• Sat. Jun 22nd, 2024

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Opinion Piece: Esme Flounders, Marketing & Communications Director at Narrative Integrated Communications

Esme Flounders, marketing and communications director at Narrative Integrated Communications 

Screen Shot 2015-10-28 at 13.25.35If you’re not from the north, but are ever paying a visit, you must take a trip to a Booths store. Booths is a small (in supermarket terms, at least) family run chain of fantastic food stores, where the produce is locally sourced and utterly delicious. What’s more, the staff are incredibly knowledgeable and are clearly proud to work in such a great company. In fact, for me, Booths is about as close to perfect as doing the food shop can get.

Founded in June 1847 when 19-year-old tea dealer Edwin Henry Booth opened a shop called The China House in Blackpool, the business remains in the family. In my view, it represents all that is great in a brand.

Now, everyone knows how important brand is. But what is a brand? Well, if you cut through all of the jargon, we think it’s really quite simple; here at Narrative, we define it as those intangible ideas and feelings that people have about your business. The stronger and more positive those ideas are, the more people will buy from you, and the longer they’ll remain loyal to you.

Big companies invest massively in building their brands, and the ones who do it best tend to last longer and make more profit. For example, Microsoft might have huge revenues, but Apple, the tech juggernaut with a much stronger brand, yields greater profit.

Now, because brands are made of ideas and feelings, they’re fairly elusive and hard to control. The best brands are natural things, whose meaning grows organically over time. They’re the soul of the company, not mechanical constructs created by advertising agencies or brand consultancies. Think of a brand like IKEA which is Swedishly true to its Scandinavian roots.

This makes truly great branding quite tricky for big companies to achieve. Many large organisations have no obvious soul. Plus, a large business has to get thousands of employees to conform to the brand, and to be consistently globally in the experiences it gives its customers. That means codifying the brand, writing rules, policing everything. Just think about how difficult it’s going to be for VW to repair the damage that has been done to its brand following the #VWgate scandal.

Small businesses, by contrast, are ideally placed to build the best possible brands.

Like Booths, often they’re founder-led, or family-owned, which makes the company a very personal thing. Values tend to be woven into the business. All those things to do with tone, style, beliefs, purpose, perceptions – which get summarised as branding – aren’t artificial constructs, they’re just part of the climate. So, if you have a small business, you should have a brilliant brand. However, If you don’t, here’s a couple things that might be at the root cause…

  • Forgetting the brand

Many companies make the mistake of not thinking about their brand enough.  They focus on the day-to-day, internal aspects of their business; their services, their product, their systems and their processes. Many businesses just don’t consider the perceptions their customers have about their brand.

Solution: Make a concerted effort every three months to step back from the day-to-day issues. Invite some customers in, listen to them and find out what they value most about you.

  •    Splashing the cash

Many business owners think that they can build their brand by spending; improving a website, ploughing money into advertising and spending a fortune on great design. Whilst this definitely helps, it can’t paper over the cracks. Before you start spending money making your brand look and sound amazing, you need to get the foundations right. After all, consumer perception is influenced much more by their day to day experiences of your product and service than by a flash ad campaign.

Solution: Focus on creating a great customer experience. When you’ve done that, and customers are telling you that you’re great, it’s time to start communicating your brand through marketing.

  • Not communicating your values to employees

Many small companies fail to spread their brand thinking widely enough. The soul of the company is totally clear to the founder, but less so to their employees. The founder gets frustrated because their staff aren’t doing things right, and in turn, staff get cross because they don’t know what they’re doing wrong!

Solution: Summarise what you brand is in a sentence and take some time out with your staff to explain how you want them to live and breathe the brand.

  • Failing to periodically shake things up

Often, small companies stay with a successful formula, even when it’s no longer successful. They don’t innovate, and they gradually become outdated. Brands are curious things: they partly depend on consistency and predictability, so that customers know what to expect, but they also thrive on novelty.

Solution: Every six months, try something new. Get a new service or product out into the world. Think of it as a prototype, and learn from it.

  • Forgetting that customers like to get involved

Many small companies are surprisingly insular. They like to do things themselves, in their own way. They keep their methods secret. But consumer culture today is much more open. People want to see behind the scenes, they want to share the secrets, they want to make things as well as consuming them.

Solution: Whatever it is your company does, share it with your customers to help them feel like insiders. If you have an artisan bakery, invite customers in to try their hand. If you have a restaurant, consider opening a cookery school. If you develop websites, make a behind the scenes video and get it online. Use your imagination!

If you don’t have the skills, expertise or manpower to work through a programme of brand development or management, Narrative can help. If you need advice or guidance, get in touch with Esme Flounders on 0191 516 6235, via email at esme@narativecommunications.co.uk or fill out our contact form.

By admin