The branding behaviours of high growth businesses

The most powerful brands mean something to people; they have values and are emotionally attractive to their target audience. Whether you look at a social-tech start-up like Instagram, which sold to Facebook for $1bn aged just 18 months old, or at UK consumer brands like Ella’s Kitchen, which at six years old now has 14% share of the UK baby food market and a turnover of £60m, the learnings are the same: They set out to create a new market or completely disrupt an old one. To do this you need to have a very clear idea of who you are and what you are doing, and this, whether you are B2C or B2B, is about branding.
Branding is often misconstrued to be the visual elements that represent your business, but to create effective brands, the real work starts long before the creative people are let loose with their colouring pencils. It is fundamental that the business team works together to answer some core questions first. So here are the five critical principles which we focus on at The Nurture Network to create stand-out brands from day one.
Who are you? What do you stand for?
Your brand positioning is the essence of what you are about, and what you want others to see you as. It should concisely sum up your brand – without fussy words, lengthy sentences, or explanatory sub headings, with language that emulates the impression you are trying to create. Crack this and your positioning builds to be emotive and more than the sum of its parts – effecting the whole of your business.
Paul Lindley, founder of Ella’s Kitchen, developed a brand positioning that effortlessly sums up their mission to revolutionise kids’ eating habits by making healthy food tasty and fun. This compelling positioning can be seen in their tactile packaging, the naming of their products as ‘The Red One’ and ‘The Yellow One’ and in the innovation that they develop.
Mean something to someone but not everyone
Never fall into the trap of trying to be liked by everyone. Head down this road (and many do) and you’ll be vanilla and not meaning anything to anybody.
Successful brands focus their energy on a distinct target audience looking to create a passionate bond with them, even though they may be hated by others. One of the most publicly extreme examples is from Mike Jefferies, CEO of Abercrombie and Fitch who famously said “We hire good-looking people in our stores… Good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people.”
Controversial as it is, they have marketing to generation-Y absolutely nailed – they understand them and focus on them only. The opposite of love is not hate – it is complacency – and complacent customers are not loyal. So decide who your ‘someone’ is – define them as one person and make, do and say everything with them in mind.
Define how you act
Whether you prefer to think of it as brand values, beliefs or business ways of working, capturing the way you want to act is vital to creating a scalable business. Left undefined, the way the founders or management team do things gets lost through the business and the customer experience becomes lacklustre.
How you act covers two areas – how you talk to consumers, and how you want everyone to act within your company: revolutionised the B2B stationary printing market with a simple online platform brought to life with a friendly brand tone-of-voice which talks customers through the process.
Defining how you want people in your business to act often comes down to ethics or values, but some businesses – such as Innocent – develop one central ‘way’ running across the team and to customers. They have job titles like chief mixer (for the product technologist), chief writer (for copy writer) which brings the personality we all recognise from their smoothie bottles within the office environment too.
Understand your visual codes
For every brand behemoth like Coca-Cola, there are thousands of newer brands trying to standing out and attract the attention of potential customers.
Your codes are those elements of your brand that customers associate with your product or service such as logo – but it doesn’t stop there. Your colour scheme, fonts, imagery and tone make up the brand codes that signal to customers it is you. Create strong enough visual codes and your customers will know it is you even when you play with your codes – like Google does with their daily doodles. This is how you can know the brand in a TV advert even before they expose the logo or product.
If you have a story, use it
Most entrepreneurial brands have one consistent thing – a powerful start-up story – and it can add depth and integrity to a brand for customers.
At Ella’s Kitchen, Paul Lindley’s job title is simply Ella’s Dad because he started the business to solve the problem of his daughter’s dislike of healthy foods. At bespoke tailoring company A Suit That Fits, the wonderful story of co-founder Warren teaching in Nepal underpins the ethical manufacture that continues to this day – and customers relate to the brand more because of this.
Branding is a complex and emotionally led business, but has tremendous power in its ability to connect with customers and drive that all-important thing called ‘loyalty’ that every high-growth business wants. If you want to address your branding take a look at our workshops – you could even do this with the benefit of support from GrowthAccelerator. Find out more email [email protected]
Written by Christina, a business marketing specialist and founder of The Nurture Network: The on-demand marketing department for ambitious start-ups, and entrepreneurial SMEs  – bringing great marketing people into your team just when you need them.