Brand on the run

4 min read

Your company’s image has a huge impact on corporate success – and often starts from within, says Scott McCubbin, associate director, Uniform

Any established manufacturer who has a vast sales network across Europe with household brand name products, should be guaranteed success. However, this isn’t always the case. In an era of continual and accelerating change, many manufacturers are struggling to prioritise and are losing sight of what’s of critical importance: a clear and compelling purpose.

In 1961, when John F Kennedy was visiting NASA for the first time, he asked a cleaner who was mopping the floor “what do you do for NASA?”. The man responded, “Well Mr President, I am helping put a man on the moon.”

The cleaner’s response gives a real insight into how much clarity NASA placed on purpose. NASA is a large and extremely complex organisation, yet the leadership was still able to create unity around a single idea that gave everyone that worked there (and beyond) a sense they were contributing to something much bigger. That period in time is often described as the ‘golden era’ for NASA and it’s easy to see why.

The idea of defining (or redefining) a company's brand purpose is often lost in today’s ever-changing and complex world and many companies fall short of either not clearly defining purpose or creating a purpose that makes little sense to either customer or employee.

One clear example of over-stretching a brand purpose is the drinks manufacturer, Pepsi. Last year Pepsi released an ad starring Kendall Jenner centred around the idea that somehow, a can of Pepsi is the catalyst for world peace. According to YouGov, the brand experienced its lowest consumer perception levels in nearly ten years and has taken nearly a year to recover since the campaign.

On the flipside, Dyson are a great example of a brand with a clear purpose: to solve problems that others seem to ignore. And commercially, they position the brand around this idea which ensures everyone from employees, to customers understand that Dyson stands for innovation and quality.

Brand alignment

As brand experts at Uniform, we have worked with many manufacturers to help them define and communicate purpose to stakeholders. This can range from a complete overhaul of the brand strategy resulting in a new identity, to repositioning companies centred around a new or evolved purpose.

An example of this is Ideal Standard. Established more than a century ago, Ideal Standard manufactures bathroom ware and plumbing fixtures throughout Europe, Middle East and Africa, including at factories in Staffordshire and Hull. Although the company has a rich history of design and innovation, in recent years the brand has become more synonymous with volume and value with its customers and competing on price with an increasing number of competitors.

By trying to grow into new markets and sectors, Ideal Standard developed new product ranges that satisfied a wider customer base, but they were not aligned to a clear brand direction. Over time, this diluted what made Ideal Standard special and created a portfolio of product brands that seemed unrelated and unclear, making the only differentiation price.

Ideal Standard worked with Uniform to boost its brand, both in terms of how it was perceived by consumers, but also internally. It’s critical for any partner to understand the nuances of your sector so that challenges can create opportunities and help shape the strategic direction.

Following a period of initial immersion and stakeholder engagement, the new strategy for Ideal Standard was built on heritage, re-establishing the company’s design credentials. A clear purpose and unifying idea, alongside aligned messaging and a coherent look and feel, underpins a portfolio of brands that are now better connected.

New products are also being developed that place the importance on design, creating a halo effect across the established ranges. Communications are no longer fragmented across sectors and ranges, but part of a holistic framework making it easier to cross or up-sell.

Most importantly, the reaction internally was extremely positive, reinvigorating culture and giving all employees a sense of togetherness and focus, which in turn is impacting the bottom-line.

The benefits of a clear message

The power of a brand is one of the most valuable assets a company owns. If brand strategy is done well, it can impact far more than just marketing communication, it can transform every aspect of your business. From our experience of working on many projects like Ideal Standard we’ve identified five benefits of a clear brand purpose:

  1. Attract new customers

During the process of positioning/repositioning a brand, it is essential to build a clear understanding of your customer through engagement. This process not only gives you incredible insight and understanding of your customer, it helps build brand loyalty.

  • Command a better price

A strong brand positioning should place the company in uncontested market space, providing a compelling reason for customers to buy. The brands that establish this meaningful differentiation in the market are able to justify their worth and command higher prices for their products or services.

  • Close sales more easily

Well-defined brands are easier to sell because their positioning is woven into their brand narrative. The arguments for the unique superiority of your products or services have already been articulated through your brand strategy. With a cohesive and compelling brand, most of the work is already done for the salesperson before the initial conversation. Branding gives your sales team the advantage it needs to close deals with confidence and ease.

  • Reduce marketing costs

A cohesive, well-articulated brand increases the efficiency and effectiveness of all your marketing initiatives. By creating a better understanding of your audience, you can develop campaigns with highly relevant messaging targeted at your most valuable customer segments.

  • Boost company value

Brand equity is a powerful thing. Not only does it allow you to increase the price point of your products and services, it also has a measurable effect on the share price as well. How a brand is perceived determines how its customers behave, and customer behaviour determines your brand’s financial performance. The long-term upshot of branding is that the brand itself becomes a more valuable asset when it comes time to sell the company.

Businesses are always evolving, but should always stay true to the core value of the brand. Continual evolution can move a business away from its purpose just as technology and customer needs change but remaining true to brand values enables all audiences to understand the offer.

Only then can a business reach its true commercial potential, with staff, customers and investors completely on board and able to understand the very simple question of ‘why does their business matter?’ and ‘why should anyone care?’ The pace of change means that in highly charged, highly competitive markets where less expensive rivals will always undercut, brand is the catalyst that can override all other factors.