Fortnum & Mason boss, Ewan Venters, claimed “brand Britain has been firmly damaged” by Brexit and the uncertainty it has brought.
It’s evident that the political and economic picture painted during the aftermath of the referendum is not an edifying one. However, it may not be accurate to tie ‘Brand Britain’ too closely to British brands. Brand Britain is a signifier for a set of values and qualities whose influence on products and services created in the nation may be far more tenuous.
Looking at the world in general we see a social, political and financial turmoil which does not seem to impact brands. Germany, USA, Japan and others are hardly enjoying a smooth ride on the world-stage, but brands such as BMW, Apple and Toyota seem relatively unaffected.
It is curious that national cultural characteristics are often associated with brands, yet political dimensions seem to be overlooked by the consumer, except where they impact norms of social responsibility. While the use of child labour, endangering life and limb or flouting environmental legislation may result in brand damage, governmental disasters or ineptitude appear to inhabit a separate realm.
I worked on major UK brands during past economic storms more damaging than those that Brexit portends – yet none seemed to suffer in terms of brand stature. That is not to say that profit performance was not affected by political climate and activity, but brand values and attributes were little affected.
In the consumer’s mind, brands exist in a different emotional category to that of national brands – such as so-called, ‘Brand Britain’. Fortnum’s do not seem to be suffering so far, despite Mr Venters’s warnings – posting a 14% rise in sales to £113m in the previous year with pre-tax profits rising 23p% to £7.6m.
International appetites for quality British brands are unlikely to be diminished by either the complexities of negotiations in Brussels or their outcome.
While politicians and economists negotiate, ponder and speculate, businesses and brand stewards will just get on with the job. It’s time for them to get on with brand dimensions they can affect. Businesses can be far more responsive to change than governments ever can.
Emotion not technology still rules auto brands http://ow.ly/unaY30fKicA
Does your brand know where it’s going? More importantly, do you know where you want it to go?
When developing a brand or briefing consultants it’s critical to consider what you want your brand to look like in, say, ten years time. Don’t focus on where you are now.
Where do you hope your business will be? Will it have grown, or relocated? What mix of products or services would you like it to be providing?
What do you think the world will look like – how will your market change? At the top of the list, what will your audience be – will you be selling to just the same people or perhaps a wider market, maybe more international – people who want different things from you.
A brand’s relationship with its audience is primarily an emotional one, so you need to spend some time considering what you want the nature of that relationship to be.
Where’s the brand going – and where are you going?
You also need to consider what your ambitions are for your business. Will it be a lifestyle business or will you be looking to sell? This could have a major impact on how you want your brand to be.
Consideration of your brand vision can be enjoyable and fun. It’s about looking at a big picture and your wishes and desires for that brand. You may be just at the start of that journey and are having to deal with all the day-to-day issues of the business. Taking time out to crystallise your dreams can re-energise you and your budding brand.
The same is true for a brand that’s been around for some time. Is the vision that existed at the start still there – is it still relevant for today – is it fit for tomorrow?
Take some time out to dream, then write down your vision. Allow your imagination to fly, don’t anchor it down.
Talk to others, discuss your vision. Colleagues may add to and enhance it. The more it is talked about, the more substance it will have and the more likely to be realised.
If you are working with outside consultants or specialists, your vision may be the most useful starting point you can give them, and a benchmark against which to measure results.
Interesting to consider and study the semiotics of desire. http://ow.ly/Gmuu30aD1pm
Example of China getting to grips with global brand-naming – a lesson for us all dealing with intercultural branding http://ow.ly/gM9Q309XAtx
We have seen a number of brands suffering reputational damage over recent years – BP, VW, Sports Direct, BHS – to name just four that spring readily to mind.
By comparison, the glitch at the Oscars is just an amusing sideshow. However, it brings into sharp focus the importance of attention to detail in everything a brand does. The bigger the brand the more small details matter.
Brands are about people – not only the people in the organisation, but the people with whom they interact. The brand exists at this nexus of interaction. The right brand values are shared throughout the organisation, so every point of interaction should reflect those values. That should include attention to detail in servicing customers and dealing with the world in general.
Mistakes happen, people are human. But often particular brands are chosen because among their perceived values are reliability and being a safe pair of hands. The brand has a reputation which has a tangible value.
For such brands, damage to that reputation can be costly.
Every brand loves to be involved in high profile projects as they have the potential for exposure and building that valuable reputation. However there is the very real danger of those human slips and errors, should they occur, happening in full public glare.
We all believe we know what we do and what benefits we offer potential clients. We put a lot of effort into our brand proposition and ‘elevator pitch.’ But it can be easy to be too close to our business and miss the very fundamentals that we take for granted.
I often lecture at universities on digital marketing to non-marketing students. I usually begin with a question, saying something like, “What is digital marketing… no, wait, first of all, what is MARKETING?”
As you can guess I get a lot of answers that are way off the mark, and hardly any that are near correct. That’s understandable because it’s not part of their day-to-day.
The question opens the door for me to present some definitions and introduce such ideas as the Marketing Concept and Philip Kotler’s thinking.
A good deal of the public misunderstanding and confusion may be blamed upon media misunderstanding and sloppy journalism. But it got me thinking: was I assuming that my business audience actually understand what we do?
I do quite a bit of networking and often describe my business in broad terms as a marketing consultancy, brand marketing or marketing communications specialist. But always using the term ‘marketing‘ and assuming it means the same thing to my audience as it does to me.
So, I decided to put it to the test – I asked various groups of businesspeople: “What is marketing? What do you understand by the term?” The results were worrying. There were lots of muddled ideas but very few understood the basic concept – unless, that is, the people were from associated fields (and surprisingly, even some of them had fuzzy definitions).
This presented me with a dilemma. I was using a term in our brand descriptor which most of my prospects did not fully understand. Of course, in presenting my proposition I go to some lengths to describe what we can do and what benefits we can deliver. However as a basic brand communications issue, I had a lot of thinking to do.
Many other businesses may fall into the same trap. You may be so familiar with what you do that it’s easy to assume a similar understanding from audiences. They will have a broad idea (we hope) but some important nuances may be lost.
Take the step
My advice would be to try that basic test on your prospective audience – ask them what they understand about what you really do. It could give you valuable insight into how you define your brand and fine-tune your proposition.
The Institute of Sales and Marketing Management has recently updated its identity and is now just the ‘ISM’ and it’s not clear which ‘M’ has been dropped. Hovering over the logo on their website shows the alt tag: ‘Institute of Sales and Marketing‘, while the copyright line on the foot of the same page states ‘Institute of Sales Management‘ – curious.
Throughout the rest of the site, the ISM acronym is used consistently. Though worryingly, this is also used by the ‘Institute of Supply Management’ and the ‘Incorporated Society of Musicians’ amongst others.
However, it’s not the nomenclature that is concerning. From the tone of the language and discourse it’s clear that we are now talking about pure sales skills and expertise. There is no mention of marketing. We must assume that this is a conscious policy decision and there has been a schism between sales and marketing in the eyes of the organisation.
This is intriguing – because a little while ago, I was at a CIM (Chartered Institute of Marketing) event where speakers were bemoaning the historic drifting apart of the two disciplines and suggesting both would benefit from bringing them back together.
As a marketer, I would like to see this re-engagement. I’m sure many of my fellow practitioners would benefit from the cross-fertilisation of ideas – and a straw poll of my sales friends suggests similar viewpoints.
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