Let me start with this….Building your brand will make you more resilient as you come out of this crisis.

I didn’t really realise the importance of brand until I was responsible for one. I had worked in marketing for ten years up to that point. All sorts of different roles for different companies and I’d always scoffed at the brand thing, rolled my eyes when the ‘brand marketers’ started talking. I was always more commercially focused, above the line and below the line promotions, retail marketing, merchandising, CRM, digital development, all the executional stuff which involved measuring ROI. I listened to the brand conversations, knew what they were talking about, but they were always too airy-fairy for my liking.

Until I was working for a cruise company and sat in on one of their ‘brand meetings’. It was awful. I sat there and listened to the nonsense going on around me. Their idea of a brand meeting was sorting through photos to try and find the next one to use on the cover of the brochure. Comparing it to last years photo (which was an amazing photo). Discussing where the logo would sit. It was bullshit. From a brand perspective, it was so vacant and made me appreciate the training and experience I had (albeit unappreciated at the time!) in my previous roles. My lip was so sore from biting it by the end.

The ‘brand’ was little more than a logo. The product itself was outstanding, the staff were the best, but there was no brand to hang it all on. We discovered in the following months that the brand was paper thin. The global financial crisis hit and sales fell. There was no brand to fall back on. All the things that I had learned about brand and chosen to ignore for the previous decade came into sharp focus.

We discovered (through talking to our customers) that the ‘cruises’ we were selling were not the ‘experiences’ that people were buying. The royal blue colourways, regal looking font and contemporary photography were not the reason our guests were choosing to visit unique destinations in the Kimberley and Papua New Guinea.

We were selling luxury, they were buying an opportunity to visit unique destinations. In summary, we didn’t understand them, we had nothing in common because weren’t tied together by a common thread – a brand.

We needed to understand what our guests were buying into and we changed the branding. We defined and understood our values and personality. We learned about how we made our customers feel, why they bought our experience over the competition. And once we knew that, and we knew our customers better, we were able to find more of the same audience, target better, convert more effectively. For the first time, I realised the importance of brand and was even able to attach an ROI to it.   

The next time we came round to choosing a photo for the brochure, it was a much more straightforward exercise. Instead of the very subjective conversation around choosing the ‘nicest’ photo, it was more around choosing the photo’s that conveyed the values and personality of the brand, the things that we knew our customers were looking for, that they would connect with. In this case, it was out with the ‘chocolate box’ pictures of a ship at sea, and in with pictures of guests having experiences in remote locations. The change was thanks to properly defining the brand.

There are so many definitions of what a brand is. A quick search on the internet will give you so many variations – every marketing agency out there has their own spin. Myriad different models to use to define the brand.

As with most things, I see it quite simply (I’m a simple soul really!), and from the perspective of someone who has been responsible for the performance of brands,  it is all about the relationship the brand has with its consumers and the emotional bond between the two.

Think about the brands you buy, the brands you love. They elicit an emotion, something that makes you feel an affinity with that brand, something of yourself that you attach to it. You know in your head, that there is very little difference in the performance of the different brands of trainers, but the ones you are wearing give you that extra bounce, that extra burst of speed because they are part of you (other products and services are applicable, I just say trainers because I am mildly obsessed with them – and their brands!).

It’s about defining the essence of that brand, the emotions that people invest in. Once that is done, its about communicating those emotions through your own people – your ambassadors – and once that has been done, your partners, retailers and finally your customers.

Within all this is creating a logo, a look and feel, an identity, a communication style, a language – ‘visualising the intangible’ as a friend of mine says, a phrase which I blatantly steal at every given opportunity. It’s part of the process, it’s the part that many businesses don’t go beyond – their logo – but it’s actually only a small part of the story.

Over the past few weeks during the coronavirus crisis, I have been writing a series of free tutorials aimed at small and medium businesses, helping them with their preparation to find a way out of the crisis. The first few have been about researching the business, finding out the information that can pass you by when you are working day to day, but can be invaluable when creating a plan.

The next few tutorials are going to be about building a brand. Defining those values that are the building blocks of your brand. Like me (!), it’s quite simple – but very effective! It will help you create the substance you need to make your brand more than just the products the sell, it will be a reflection of you, your people –  and the people who buy your brand.

Building your brand will make you more resilient as you come out of this crisis.

It will also act as a brief for you to go out to those clever creative people who can create a visual identity for you.

Look out for the first tutorial – creating a Mission Statement.

Chris Perkins is a Part Time Marketing Director, working with clients to provide marketing leadership, strategy and direction. This course has been designed as a FREE to access resource to enable SME business owners and teams to create a workable business plan through a series of simple exercises.

If you require further help to manage your marketing strategy and execution, please email chris@oneobjective.co.uk