The relevance of branding to SMEs.


To build a brand you need to have a very clear picture of what you want to build and not be influenced by what is going on around you, establishing your economic drivers will ensure reality.

“Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does…”  Howard Schultz, “Pour Your Heart Into it”. How Starbucks built a company brand one cup at a time.

Put very simplistically your brand is what you are and what you stand for. A strong brand is one that people recognise and people want to be associated with. It can take years to build a brand and only a few moments to destroy a brand. A strong brand will attract the people who share your values and not only want to buy from you but also who want to work for you, and will play a large part in creating the culture of your business. Your brand goes way beyond how you look, it is the heart of your business.

If you are going to create a band then you must start by ensuring the 3CirclesofSuccess are all in sync, when they are all aligned you can then start thinking about how you want to market yourself and develop your brand. Whatever you decide upon make sure you know exactly how you are going to deliver your message. If you don’t walk the talk in the era we now live in it will only be a matter of time before the market finds you out.

Rebranding is more complicated and you first have got to establish what the reasons are for you wanting to re-brand. Whatever the reasons are if you are going to do a re-brand then it is essential that you:

  • Do a thorough and complete review
  • Be prepared to face the brutal facts

Re-branding is often done when market research suggests that the company is out of line with market expectations, they have lost their way and it is impacting adversely on financial performance or the market’s perception of the company is not what you want it to be. Whatever the reasons are and whether you agree with the market research or not, the markets very rarely get it wrong, you may not like the research but you dismiss it at your peril.

The impact of the 4IR and AI could bring about an increase in re-branding as businesses adapt and change in order to seize upon new opportunities. Re-banding done properly can be very effective in taking a new message to market, but to ensure maximum effect customers/clients have to see and feel the change that you are marketing so it is vital that everyone in the business is aware of what the changes are and how to deliver them. Some form of re-training is often required, adjustments to Key Performance Indicators and incorporation of the changes into appraisals will be needed to ensure that the new brand values are not just talk. To just change your message so that it is more in tune with the market, but not change what you are doing is potentially dangerous especially in today’s social media driven world and fairly pointless; the emperor may change his clothes but that does not change the emperor.

The natural time for re-branding is after you have strategically reviewed the business, it is an action point once you have decided that a change of direction is needed and that the change is sufficiently significant that you want the market you operate in to sit up and take notice. Some people see re-branding as part of the strategic review, which is fine as long as you carry out the review first:

  • Where are you now?
  • Where do you want to get to?
  • How are you going to get there?

In answering these you will need to have:

  • Clarified and confirmed your strategic objectives.
  • Thoroughly reviewed your income streams and their longevity.
  • Considered any potential new income streams.
  • Considered how you are perceived in the market place you operate in and is it in line with how you want to be perceived.
  • Are your projected returns in line with your aspirations?
  • Created a prioritised action plan to incorporate what needs to be done to affect the changes decided upon.

In summary reviewed and ensure that the 3CirclesofSuccess are all in alignment.

If you don’t go through the process methodically you are likely to get drawn into changing your message and image but not actually changing. The process tends to come to a spluttering end with no one really being aware that it has ended and probably forgotten that it ever started after all nothing has changed. It is this latter form of re-branding that tends to create a cynical view of branding and disenfranchise staff from management who oversaw the re-branding. So as you come to the end of the re-branding process take time to reflect and ask yourself:

  • What are we doing differently now to what we were doing before we started?
  • Do the key performance indicators which measure the change we were wanting indicate that we are on the right path?
  • How do the staff feel about the changes?
  • Have the staff bought into the changes?

Staff are a useful barometer, if they have not bought into the re-branding then I suspect the markets won’t either, after all the staff are a big influencer of the markets.

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