(As published in the Sunday Star Times, September 20, 2014: www.stuff.co.nz/business/small-business/10519569/Does-your-brand-say-what-it-means)
Many businesses understand branding as a logo with some colours, fonts, images and rules outlining usage. But a brand that pulls is far more than that. In working with lots of cool kiwi companies, the ones that have a true brand “on average” perform better in my experience. I recently spoke with one of my clients, Mary Davy, who owns the brand development and consultancy business Ellen and Ellen, as I wanted to share with you some real expert thoughts on branding and what it might mean for your business. This is a summary of my chat with Mary and also my views.
A great brand tells a unique story. While businesses can offer the same product or service, each do it very differently. Their brand is their unique story that no-one else can own and it can determine whether a customer is going to buy their service or product over another. Of course there are many reasons a customer might buy from you, but having a unique brand story can be a real advantage to getting them to choose you over a competitor.
Your brand is your unique and authentic story (we all have one) and it needs to appeal to your customer base. I personally believe that you need to look “world-class” as we live in a superficial world and unluckily for a lot of customers, looks (the way your business looks) matter. Your brand is also more than just your look. What your brand does matters more than what it says. It is how your team deals with customers. It is the communications from you to your customers (and the world). It is the way you conduct yourself in the working week when you are representing your business and the company you work for. Effectively everything you do communicates something about your brand. Having the right brand will mean rather than pushing a product or service, it (having a brand) pulls people to them.
A brand story works for all businesses, large and small. Told well it is an investment that grows with the organisation, one which delivers returns (ie. it is not a net cost). It works hard for you, is easy to articulate and resonates with all target audiences, it pulls the right customers to you and holds them in your orbit. It expands with you and drives all communications moving forward. Interestingly, I have seen with my own business, as I have developed my Business Changing brand, my businesses success has grown directly in line with the improvements in the look of my (small) brand. It really does work.
Ellen & Ellen have relatively recently rebranded Vista Entertainment Solutions, cinema management software for large global cinemas (the Vista Group recently successfully listed on the stock exchange). At the beginning of the branding process Vista had 26% of their global market, 18 months later they have 37% in 63 countries and are aiming to extend that to 50% in the short to medium term. They are a fantastic company, but for 16 years have been flying under the radar.
The resulting brand story firmly places Vista in the cinema space, it tells the world they develop software for the best cinemas. The brand story articulates a clear understanding of all aspects of cinema and the benefits to all audiences. It answers the ‘what’s in it for me’ question without pushing their product or service. Vista Group Chief Executive Murray Holdaway thinks that the brand development they have done has positively impacted on their business and makes their product an easier sell.
How do you create a brand story? Define your organisations greater purpose, your vision, mission and essence – the heartbeat. Articulate the unique reason a customer will select your product, service or destination over another. Define your key messages, your personality and the tone and manner of your organisation. And then meaningfully articulate these through the creative execution.
You can start this right now within your business and team but I would suggest it is worthwhile to include outside experts here. I have watched them in action and it is amazing the good that they can add as they focus in on the real reason you are in business and why you exist. And then the journey begins.