to a floor manager to point out a few things and to ask for some assistance. Behold, we did find someone – but the lady was chatting to her colleagues that she just rushed past us explaining she was too busy to talk to us.
We thought it was a glitch in the brand matrix… We did not get a suit.
A few days ago we went shirt shopping (slightly less sophisticated) and it was a repeat just in a different town. The shirts on display were no longer clean, fresh and pristine looking but instead covered in a sprinkle on dust (and it wasn’t sparkly star dust) which made them appear dirty and old. They were laid out like a thrown together pile and the shop floor appeared uninviting, abandoned and unloved. When my husband made a member of staff aware of the dust bunnies and the fact that you could not find any system in the display of sizes, they just pretty much shrugged their shoulders and left him to it.
He didn’t get a shirt. But this time, he lost something else – the trust and positivity about the brand. Next time he needs either a shirt or a suit, M&S will be very low on the list of shops to invest his time in.
Costa coffee cup
I had a similar experience in Costa at a service station. (Nothing to do with shirts.) It was the weekend and we were driving down to Devon on a Friday night. It was cold and rainy. We sprinted into the service station with toddler needing the toilet and baby not wanting to stay alone in the car. I ordered a takeaway decaf coffee and the lady took my payment with my card and only realised when she came around to fulfill the order that they had run out of decaf coffee. She then asked me to wait and looked around the shop for a while to see if she could spot any more hidden away somewhere. After an uncomfortable long wait she asked someone else to check. They confirmed that unless I had a caffeinated coffee they could only refund the money.
Fine – I can’t take caffeine – so I expected my refund swiftly and was looking forward to putting baby back in his seat. But no – a refund to a card can only be issued by the manager. Someone went to find out where he was and returned after another long wait saying he had some stock to look at (no kidding, start with decaf coffee powder) and would be around 15 mins. It is then that my acquired English politeness went out the window and in came the German resolute warrior baby held fiercely as a weapon. A short exchange of ‘this is unacceptable…’ and I was about to march myself to the manager.
What saved the day was a quick-thinking – well, he did have quite some time to anticipate this and figure it out  but nonetheless – colleague who had overheard the discussion and concluded the lady give me back my money in cash and they could sort out the paper work later without me hanging around.
This may seem a bit of a long-winded way of making a simple point but I hope it illustrates a difference in approaching customer complaints. M&S were clearly not trained or authorised. The guy at Costa might not have been either, but he did have the guts and the compassion to do something to help me out.
Especially if you are a small business, it is super important to try to react to a ‘crisis’ or mishap in a professional manner that will re-instate any damaged trust in your brand. It is often the case that only in a crisis or when something unexpected happened a brand has the opportunity to show its true colours, the brand values that matter to consumers and clients. And in a lot of cases, if the company reacts in a forthcoming, professional and just manner, they will find an increased sense of loyalty and appreciation from the customer.
It can of course go the other way.
Here are just a few thoughts to consider when dealing with a brand crisis – be it a simple error or a major PR disaster:
1) Be Fast
It’s no good starting to respond weeks later when you get around to a customer’s complaint or concern. Be quick and you stand a much better chance to be in their good books again.
2) Be Compassionate
We are all humans, despite being hidden behind technology at times. Put yourself into their shoes and see how you would feel if something went wrong for you. Even if you can’t offer an outright easy solution – and even if the fault may not at all be yours but ‘user error’, showing compassion gives your brand a human voice and helps the conversation.
3) Be Genuinely Honest
If it was your fault, own up to it and work on a solution quickly. It is usually much better to own up when an issue is still resolvable then to put up the defenses and turn it into a much bigger thing. Trust relies on honesty and trust is one of the cornerstones of a successful brand. Being honest about an error is as important as being genuine in  your response so be careful how you react especially if tempers start flying high.
4) Be the Solution Provider
You thought this may happen, so you’ve written a plan (a long time ago…). It’s no good having strategies written out about how to deal with customer complaints if nobody bothers to adapt them – or has the ability to act on them with confidence. Train your staff to deal with different situations. Think of ‘what if’ and of potential answers. Try to ensure your client feels his issue matters to you and you are working on a solution.
5) Be a Fast Learner
You’ve resolved the issue and all is well, your client or customer has stuck with your brand and the future looks great. Repeat the mistake and you may not find yourself in such a good position. Bad news travels fast – even faster with social media tools – and when something appears to be happening time and time again, your brand risks creating a mental divide between what it appears to stand for and what it actually does. Prevention is the best medicine. After that, it’s vigilance once a problem has been identified.
Hope this helps!

brand management, SME

SME Branding Lesson #7 – Start Branding From Within

My husband recently went to a client meeting and couldn’t resist sending me some images of what I can only describe as branding horror.

Branding disaster example 2
Experts behind these doors?

branding disaster
Perhaps they should get some business advice.

Looking at how this company, Business Advice Direct, presents itself to the public is either an experiment of a student group conducting a ‘how not to do branding’ experiment or the unfortunate display of a company that does not practice what it preaches.
If I walk into an office seeking business advice what I am probably expecting is the display of unbounded expertise, of energy, professionalism, an air of reliability and above all, confidence. And this is before I even step into the room.
This visual translation of your brand values is one very important part of brand management and reputation building and a brand professional will probably guide yourself and your team to discover what they think your clients experience when they first interact with your brand:

  • Does your brand appear professional?
  • Does your brand image evoke trust?
  • Does it reflect what you do?
  • Does it invite to engage?
  • Are you proud of it?
  • Are your employees proud of it?

This, in some way, is the easy part. It’s where you can work with a decent brand designer who is trained to translate brand values into a brand identity that will convey all those important subliminal messages that make your business special.
What follows, goes deeper. It’s about business mentality, about culture. In the case of Business Advice Direct, the shocking thing is not that they actually have such an uninspiring, unprofessional brand identity, it’s the fact that the employees sitting in those offices let it happen – probably helped throwing some Blutack at the doors to stick the sheet of paper on.
Why has the company not encouraged their staff to understand their business and to have the ability and conviction to prevent such a display? I recently listened to a podcast of Dave Young’s BrandingBlog with Michele Miller about marketing to women. She mentioned an experience at a hotel where  things went wrong – but where the staff had the authority to rectify their mistake and provide an appropriate compensation that more than made up for the initial lapse in customer service. It reminded me how important it is that a business looks at the culture, the attitude from within.
If everyone working for a business embraces the brand as theirs and considers themselves to be an ambassador that wants to succeed; if the staff are the brand as much as the brand identity and marketing material, then you have a much better chance that no-one will ever even consider it good enough for your business signage to stick a torn sheet of paper on a broken door and put your company name on it.

b, brand management, SME

SME Branding Lesson #6 – Be Incredibly Credible

Nanoblur brand advert
Buy this… because 45 people have said so.

We are all just too familiar with the tempting voice of adverts and the seductive messages of point of sale installations that convince us to part with our money and feel good about it. This is one of the finest artforms of brand advertising and marketing – but there is also the danger to turn an incredible statement into a incredibly laughable one that could have the opposite effect.
I am not saying that nanoblur is not working or not flying off the shelves at Boots, but their small print had the opposite effect of reassuring and supporting their sales pitch. 45 people tested it and therefore it must be true that it makes skin flawless in seconds? Would it really have cost them that much to at least do 100? Better more? (I have no idea about clinical studies so perhaps it is unachievable for brands to do that but it seems such a small number of people, I wonder if they were better off making their statement a bit less incredible but not having to spoil it with ASA ruling copy that makes it sound a touch ridiculous.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gGD_pxuHhwM]
The Vauxhall Lifetime Warranty adverts sparked off complaints about being misleading and were subsequently forced to change their campaign following a ruling by the Advertising Standards Authority.
Quite a different area of ‘business’, the church of Nottingham had to change a claim they were making in one of their flyers.
Nottingham Church Leaflet
Claiming the un-claimable.

Dennis Penaluna from the Nottingham Secular Society said he was shocked by the leaflet.
“I couldn’t believe the overarching, ridiculous, unfounded claims they were making. They can’t be substantiated,” he said. “It’s a dangerous nonsense. People who are ill or vulnerable can be easily persuaded. They will grasp at anything.”
Read an article about this on the bbc news website.
Another brand that promised more than it could keep is Baby Einstein, a Disney product extension targeting babies and toddlers giving parents the idea that the DVDs are educational. “There is evidence to show that screen based activity is bad for the brain.” says Pippa Smith, founder of lobby group Mediamarch. The company decided to offer parents a re-fund for DVDs purchased in the last 5 years – certainly not a great indicator for success.
babyeinstein logo
Disputed educational tool

Nurture brand
Unsubstantiated claims of health benefits in formula

Similarly, Heinz was reprimanded following ‘ridiculous claims’ in their infant formula ads. They said that its product could support the growth of infant brains, bodies and immune systems. The ad voiced that each child needs a “special combination of nutrients to sustain the incredible growth in its brain, body and immune system.” It added that Heinz had produced Nurture specifically in order to “provide for those three essential aspects of growth.” The commercial concluded by saying that Nurture would help “nourish, protect and develop your baby.”
The ASA rejected Heinz’s claims and ruled that the advert falsely implied specific health benefits instead of general nutritional content. The ASA said: “We concluded, therefore, that the claim was unsubstantiated and the ad was unacceptable.”
So, it seems that whilst it is understandably tempting to use provocative and attention-grabbing headlines in brand advertising, there are a few things to bear in mind.

  • Be realistic about what you are promising and what you can deliver
  • Don’t rely on great statements without backing them up with great evidence
  • Don’t patronise your customers – respect their knowledge and experience even if you are the expert in your field
  • Use marketing methods, such as money back guarantees, as a way to instill confidence in a purchase
  • Be clear, simple and concise in your brand messages and offerings (KISS your Brand)
  • Be creative in your copy. In fact, be amazing. Use engaging details to tell your brand story and shine a spotlight on how your brand is different – but be honest

I may be on my own feeling like I am being taken for a fool with the ‘nanoblur 10 years younger claim’, but if I part with £20 for a small tub of face cream, I would prefer to be reassured by more than a busload of people. As it is, the product has settled as nanoblurb in my mind and makes me smile, but not buy it.

attitude, brand management, Brand Strategy, differentiation, SME

SME Branding Lesson #5 – Define a Brand Promise You Can Keep

Trip Advisor brand logo
The slogan is promising:  “reviews that you can trust”. But following a host of media attention in recent months, it seems Trip Advisor has to re-think its brand promise following a ruling of the Advertising Standards Authority that they should not “major on trustworthiness if fake reviews can appear”. More information can be found in this BBC news article:
TripAdvisor rebuked over ‘trust’ claims on review site.
A brand promise is the brand’s essence – a single minded statement that sums up the brand. Phillips is ‘sense and simplicity’; Apple ‘Think Different’; Starbucks ‘the third place’; Volvo stands for safety and Coca Cola for ‘refreshment and happiness’. So if a company like Trip Advisor positions itself as the source of ‘over 50 million honest reviews’, it better live up to its promise or risks damaging both reputation and trust. It will have to be seen how the brand will react to the ASA ruling and if it can maintain its top position in future.
It takes a long time to instill a brand’s essence in the minds and hearts of consumers. It takes just one incidence to break it. Remember Gerald Ratner who in 1991 wiped out a 500 mio fortune with one speech?

Ratners
Ratner said: “We also do cut-glass sherry decanters complete with six glasses on a silver-plated tray that your butler can serve you drinks on, all for £4.95. People say, ‘How can you sell this for such a low price?’ I say, because it’s total crap.” And he added that his stores’ earrings were “cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn’t last as long”.

BP’s ‘Beyond Petroleum’ was a challenging promise at the best of times but really came to haunt the oil giant when disaster struck.
[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/v/MTdKa9eWNFw?]
During the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, where 11 rig workers lost their lives,  an unfortunate remark made by CEO Tony Hayward (‘I want my life back’) added fuel to the fire of the actual accident and led to the company dropping out of the top 100 brands index because the difference between their strategy and reality became emphasised and highlighted the fact that it could not keep its promises.
So, when you define your brand essence, make sure you don’t make promises you can not fulfil. It’s easier to improve on an offering and to add value to customers than to disappoint and backtrack.
I guess a key factor is to truly understand where your value lies for your customers today and in future and to identify where you are different to your direct and indirect competitors to create a memorable brand promise that will live up to its meaning.

Brand Strategy, Brand Vision, SME

SME Branding Lesson #4 Be Current and Pro-active

We talk about reputation and how to build it. We know it’s nothing that happens overnight – unless one is lucky enough to get featured in the mass media successfully ‘Dragon’s Den’ style. It will take time and effort to show the world that you are an expert in your field and can be trusted with your products and services.
You should always try to seize opportunities though that present themselves in slightly more unusual circumstances. I have been working with a group of surgeons for a while now and we are developing their brand strategy and brand identity – so I am always on the lookout for what could be relevant and useful for their reputation building and the communication of their brand values.

PIP Implant
Image courtesy of BBC Newsbeat

So when the media is full of articles about the PIP breast implant controversy, what better excuse than to voice their expert opinion, give their clients information and reassurance, comment and advise in forums to answer questions and to differentiate themselves from the big corporates by being caring and bespoke.
That’s just a simple example, but if you look around, there will be those little gems out there that will address your market, your audience and give you the perfect opportunity to speak your expert opinion. A few resources for communicating with the media and for monitoring a brand are:

  • Muckrack – what do reporters write about? Muck Rack tracks thousands of journalists on twitter and social media.
  • HARO (Help a reporter out) – Tool for sharing your expertise with reporters.
  • ProfNet – Another expert sharing site
  • Naymz – Watch and grow you brand reputation
  • VRank – Monitor your online visibility

Being in tune with what the media is reporting and how your brand fares right now on the internet, especially in social media, you have the advantage of appearing current and to be proactive when it comes to showcasing your strengths.
I would love to hear about other useful tools for reputation building and managing.

b, brand management, personal branding, SME

SME Branding Lesson #3 – Differentiate, Differentiate, Differentiate

This subject really deserves a much more detailed post, but sharing just one example of how a strategy can translate in the most unexpected areas of a business and aid a brand to stand out, here is a snapshot of a busy display at TK Maxx ‘showcasing’ a selection of kitchen utensils.

Circulon brand differentiation
Standing out amongst the crowd

Circulon, known for their non-stick cooking ware, are using aluminium labels embossed with their logo type instead of the typical card or paper versions from competitors. The result: Instant visual differentiation and recognition. But there is more to it – this little detail also strengthens the consumer’s attitude towards the brand and adds to their brand experience.
(Clearly, the guys from Circulon are all about quality and design if they pay that much attention to even just the label of their product. It must be trustworthy and reliable.)
Circulon Label
It's all in the detail. An unusual label design creates a feel of quality and reliability.

It will have added some costs to the production, no doubt about that, and in the volumes a company of that size this will be insignificant, so is this a good example for branding for SMEs? I believe so because the details don’t have to cost the world – but they can make all the difference. Whether you are paying particular attention to which paper you use for your stationery, what colour envelopes you send your invoices in or if the blinds in your meeting room reflect your brand identity – there are lots of ways to bring your brand to life and to share your values and beliefs.

Brand Strategy, differentiation, SME

SME Branding Lesson #2 – Know Who You Are

No matter how small or large your business and no matter how small or large your marketing budget is, one of the most important issues to resolve is finding out who you are – your brand essence.
One good technique to obtain an insight and a concise representation of your brand essence is by listing the product or service benefits and then ‘working up the ladder’ to arrive at a very concise word or statement that sums up the brand.

Innocent Smoothies
A brand that knows who it is

Innocent have been a great case study of a small business expanding into a multi million pound turnover venture without losing their identity, but rather building a strong set of brand values including:

  • Sustainability
  • Purity
  • Staff culture and support
  • Giving back to the community
  • Creativity

For Innocent Smoothies, the differentiating product benefit could be:

  • Pure, natural ingredients, from sustainable sources, without any additives or colourings, with recycled packaging – and targeted at children as well as adults
    –> for the consumer the benefits are
  • Worry-free consumption, guilt-free purchase, feel-good factor for health and environment – and the kids love it, too
    –> or in other words
  • Innocence

YMCA Rebrand
The Forest YMCA had lost its way a bit over the years and the brand needed to be re-defined.

I worked with a client on the re-brand of the YMCA in East London and remember during a workshop to scope the project, one member of staff answered the question ‘What does the YMCA mean to you’ with ‘What it is, is the red triangle staring at us from outside the window.’
It was a curious comment because that was not at all what most other people saw the YMCA stood for. In fact, they all felt something very different depending on which department they were from. And this was exactly the underlying issue leading to the need for a re-brand. Who are they really? What do they really stand for and how can they communicate this in a way that is understood by each and every member of staff and other stakeholders.
Together with the management team we interrogated their vision, mission and values and created a new brand identity designed to connect all the different aspects of the brand and to present it as a strong organisation that knows what its brand essence is.
Without quoting large brands and their brand essence, has anyone got examples of SMEs that have a strong set of values that makes them ‘the ones to watch’? It would be great to hear from someone with some thoughts.

Brand Identity, Brand Vision, SME

SME Branding Lesson #1 – Show the Right Attitude

You’ve spent months fine-tuning and testing your brochure copy. Thousands of pounds were spent on a new website with a new logo and brand identity. You have a new set of exhibition stands with the latest business information and how you differentiate yourself from competitors. Your brand strategy is clear and your marketing material is translating the strategy into a powerful and engaging message. Life should be good!
That is if it’s not just you that understands and believes in your brand promise, but all the people representing your business. No matter how hard you try and how much money you pay a professional to get your image right, if you have someone show the kind of attitude as captured below, you don’t stand a fighting chance against competitors eager to deliver a great brand experience.
At the end of the day, it is the customer that makes your brand and they will form their opinion not just based on slick marketing, but predominantly on how your staff represent your products and services.

Branding is more than a logo
What does a man reading a book slumped on a chair tell you about the brand he represents? Quite a lot – just perhaps not what the brand manager intended...

If you have any samples of a disparity in brand strategy and the realisation of it in some kind of visual format, please drop me a line, I’d love to include it here.

attitude, Brand Strategy, SME

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