Future50 partner masterclass: How can you use branding to grow your business?
PUBLISHED: 06:30 07 May 2018 | UPDATED: 08:31 07 May 2018
Modern brands drive growth - does yours? That was the direct and challenging question posed by marketing expert Mark Harvey at a recent masterclass run by Future50 partner Lovewell Blake.
There are seven key lessons about modern branding, and three critical steps that all businesses can take to ensure that their brand plays a - perhaps the - central part in growing that business.
So says marketing expert Mark Harvey, presenting at the latest Building Brilliance in Business masterclass.
“The biggest mistake that many companies make when considering brand is to get the crayons out too soon and think only of brand in terms of visual identity,” he said. “It is really important to have the commercial conversation first – what does your brand need to achieve in commercial terms, and how can it be embraced in the totality of your business?”
He tracked how the concept of brand has changed over time, from the original literal meaning (‘that’s my cow’) to being about the total perception of a business’s reputation in a competitive marketplace.
The traditional way of looking at brand has been as an iceberg, with the visible aspects (eg the logo) being just a small part of the whole. But in the digital age, much more of that iceberg is now above the surface, and as a result the realities of a brand are much more in the public eye.
Coupled with this is a less linear customer purchasing journey, where sentiment and consumer voice play a much bigger part. As a result, brands cannot rest on past glories: Mr Harvey cited the example of British Airways, which has crashed out of the UK Superbrands Top 20 table the last 12 months.
“It is more vital than ever to find a competitive advantage for your brand,” said Mr Harvey. “That may be found simply in what you do, but increasingly it will involve how you do it – in other words, how you add value – and why you do it, which reaches into the ethical and emotional aspirations of your customers.”
The strongest brands are those which are rooted in the DNA of the business, which means it is important to ‘be’ the brand (ensuring your people believe and understand the brand proposition and its value to the business) and ‘do’ the brand (empowering your people to take action) before you go out into the world and talk about your brand externally.
Traditionally brand has been seen as an adjunct of the marketing function; Mr Harvey argued that brand strategy should be at the heart of the business, informing every function, from finance to operations.
Once you do start getting your brand out there, if you want it to be clearly understood, it needs to be simple, clear and focussed – a strong brand proposition will stand out well on its own, without a ‘big idea’ marketing campaign.
To achieve all this, Mr Harvey advocated regular brand audits, scoring the brand against competitors, through the eyes of customers and people within the business, and through prisms of digital and social media.
Then the task is to make the brand clear for everyone within the organisation, using language which is relevant and understandable for them - and being ruthless with marketing jargon. The final step is to help your team bring the brand to life, translating the brand strategy into practical actions which everyone can understand and carry out.
“For your brand to drive business growth, you need to set clear and focussed goals for what you need it to achieve for your business, and you need to be interesting and relevant to your customers, and above all stay authentic,” said Mr Harvey.
• Mark Harvey was presenting as part of the Lovewell Blake Building Brilliance in Business Masterclass, a year-long series of free masterclasses aimed at helping owners and managers of businesses. Future subjects include staying safe online, digital marketing, wellbeing in the workplace, legal issues and mediation, PR and the media. For full details visit www.lovewell-blake.co.uk/building-business-brilliance.