Off we went to The Grocer’s “How to Build a Brand” conference a couple of weeks ago. The broad spectrum of speakers made for a truly fascinating day – plucky start-up entrepreneurs, established brand-owners, supermarket buyers, investment experts, PR gurus, shopper marketing experts and, of course, brand designers like us.
Here’s our take-out on some of the top tips:
1. Have the courage to resign from your job
It certainly takes guts to give up your cosy salaried existence. But maybe not as much courage as you think. In days of recession, how safe is your job anyway? And how likely is it we’ll ever return to the ‘job for life’ security of old?
2. Don’t try to do everything yourself
Know your strengths. Work with others to cover the rest. Make sure you choose people who know more than you do, but that also match your values. When asked which decision he wished he’d never taken, Innocent’s co-founder Adam Balon replied, after a pause, “Bad senior hires.”
3. Product is king and branding is queen
Is your product something people will want more of? The continental food brand unearthed is one of the few successful brands operating in the own label dominated chilled food space. Founder Simon Day puts this down to looking, sounding and being different in design, tone of voice and, of course, product. Innovation is at the core of this business which isn’t afraid to try alternative takes on classic dishes.
4. Have a sense of purpose and stay on a mission
The Collective is on a mission to “create the greatest dairy imaginable.” According to the Startups Awards website, The Collective “is now the fastest growing yoghurt product in Britain”. Founded in New Zealand, within ten months it had become the best selling gourmet yoghurt in that country. Not content with this achievement, ex-Gü directors Amelia Harvey and Mike Hodgson teamed up with the founders and began their quest to take on the UK. Since its UK launch in July 2011, they’ve achieved listings in Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Waitrose, Ocado, and Boots, to name a few.
5. Be consistent in your brand execution
Ade McKeon, Asda’s Brand Director, stressed the importance of consistency across all elements of your brand. He discussed the challenges he’d been facing to keep Asda’s Extra Special range in order. Sometimes, however, I think it’s ok to let your brand live a little beyond the ‘rules’. But ONLY if you’ve already got a clear definition. Any inconsistencies must be done deliberately, but without eroding the key brand attributes. Drinks brands seem to do this better than anyone – just look at Absolut.
6. Be proactive
We prefer to say “Be creatively proactive.” When faced with a brick wall whilst arranging meetings with supermarket buyers to discuss his brand Jimmy’s Iced Coffee, Jim Cregan dressed up as one of his own products and waited in the foyer until someone would see him. As a brand owner, you can spend a lot of time being proactive, but what matters most is how you stand out from everyone else fighting for that same share of the pie.
7. Be polite and do it with integrity
The author Malcolm Bradbury once stated, “The English are polite by telling lies. The Americans are polite by telling the truth.” Lots of entrepreneurs mentioned the importance of politeness, and what a difference it makes if you remember the small things, like being truthful and saying “thanks” to people.
This is just a small selection of many points made during the day. One thing for sure is that building a brand is a journey requiring self-belief, perseverance, the right expertise and some lucky breaks.