Tag Archives: competition

Focused brand development leads to less stress and more success.

brand development stress

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.

  1. Determine what are you trying to achieve? (have a clear statement of what your brand is trying to do)
  2. Create a persona for your brand (personality, positioning and a storyline)
  3. Decide who is your target audience? (by the way – it is NOT ‘everyone’)
  4. Establish your competition. (can you ‘do’ it better ?)
  5. Determine what is the end goal and how do you get there? (be there at all customer touch-points)
  6. 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.

Would you like to be notified by email when we publish new content? If so, just let us know by clicking here.

Of course, we can always meet face-to-face, just leave your details here and we can grab a coffeet, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K


Ways to build a desirable brand

Your brand name in lights

“We want to create value for you by sharing marketing tips and timesavers” – O’C&K.

A desirable brand emanates from a customer’s positive experience.

There is plenty of evidence out there to prove that when brands are managed pro-actively, they can become valuable assets for a business. What I want to chat about in this post is how you might arrange the building blocks of a desirable brand so that it appeals to potential customers. Let’s face it, people tend to pander to their desires. It must follow therefore, that they ‘desire’ particular brands or else they wouldn’t remain as customers or offer repeat custom. So, if  their positive experience of your brand is making them think, feel or act differently, then you have found the holy grail of business – a loyal customer ready to become an ambassador for your brand.

Many company owners will admit that growing their business, on a day to day basis, is a challenge that requires their ongoing attention. That, in itself is fine but in this unprecedented era of customer power, it is far easier for customers / prospects to ignore you, than ever before. As a result, owners are being forced to change from being focused on their business to being focused on their customers. This might not be an easy transition for most but, if they’re not being smarter about marketing, they might well end up having a great business which no one knows nor cares about.

Balancing the energy required to make a brand customer- focused and to make the business profitable is not easy for a business owner. One option is to outsource if you don’t have the in-house experience. Whether you decide to outsource some of ‘the energy required’ to professionals or decide to do it alone, in this post I want to outline an audit process to help you. Based on our own set-up experience in O’C&K, I believe that there are 4 basic areas you should consider initially; –  yourself, your audience, your competitors and your desirable brand experience.

Knowing Yourself

Whether you are an existing business or in a set-up situation, something must have spurred you into action originally. It may well be an incident in a previous employment, a monetary need or a passion that you have always wanted to explore. You might simply be basing your business idea on particular strengths that you have amassed or inherited. Whatever the motivation, try and visualise how it might be infused into your brand. When attempting this, one thing to be conscious of is the personality trait that your business ‘idea’ will require – if you don’t match personally, join with somebody that does. If you’re lucky, your personal story can be brought to the brand, to make it more human and interesting. A ‘beating the odds’ story, your training, your experience, specific talents, your personal background are all good places to start. Ask yourself, does your experience ‘fit’ with the brand you can visualise.

For instance, between Aidan and myself (O’C&K), we have at least 50 years practical experience in the communication business. Aidan specialises in creative concepts and marketing management and I my background is in creating and implementing sponsorship and corporate giving programmes. It is these specialities that we are building the O’Connor & Kelly business around. Initially, when discussing our projected brand personality we had to determine what makes us unique, what our core beliefs that will make our brand desirable, our commitment, whether we could incorporate our hobbies and what emotions people attach to us, individually. It was only after this ‘soul searching’ that we could agree on the actual service we could offer, the goals and the message.

Knowing your Audience

Here is a list of characteristics that you might use to build a profile of your audience. Gender, age, generational values, income levels, where they live, marital status, children and their interests. If they are online, any blogs they read, websites they visit, TV shows they stream and social media activity. It would be great if you could determine career / education levels. Only face to face contact may be able to determine the following, but it can be researched if they are active online – know their frustrations, their hopes, why they might need your service, where they ‘shop’ and is there anything that you have in common with them already.

Knowing your Competition

There will always be someone in your niche that offers the same service or something similar to you. All you have to do is know who they are. When you do – then just apply the same questions to them as you did to yourself (see above), to determine how much of a competitor they really are. For example, how do they describe their offering, is it the same in price and quality? Are they better at something, are they chasing the same audience, is their identity professional and are they online? What is their marketing activity like, their tone, their colours and their style? Are you hearing anything about them from your audience, are they catering already for the same need that you have identified and in your opinion, are they a desirable brand?

Knowing your brand experience

I have said in many posts to this blog previously that branding is way more than a nicely designed business identity. In our most recent post, here, it was emphasised that it is the participant’s experience before, during and after an event that drives return business. Similarly, it is the experience that your audience encounters which creates the ‘desirability’ of your brand. You must build the goodwill if you want WOM promotion by your customers.

Tips and Timesavers.

Here is a sample checklist of some elements that may form part of your planned brand experience:

  • being accessible – opening hours include being online.
  • keeping your word – doing what it ‘says on the tin’.
  • making them feel special – delivering more than they expect.
  • helping people – being informative and a good citizen.
  • being honest and gracious – seeking feedback and acting on it if appropriate.
  • having fun – looking after the customers that ‘look after you’.
  • being accommodating – being consistent and reassuring

Only when you have decided on your values etc. and what your customer is going to experience, should you embark upon creating a business identity and how it will be used. More than likely you will employ an outside agent (you should) to do this, and O’C&K are very well equipped to help you with this should you so decide. Basic elements would include a logo, an ID package (design style, colours etc.) and a web presence. Please resist the urge to go overboard with the design element and bear in mind that you will probably be adapting to your audience as your business grows.

Two final things, 1) give your brand a face and preferably one that is recognisable, be that yourself, an employee or a mascot and 2) infuse everything you’ve decided upon under ‘knowing yourself’ above, into your brand. We have a guide, here, on our website that might be useful to you when planning a marketing strategy.

When all is said and done, a business that delivers a community- like understanding that, ‘we are all in it together’, will be seen as an authentic and desirable brand to do business with.

If you have any other tips or timesavers please leave a reply below. If you’d like to receive similar content, just subscribe by clicking through the pink button, on this page.  Of course if you want to get in touch, leave your details and perhaps we might meet for a chat, cheers.   Jim – O’C&K