What is a brand? A fairly straightforward question but with many struggling to define it accurately it seemed worthy of a a short definition from someone who spends a lot of time progressing businesses from companies to brands.
A brand is ultimately the message (tangible, intangible or both) that you want to convey to your customers and your staff. You hope to do this through the actions you take, the products you sell and the manner in which you sell them.
So why do many struggle…?
Let’s take the case of a shopper who comes into your store to purchase garments for a specific use such as an outdoor adventure trip in a warm climate. They want these to be hardwearing, but lightweight and cool, easy to wash and crease resistant. Your store team provide great customer service giving all the options and the drawbacks with each item. The advice turned out to be so accurate the purchaser is delighted with the garments. On returning from their adventure they instantly recognise your logo as embodying so many great qualities: understanding, knowledgeable and considerate staff and a ‘business’ that sells products that were completely fit for purpose.
Now let’s look at a negative message. A recent example came to light when one of my family members applied for a position at a retailer’s latest store opening. My teenage son, like his father, is a keen sailor and so in looking for his first part-time job he was drawn to one particular brand, Fat Face. He had a good interview and was told he would be put forward to the manager when he returned to work the following week. My son offered to work over Christmas (but not Boxing Day) and every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday as well as every weekend apart from Sunday. Quite a commitment for a young man with his final year of ‘A’ levels still ahead of him, but one that would nonetheless still give him Sundays to sail.
So when he called the store back a few days later as suggested to see if he’d been successful with his interview, learning that he hadn’t was disappointing but nothing that he couldn’t handle. However, what seemed really hard to accept was the reason he’d been unsuccessful. This was because another candidate could work longer hours. Why this is so surprising though is due to Fat Face’s ‘brand values’. Here’s what they say on their website…
“It all began in 1988, two friends desperately trying to avoid working for a living and enjoying all that the French Alps had to offer. The life was too good to end soon, but money was running short. A plan was needed! Design some sweatshirts, sell them at night, ski during the day, stick around till (sic) Spring then head for the beach. Fat Face had been born.”
“Here at Fat Face we love life outside the 9-5 and being outdoors”, “When creating Fat Base, we wanted to bring an essence of what we’re all about; reminding us all of the importance of life outside the 9 to 5. From meetings in a caravan, to lunch at a surfboard in the Fat Shack Café, this couldn’t be any further from your average office”
Yes, that’s right they do say “reminding us all of the importance of life, and loving life outside the 9-5”…really is that true or does this sound like another ‘brand’ that wants to believe its own hype, but actually fails to deliver this message to its team managers who in reality select candidates based on working an inordinate amount of hours with little time for ‘play’? What kind of staff you employ within your business, and ultimately the messages you as employers convey, will ultimately be the real brand message that hits the streets.
Businesses survive based on what people perceive of them, so branding is not just important, it’s business critical. It’s what makes everyone different…but only if it’s true. If it’s not true then the reality is, that for the people you serve, you might be more or less the same as any other retailer with similar attitudes to branding; put some interesting text on your website and hope it appeals to the reader. In this case my son felt Fat face were the business he wanted to be a part of, to contribute to as a lover of the outdoors. But in reality it appears that Fat Face want you to work long hours with no time to bring your love of the outdoors to their customers?
But it’s critical that brands truly define who they are so that they can a) stand out amongst the crowd, b) develop loyalty and c) ultimately transcend the corporate image. Do this and everyone benefits.
If you recognise this problem within your company and want to discuss further what we could do for you, please do get in touch by calling 01788-815327.