You’ve heard it all before: your brand matters. Countless articles claim that a strong brand is essential to long-term business success. However, branding is still something you find hard to relate to you and your business. So, could it be that you got the wrong idea about what branding is?
Branding can be a confusing and misunderstood topic. This is probably why many businesses shy away from it. However, a well-managed brand can give you a genuine long-term competitive advantage. This especially relevant if you are looking to accelerate your growth. Here we’ll aim to dispel some of the most common myths about branding.
Myth 1: Branding is only for multinational businesses
Most very well-known brands tend to also be huge global corporations, such as Apple, Ford or Sony. As a result, many people assume that only huge businesses have a brand.
Nothing could be further from the truth. All businesses have a brand, regardless of their size or industry sector.
Your brand is what people feel and think about you when they see or hear your company name. In a nutshell, it is your reputation, and who hasn't got one? As the CEO of Amazon, Jeff Bezos, says: "Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room."
By managing your brand, you will shape your reputation in the marketplace. A powerful way to convince more people to do business with you and increase customer loyalty. Also as Lord Karan Bilimoria, the founder of Cobra beer says 'A strong brand will get you through a crisis’.
Keep in mind that sometimes, the best way to revitalise a brand which has been neglected for a few years will be to rebrand.
You have a brand whether you look after it or not. But if you don't take it seriously, who will?
Myth 2: Branding is only for consumer brands
The most famous worldwide brands tend to influence how we see branding as a whole, as they are so visible . On the whole, they tend to be consumer brands operating in the Business to Consumer (B2C) sector.
As a result, many businesses operating in the Business to Business sector (B2B) assume branding isn't relevant to them.
Indeed, few see building and managing their brand as a priority. If you operate in the B2B sector, you might even rarely use the word branding yourself. You use words such as credentials or reputation when talking about your company. But, these are critical components of any brand.
The main difference between B2C and B2B marketing is the vocabulary used. In both cases, the goal is the same: convince others to buy from you. Their decision will be influenced by how well you communicate your company strengths to them and the strength of your brand.
Also in the B2B sector, price and risk tend to be two of the most critical purchase decision factors. The last thing you want is to do is compete on price alone, as this is a race towards the bottom.
Have you noticed how companies with a strong brand tend to be seen as a less risky choice? Clients are happy to pay more for the reassurance that buying from them gives. These businesses are less under pressure to competing on price, which results in better margins with every sale.
Myth 3: Branding doesn’t impact business performance
Many businesses find it hard to measure how something like branding could impact business growth. In the day-to-day running of your business, branding seems distant and abstract. Something nice to have, but with no real link to the bottom line.
It's important to dream big, even if you are not planning to become a giant like Google or JPMorgan Chase. A strong brand can help you boost growth by giving your business better visibility in your wider marketplace.
In fact, many small businesses have achieved stunning growth in highly competitive sectors by focusing on building their brand.
In Italy, branding seems to scare many SMEs. Velasca Milano is a young company selling handcrafted men shoes and accessories. They managed to achieve a stunning growth over the last five years by focusing on branding from day one.
They defined the Velasca’s brand as a mix of tradition, passion and innovation. This is encapsulated in their brand value proposition ‘The future of tradition’, featured in all their marketing material.
Their story is a good example that great products aren't enough to succeed in a highly competitive industry sector such as fashion. By combining great products with a great brand, Velasca Milan managed to find their niche. The success of the business is directly linked to this winning combination. Branding runs through every aspect of the company, from the core business strategy to marketing and the products themselves.
Branding enabled this small company – which owns only three stores across Italy and sells mainly online and – to become a recognised luxury brand and grow much faster than competitors.
This chosen example is from the B2C sector, just because it's easier to relate to. However, in any industry sector where there is competition to become market leader, there are leading brands which dominate the market.
This is the power of branding, and you should take advantage of it.
François Reynier François Reynier is Creative Director of Acacia, a multilingual marketing consultancy working across borders, languages and cultures.
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How building a strong brand increases client loyalty and profitability
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France's far-right party, The Front National recently rebranded. It even changed its name to Rassemblement National. It is the first time since its foundation in 1972 that this party rebranded itself. Why did the party undertake such a drastic change of image?
It takes a long time for a brand to become a household name at a national level. As the saying goes, if something isn't broken, don't fix it. Something must definitely be broken to justify such a radical rebranding.
Rebranding a large organisation like a political party is an expensive and intricate process. So this is a decision that the Front National probably didn't take lightly.
It is no secret that the current leader; Marine Le Pen; struggled for years to reform the party. Historically, the Front National has been a protest extremist party with no real capabilities of winning office. Marine Le Pen tried to transform the party into a well-run political machine. Her goal was to have a better chance of winning a Presidential election one day. However, over the years many many critics have argued that the Front National never changed. To many, it is still a very radical movement with a sulfurous past.
Appealing to people's aspirations to convince them to take action, as politicians do, is fundamentally a branding exercise.
The main reason behind the rebranding is Marine Le Pen's wish not to remain associated with the Front National's history. It is a radical move in trying to change the party's image among French voters.
A political party's image is key to winning votes. Its brand is its 'raison d'être' at a core level.
Appealing to people's aspirations to convince them to take action, as politicians do, is fundamentally a branding exercise. Many businesses probably wish for their clients and employees to become raving and loyal fans.
Ultimately, businesses with a reputable brand carve a niche for themselves and feel less under pressure to compete on price. It is actually the opposite: well-known brands always charge more than lesser-known ones. This holds true in the B2B sector as it does in the B2C sector.
However, some businesses still don't take their brand seriously. They believe that branding is only for large corporations such as Apple or Coca-Cola and that they don't need to build and nurture their brand. Every business or organisation has a brand, whether they look after it or not. Companies investing in their brand get an instant competitive edge in their marketplace. They do something that most of their competitors don't and increase their visibility.
There are many reasons why organisations rebrand. It can be updating an outdated image or attracting a wider audience. However, the goal is always the same: to become and remain leaders in their field for many years to come. So next time you look at your business plan's five years goals, ask yourself if your current branding will help or hinder you in achieving these big hairy goals. Maybe a radical change of image is in order.
Growing your business in France could mean better profits and bigger margins than in the UK. So why ignore such a natural market to approach?
France is a golden opportunity to British businesses. And not only because of its geographical proximity.
Did you know that France is the 5th largest economy in the world and the 3rd largest consumer market in Europe?
Also, the French economy has also proven resilient to recent recessions. An attractive proposition to businesses concerned about possible economic turmoils following Brexit.
By the way, don’t let Brexit should lead you to think that you shouldn't consider this vast market. On the contrary: 2018 might be the best time to explore France while access remains friction-free. Strong business connections made before Brexit will become even more valuable post-Brexit.
To maximise your chances of success, you need to prepare well your entry into the French market. So what is the most common and rarely mentioned mistake to avoid?
At Acacia, we have seen many businesses forgetting the need to position themselves differently in France than in the UK.
It is easy to assume that a marketing message that works well in the UK will foster similar positive results in France.
Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Marketing campaigns which might have done well in the UK could backfire in France.
First impressions matter. There are no second chances, even more so with foreign audiences.
Positioning your business effectively in the French market before making any approaches is key to success. Often, you will need to position your business offer differently than in the UK. On the upside, this might enable you to command higher prices and better margins than in the UK.
First impressions matter. There are no second chances, even more so with foreign audiences.
For example, an independent Kentish brewery is only one among many competitors with similar offering in the UK market. In France on the other hand, its Britishness could become a competitive advantage, and even a key selling point. This Brewery position itself as quintessentially British in France. This positioning will attract discerning French customers willing to pay more for imported beers.
The same beer could sell for much higher prices and generate more significant margins in France than in the UK. Isn't that an opportunity worth exploring?
Effective market positioning doesn't just apply to products, but also to services, one of the major exports of the UK economy worldwide. British innovation is in high demand, notably in technology, engineering and life sciences.
Deciding how to position your business in France could be confusing. Getting an outside perspective from a consultant with real knowledge of the French market can help.
It is important to remember that your export project is a communication project before being an export project.
In France like anywhere else, making your business offer attractive and distinctive is an essential step to success.
If you believe that rebranding is only for big corporations, think again. Rebranding could be the best thing you'll do this year to re-energise your business and attract new clients.
All businesses, regardless of their size, need to adapt to changes in their marketplace to stay relevant.
Often the changes taking place within the business are gradual. However, every few years you’ll need to change your business model significantly to take it to the next stage of growth.
When your business evolves to better answer the needs of your market, the market need to know. You do this by rebranding.
By rebranding, you show the intent of staying relevant in an evolving marketplace. It shows the world you mean business.
Don't forget that we now live a digital world. The first contact between potential customers and your business is likely to be online. The first thing they'll see is your brand message before you even have the chance to talk to them. Your brand, which communicates how you can help them, becomes more critical than ever.
However, keep in mind that a successful rebranding of your business will not be a small undertaking. It is far more than commissioning a new logo or refreshing the look of the website.
When your business evolves to better answer the needs of your market, the market need to know. You do this by rebranding.
Rebranding is an in-depth strategic process. It involves assessing and defining what is at the core of your business. By rebranding you'll redefine why your business exists, the problems it solves for its clients and how to turn your vision into reality.
Of course, rebranding might involve a new logo or website, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. The process of rebranding goes much broader and more profound.
Ask yourself: What is our reason for being? What makes us unique in the market? What is our visibility in today’s marketplace? Are we still relevant to our audience, or are competitors overtaking us?
Answering these questions can sometimes be difficult. However, if you aren't clear about what your business stands for and what makes it unique, why should your customers? So why should they buy from you?
Rebranding helps you to refocus your business to where the best growth opportunities are. Next time you review your business and wonder how to take it to the next level; a rebranding could be the answer.
Often British companies assume that simply using marketing material which has worked well in the UK by simply translating the copy in French will foster similar positive results. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Marketing campaigns which might have done exceedingly well in the UK could seriously backfire in France.
First impressions matter. To successfully convert first approaches into credentials meetings and sales, you will need to tailor your marketing message to the needs and expectations of the French market.
Communicating to a French-speaking audience isn’t a matter of just a literal language translation; the meaning needs to be communicated in a way that makes sense to a local audience very different from British audiences.
This is why it pays to have a good understanding of the cultural and socioeconomic differences of your specific French-speaking target audience. Other aspects of marketing, such as positioning, branding and your online and offline communications will also to be carefully designed to win French hearts and minds.
To successfully convert first approaches into credentials meetings and sales, you need to tailor your marketing message to the needs and expectations of the French market.
1) Start with positioning It is critical to accurately assess how best to position your products and services to the French market before making initial approaches. More often than not you will need to position your business offer differently than in the British market.
For example, a small family-owned brewery in the UK might find itself in the British market in direct competition with numerous businesses with similar offerings as well as leading British beers brands with large advertising budgets. As a result, to differentiate itself, it might be forced to position itself as a very local producer, emphasizing its strong geographical roots and historical heritage.
Also, its pricing will be dictated by the average price competitors charge for a similar product, directly affecting margins and bottom line. Its core UK customer base might be rather traditional and middle-aged, as a younger crowd might shun traditional brands. On the other hand, in France, the same product will only need to compete with far less family-owned breweries with a similar British heritage.
More often than not you will need to position your business offer differently than in the British market.
As a result, it could be seen as rather exotic and will attract a younger crowd who likes to be recognised as discerning drinkers with a knowledge of hard-to-find British beers.
To attract this market, the advertising message will need to be entirely different than the one used in the UK. The exact same product will be positioned at a higher-end of the drinks market and will command higher prices, generating better margins than in the UK with each sale.
Your brand is a the centre of how your business is perceived and ultimately its reputation, especially abroad.
2) Have an unforgettable brand Your brand is a the center of how your business is perceived and ultimately its reputation, especially abroad. The role of your brand as a business tool to grow sales is even more critical in a foreign market than in your home market, where other factors such as a long-established presence will play in your favour.
Once you have established what your business positioning will be in France, you’ll need to adapt your brand messaging and brand identity accordingly.
Here cultural differences play a massive role, especially in business to business relationships.
If your brand doesn’t resonate with your French prospects, they won’t make any attempt to dig deeper to find out more about your products and offer; they’ll just walk away.
Cultural differences play a massive role, especially in business to business relationships.
Every aspect of how your communication will come under scrutiny: how your present your business on your website and brochures, but also the kind of colours and imagery you use.
In some cases the right approach is to emphasise the Britishness of your brand, in others, you’ll need to do the complete opposite and have the kind of brand French people are very familiar and comfortable with. 3) Build a solid digital presence In today’s digital world the most reliable source for up-to-date information about any organisation is its official website but also the sum of all its online activities.
Depending on what you are trying to sell, it might be better to create a dedicated French-speaking microsite fully tailored to the sensibilities of the French market rather than having a French-language section on your main website. This would be particularly effective when trying to push specific products, which might not be the ones you usually promote in the UK market.
A well-crafted website will give your business significant exposure which will only grow over time. Also use social media proactively to connect with other like-minded French businesses, advertise events and attract traffic to your website.
A lot of communication is now digital, but the ultimate goal in business to business relationships is for people to meet people.
Sadly, all too often, event-specific communications such as exhibition stands, brochures and leaflets are overlooked and cheaply produced. When taking into account the costs and time involved in attending events abroad it is important to remember then how you promote your business at events will have a direct impact on the number and quality of leads generated.
Entering a new market takes time, but today it can be faster and easier than ever before.
5) Define a time-bound plan of action In any endeavor, the hardest thing is often to get started. Also, things might take longer than what you are used to in the UK. Start by writing a 12-month marketing plan or get a specialist to help in drafting a realistic plan of action. This will enable you to assess how much time and resources you will need to allocate to tackle the French market on a monthly basis. Entering a new market takes time, but today it can be faster and easier than ever before. Effective marketing activities will play an essential part in enabling you to connect with prospects and convert them into paying customers within a reasonable time frame.
During Emmanuel Macron’s visit to the UK last January, France has expressed its long-term commitment to retaining strong links with the UK post-Brexit. This makes 2018 is probably the best year for UK SMEs to consider trading in France.
Just over a year ago, in January 2017, the International Trade Secretary declared 2017 as the ‘Year of Exporting’ and encouraged British businesses to seek new markets abroad? It's worth noting that the export trade, notably to Europe, contributes a staggering £511 billion to the UK’s GDP.
A year on, many British SMEs still struggle to find clients abroad and are often unsure as to whether they should trade in Europe given the uncertainty about the future trading relationship with our closest neighbour, after Brexit.
In times of uncertainty, the common prevailing wisdom is to wait and see. However those who proactively seek new opportunities while everyone else stands still are more likely to achieve substantial growth.
So why specifically explore the French market, and why now?
We all know that France is the closest and easiest market to access geographically, but we often forget it's also Europe's 2nd largest economy and the 6th largest in the world.
Overall it is a similar market to the UK with regards to its regulations, and the French economy has proven to be historically resilient and stable. It is less prone to boom and bust cycles and was less affected by the recent recessions than other countries. Because of the market profile similarities between France and the UK, business in demand in the UK is in good standing to find a market in France.
Furthermore, 2018 is a good time to approach the French market as the current French government is committed to making it easier for foreign businesses to trade in France. So we can see, many things are aligned to help British SMEs trade in France: ease of access, new export grants, and a desire for foreign investment..
In 2018 many things are aligned to help British SMEs trade in France: ease of access, new export grants, and a desire for foreign investment.
Whether you are looking for clients, resellers or strategic partners to grow your business, France offers a wealth of opportunities across all industry sectors. Don’t let Brexit lead you to think that you shouldn’t consider this huge market, because, in fact, the time is ripe for trading with France.
The real question is: is there a market for your specific products or services in France and if so why leave it to your competitors?
At the centre of your business is your team, they are the face of your company to your clients. However, have you noticed that on many company websites people look worse than in real life? Not the best way to make a first impression.
Because we live in a digital world, which lacks human connection, many businesses rightly feel the need to bring their team to the forefront of their online presence, with detailed biographies of sometimes all team members on their website.
Having photographic headshots of your team is great, however having and maintaining a professional photo library of a large team presents some challenges you might be familiar with:
1) The cost of commissioning new photography every time someone joins Often the initial set of team members' photographs is done by a professional photographer. However, the additional expense and logistics of commissioning additional photography each time someone joins are sometimes seen as too much of a hurdle.
As a result, new portraits often will instead be produced in-house and will look very different from the professionally commissioned portraits.
2) Getting high-quality photography when doing it in-house Doing all photography in-house is often seen as acceptable, however, sometimes the quality of the results isn't much better than photo booth mugshots, and doesn't make your team look their best. This is because a professional portrait photographer knows how to use light to make people look great, as well as how to make them feel relaxed and comfortable in front of the camera. These skills take years of practice to master. Of course, some businesses are happy with whatever comes out of the camera. However, if you have read this far, you are probably not one of them.
3) Getting consistent portraits done across several offices For businesses with offices across different cities or countries, the costs of commissioning professional photography will multiply and so will the chances of getting unsatisfactory and inconsistent results when doing it all in-house.
As an alternative to photography, commissioning portrait illustrations of your team not only prevents the potential problems above but also offers some real advantages which are often overlooked.
1) Illustration is often cheaper and easier to commission than photography There are of course costs involved in commissioning professional illustrations. However, this is usually cheaper and logistically easier to commission than photography. No need to travel to the photographer's studio or to block the meeting room each time a new portrait is needed. All the illustrator needs are a couple of recent head shots, usually done on a mobile phone. Illustrations can be produced remotely for all your offices, with minimum disruptions to day-to-day activities.
2) You create a memorable look for your company I created the portraits illustrations above as part of a series of directors portraits for a firm of fire engineers. No-one else in their industry uses portrait illustration.
As a result, they immediately differentiated themselves at first sight from all their competitors.
3) You have more stylistic freedom than with photography, There are endless styles of illustrations, giving you the opportunity to create a unique look for your company, reflecting its values, strengths and personality.
4) You give new team members something truly unique As well as benefiting external marketing, commissioning illustrations of teams members makes you stand out as an employer. We all know a high-performing team is a team who feels valued. Millennials are even more sensitive to this.
How many of us have had an original portrait of themselves hand-drawn when starting a new job?
I hope this is useful in helping you considering illustration next time you feel that you're not getting the results you need or want from photography.