Does your brand help compliment what your company stands for?
Is brand development a marketer’s playground or is it an essential element of successful business growth?
There were over 185,000 active enterprises in the private business economy in Ireland in 2012, with over 1.2 million persons engaged (CSO – Ireland). This represented a 2% decrease on 2011, which I suppose is not surprising in the prevailing economic climate at the time.
The Small Firms Association (SFA) published its annual survey report (Small Firms Outlook 2015) earlier this month. In it, they showed that 66% of businesses are growing, 28% are maintaining their business at stable levels, and just 6% state that they are still seeing a decline in business. Good news for the 94%, I reckon.
In a press release in relation to the report, SFA Director, Patricia Callan, welcomed the results, stating “we predict that 2015 will see strong growth remain in the economy in the order of 4-5% GDP growth.” Of course, there were a lot of positive statements in the report, but the finding that we were interested in was that, ‘Investment in brand development is the priority for 41% of respondents, with 26% planning to make investments in staff’.
“Small firms have now moved from survival mode, to focusing on how they can grow their market share. Brand development and marketing are key parts of this strategy and hiring and retaining the right people is already emerging a problem in many sectors”, commented Ms Callan.
The business landscape, in Ireland, appears to be changing from being dominated by large corporations to more SMEs and start-ups. Within this changing environment, as highlighted by the SFA, there appears to be a realisation that focusing on brand development is an integral part of SME growth and one which requires investment. It is not just for the ‘big’ brands.
More than likely, however, SMEs will not have the resources (time or people) to hire a large ‘agency’ to spend months working on their brand development strategy. They want a strategy ASAP, with a purpose, and to be flexible, creative, authentic and totally linked to their vision and business mission. If the skills aren’t available ‘in-house’, external experts can fill this gap, and usually, in a cost effective way.
Let’s face it, brands are commonly started as a small idea, by people with vision and a purpose. They appreciate that they have to be flexible with their business operations, based on customer demand. Equally though, nowadays the same flexibility is required with regard to a brand. SMEs have to allow their audiences shape their brand to an extent that they are seen as brand partners rather than financial targets.
Your brand development can be your competitive advantage.
We’ve said on many occasions in previous blog posts that brands that treat their customers as human beings, and not wallets, will be the ones that will survive. Many trends (driven by technology), reinforce the notion that people are becoming more values-driven and more empathetic in their consumption habits and in their choices of places to work.
In a previous blog, (here), we suggested that people want to work for a company where the motivation is more than a monthly salary. More and more people appear to want to ‘give something back to society’ or at least help in the local community in some impactful way. As a result, instead of believing the advertising hype, many are looking at what a brand stands for and whether it matches their own values in any way. Companies are starting to realise that despite our attempts to make purely rational decisions, we are primarily driven by emotional motivations.
In our opinion, the future drivers of competitive advantage are going to be:
- Authentic values (brands that genuinely care)
- CSR activity (undertaken with a measureable impact)
- Employee trust (energetic and pleasant staff)
Tips and Timesavers.
When defining your brand, stay in line with who you really are. For SMEs and start-ups, in the absence of prior experience, establishing who you are, can be a difficult task. Many of the larger corporations have teams of people looking after brand management. My own previous experience was in this area with 26 colleagues.
Outsourcing to O’C&K (disclosure – our company) is an option of course, but either way here are six steps to take, that should form the pillars of your brand development strategy.
- Determine what are you trying to achieve? (have a clear statement of what your brand is trying to do)
- Create a persona for your brand (personality, positioning and a storyline)
- Decide who is your target audience? (by the way – it is NOT ‘everyone’)
- Establish your competition. (can you ‘do’ it better ?)
- Determine what is the end goal and how do you get there? (be there at all customer touch-points)
- Keep monitoring your brand (measure your effectiveness through engagement)
So, to finish off, I’d just like to draw attention to the notion that sometimes, people like to use the word ‘reputation’ instead of ‘brand’. Usually this is because they believe that a brand relates to ‘selling’ and one’s reputation is above that. We say – ‘whatever’ – just make sure that it is you that’s telling your story because if you don’t, others will.
Your brand (reputation) – what is left when all else is taken away.
“We hope you have enjoyed our marketing tips and timesavers blog” – Aidan & Jim.
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