We exist in a world of choice. From the moment the alarm stirs us into action, our whole day is determined by choices we will make or have already made. The cereals for breakfast, the clothes we pick out to wear, the car we drive to work in, the bank we draw cash out from, the restaurant we head to in the evening, the drinks ordered at the bar.
Every single one of us is a customer, continuously making connections with brands that inform our choices and with whom we often build lifelong relationships. Brand stewardship is therefore critical to the success of any organisation,whether a small local charity or the world’s largest internet provider.
For brand owners, the challenge is to define precisely and then communicate clearly an understanding of what a brand stands for, who the stakeholders are and why customers should make a positive decision to choose the brand.
The answer lies in managing your brand’s integrity and in building an identity that unifies your organisation’s assets through distinctive imagery, associations and language – together they create a unique personality and positioning.
How do you achieve it? By planning, planning and then more planning, charting a course that leads from brand strategy and positioning via stakeholder behaviour, to the big idea that consolidates the journey into one single statement and engages customers and employees alike.
1. Brand strategy
The starting point is a vision, aligned with the overall commercial strategy, which emerges naturally and organically from the existing culture and values of the organisation.
The brand strategy should be easy to understand and talk about for everyone from the chief executive to the receptionist. It becomes a focus for the whole organisation, a central unifying idea around which behaviour, actions and communications are aligned.
The best strategies are so differentiated and powerful that they deflect the competition, with an individuality and strength that provides clarity and context and inspiration for all employees, especially sales and marketing teams.
For Thwaites Brewery, a two-centuries-old family business, we developed a brand strategy that highlighted its great strengths, focusing on quality, freshness and the craft of brewing. The strategy had a significant impact not just on its presentation, but on its whole approach to brewing, giving it a new-found confidence.
2. Brand positioning
If brand strategy creates the environment for success, positioning is the scaffolding on which an organisation actively builds its brands, planning strategy and relationships with customers and consumers.
And where the brand strategy remains a constant point of reference, successful positioning must keep evolving in order to create openings in a market that is often in continuous flux, where customers and consumers are saturated with products and messages. A correctly conceived positioning strategy takes advantage of changes in demographics, technology, marketing cycles, consumer trends and gaps in the market.
By creating a new identity and visual language for the University Library at the University of Leeds, the library now has its own distinctive identity within the overall brand strategy of the University, positioning it as a world-class institution with the flexibility to respond to new media and the vibrancy to inspire.
3. Stakeholder insight
Gaining insight into stakeholder characteristics, behaviour, needs and perception is critical to ensuring a brand’s success. Reputation and goodwill extend well beyond a brand’s core target audience. Identifying every opportunity to build brand champions and fans requires the harnessing of the power of different constituencies. Employees, for example, are critical to the success of any brand strategy because their influence is far-reaching.
Excellent is a charity that specialises in sand dams, providing reliable water resources for rural, dry-land communities. We identified a need to create a visible presence for its ambassadors and managers working at the sharp end, in the poor farming communities, where conventional communications are non-existent. Branded T-shirts proved an effective solution, providing credibility, getting across the message about Excellent’s work, and raising its overall profile.
4. The big thought
A big idea, summarising succinctly the essence of an organisation, acts as a pivot and focus for overall strategy, behaviour, actions and communications. Simply articulated, it becomes a beacon of distinctive culture internally, while externally it adds a competitive advantage helping customers and consumers make informed choices.
To reinvigorate the Tetley’s brand we built the brand around one powerful image, the brewer’s long-time Huntsman character.
By transforming the Huntsman into a fresh icon, the message was that Tetley’s was simultaneously returning to the personality of its roots and modernising for the challenges of the contemporary brewing industry.
5. The customer journey
Each contact with a customer helps embed the values of the organisation. The customer journey is fundamental in arousing interest, creating opportunities for collecting valuable data and building customer loyalty to create ongoing lifelong relationships.
Tracking the customer journey for luxury leather goods company Croots, we identified its presence at an international trade show in Nuremberg as a key touchpoint. Developing a Croots’ brand experience for its stand attracted significant numbers of new customers who had previously not taken time to stop and visit the stand at past exhibitions.
6. Employee engagement
Brand stewardship begins at home, through every organisation’s own staff. Given the right tools, they become proactive and hugely effective ambassadors for their brand.
For National Grid we created an animated online social media campaign for employees, explaining good and bad practice in using social media and encouraging them to open up the positive media opportunities allowing them to build relationships with stakeholders and customers.
With over 30 years’ experience, WPA Pinfold has put extensive thought into the meaning of brands and how it can create more effective brand strategies and compelling communications. The result is a strategic approach to brand design built around wisdom, participation and articulation.
To learn more and participate in the process, visit wpa-pinfold.co.uk.
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