To many people, ‘Brand’ is like marmite. They either love or hate the subject. Either they believe their brand is a big part of driving their business to success, or they think it’s a load of *!&$! dreamt up by marketing people to justify exorbitant fees. But the evidence that a strong brand correlates with strong business performance over the long term is incontrovertible. Numerous studies over the last 25 years have shown positive correlations between brand and everything from share price growth to increased customer satisfaction to strong financial performance. When we talk about brand we tend to think of large companies, but the principles apply equally to smaller businesses.
Over the years brand thinking has matured. In the days before the internet, corporate identity and trademark – logo, colours, style – and applying it consistently across all of your materials was as far as most SMEs had to go. But in the digital age, when there are even small companies reaching broader audiences, brand thinking is about much more than that.
A brand is what your customer thinks and feels when they hear your brand name or see your logo and imagery. It’s System 1 and System 2 thinking. It’s the vision, the narrative, the values. All the stuff your business is trying to do, but it’s also what you stand for, what you believe, who your business. It’s the emotional connection people feel with your logo and company name. Above all, it’s your way, your promise, your identity.
Why does it Matter to SMEs?
A major part of brand development is working all that stuff out – what you do, what you don’t do, what you stand for. Once you have that clear in your collective heads, writers and designers can articulate it in a verbal and visual language that communicates all that makes your company what it is. And from then on, you’ve got a solid platform upon which to build your marketing and growth strategy.
Given the speed at which the world moves nowadays, nothing anybody does is unique for long. Your brand is your competitive advantage – and it’s absolutely crucial you get it right
How do I know if I have a Problem?
While it’s rare to come across clients in the midst of a brand car crash, most small businesses have weaknesses which are holding them back.
Signs you might have a problem include:
- The obvious: Your identity, collateral, tone of voice, website – if you feel that some aspect of these doesn’t represent your company, as well as they should, maybe they need looking at. Maybe they don’t feel as good as your competitors’, they feel out of sync with the industries you work in or maybe they feel dated or tired.
- There’s no compelling ‘why’ behind what your company does.
Your purpose creates an emotional connection with customers and is an important competitive advantage but it can easily be lost through rapid growth and other changes.
- You’re discounting on price and/or losing pitches on price regularly.
- Your website and comms ‘aren’t great and need sorted’ and however many times you re-write the copy or re-design it, it’s not right. You argue internally over what the business does yet can’t explain it succinctly or consistently to outsiders.
- You waste time on unprofitable business.
- Sales aren’t as high as you think they should be. Maybe the phone never rings with incoming leads; Maybe you’ve tried multiple approaches to sales and none of them worked.
- You don’t “own” a clear position or space in your industry that would be difficult for competitors to encroach upon.
If any of these resonate then there’s a good chance the issue is your brand strategy. If it is, the temptation to muddle on because a fundamental problem to remedy will be strong. But that’s a mistake.
In our experience, it’s not such a difficult problem to solve. And it’s worth doing because as well as giving yourself a strong brand platform, what you’ll learn from the process itself is of immense value. It will change the way you and your people view your business; it will create confidence and clarify your thinking, give you purpose and direction, and earn buy-in from your team…all of immeasurable value to an ambitious business. And a strong brand will make you credible and desirable for clients to your current and future clients. This gives your business a platform on which to build your culture, product and service propositions and narrative.