A very very simple introduction to brand strategy

For this very very simple intro to brand strategy I’m going to use an example that I have used quite a few times in talks and coaching sessions. Every time I use it I am quite surprised how many people get the answer ‘wrong’.

Apologies in advance for the very middle-class example, but it’s a tried-and tested way to prove the point. The question is this; Which of these building companies is more likely to be successful?

1. The London Loft Company

2. The London Loft and Kitchen Company

3. The London Kitchen Company

More often than not people answer number 2, arguing that this company can do more work than the other two, so is more likely to be successful. This tends to seem reasonable to most people in the room. If you agree, read on. If you don’t you can stop here. 

I then ask, “If you needed a loft conversion, which would you call first?” to which the answer is No.1 – The London Loft Company. Why? Because they are specialists at the job that you need done. 

Next I will ask, “If you need a kitchen extension, which would you call first?” to which the answer is No.3 – The London Kitchen Company. Why? Because they are specialists in the job that you need doing in that situation. 

It then clicks that other people will think the same way that they think and that actually the company that they had thought was going to be most successful actually has the lowest chance of success, because people want to use specialists in the job that they need done. ‘The London Loft and Kitchen Company’ is the only obviously wrong answer from the 3.

So the very first and most basic lesson to learn in brand strategy is that specialism is good.

When looking at your brand strategy a good starting point is asking the question “What do you want to be famous for?”. A lot of people get famous for one thing, very few get famous for more than one. Seth Rogen regularly posts about his pottery, but he’s famous as an actor. Ronnie Wood is a great painter, but he’s famous as a Rolling Stone. There are the exceptions that prove the rule, but they don’t always complement each other… no matter how much you like Jared Leto and 30 Seconds to Mars, it’s hard to claim Alexander is a good film, arguably, the film Alexander is damaging to the ‘30 seconds to Mars brand’. There are others like Emma Watson, an accomplished campaigner and UN Goodwill Ambassador, but she has done this by ‘building her brand’ as an actress first and then ‘leveraging her brand equity built as an actor’ for her other roles (I am aware this is probably not how she would phrase it). The best thing you can do as a brand, especially at the start, is to do one thing and do it well. 

To go deeper into the importance of brand strategy we can look at the other 2 companies; The London Loft Company and The London Kitchen Company. If you were launching a building company which would be the right choice?

For the purposes of this article, let’s assume the skillset is the same. If your team can do lofts they can do kitchens and vice versa. Apologies to anyone I have offended if this isn’t correct.

To work out which brand/specialism to go for you can look at a few things:

1. Customer demand: Are there more people out there wanting kitchen extensions or loft conversions?

2: Competition: Which jobs are more companies going after? Even if there is more customer demand for lofts this does not mean it’s the right choice, if there are already a lot of companies servicing that demand and less companies (pro rata Vs demand) serving the demand for kitchens. In that case kitchens may be the right answer.

3: Income Vs Time per project: How much income do you get from each project and how long does each take? This then has to be matched to demand and your core competencies. If you are very good at sales, you might want to do a lot more, quicker jobs, with less income per job, as that gets you more work over all. If you aren’t good at selling you might want higher priced, longer jobs, as you want to make more money per sales conversion. This can be built into your brand and marketing strategy; ie “London Bespoke Kitchens” – longer, higher-priced jobs Vs “London Kitchens; Guaranteed turnaround in 2 months” – quicker, lower-priced jobs.

4: Market dynamics: Is there a growth in home-working that will lead to people wanting their lofts converting into offices? If so you may even want to launch “The London Office Loft Company”. Is there a similar dynamic that affects the kitchen market?

There will be many more points that you can take into consideration. My point here is not to work out whether anyone should launch a loft or kitchen company, but to explain that idea that you need to look at, and analyse, your market before you launch any product or company.

You then use the information that you have gathered from your analysis to determine:

– What the best opportunity is

– Who the customer for this opportunity is

– What this customer wants

You then build your brand in a way that appeals to that customer and explains to them in their terms and shows how and why your brand best meets their needs.

Kevin Costner famously said in Field of Dreams, “If you build it they will come”. Kevin Costner was wrong. Loads of people start brands and businesses and the majority of them fail. If you get your brand strategy right from the start you give yourself a far greater chance of success.