On 24th September, Erevena welcomed a panel of experienced marketeers to discuss how best to build brands that consumers love. Our three guest speakers, Martin Stead (CEO at Nutmeg, the largest digital wealth manager in the UK), Nicola Anderson (CMO at MyTutor.co.uk, the UK’s leading online platform for one-to-one tuition), and Rafe Offer (Founder and Executive Chair at Sofar Sounds, a global movement bringing the magic back to live music), brought to the table their vast and varied experience in creating brands that successfully resonate with customers.
The discussion was centred around three primary themes:
- What is ‘brand’ and how do you build one?
- How do you measure success?
- How do you build effective brand/consumer relationships?
What is brand?
Beginning the discussion with the question “what is brand?”, the panellists concluded it to be something that grows inside out from the people within the company. As Rafe argued, the impact that employees have on brand is more important than surface-level tools, such as logo, language, and general aesthetic. Nicola illustrated this with the example of Monzo; part of the reason their branding is so successful comes from their consistently excellent customer service.
However, prior to a company having employees to grow the brand, foundations must be established. For Rafe, these brand foundations come from a guiding “North Star”. Often the most successful brands develop out of a desire to solve a problem currently experienced by customers. A great example of this is Sofar Sounds’ brand originating in the shared desire to “bring the magic back to live music”; this has become the nucleus around which the company revolves.
“If the core product (or idea) is amazing, it will speak for itself” – Rafe
Drawing on this, Martin emphasised that a company needs to be clear in their mission and purpose. Particularly for early stage businesses, the story of why something was founded and how it is disruptive is exciting to tell and formulates the company’s core identity.
“In terms of building your brand, the most important thing is actually authenticity about who you are” – Martin
Establishing brand from within
A common mistake is to view brand as a marketing responsibility. Instead it needs to be a seed that spreads through the business in a series of collaborations between departments. Nicola illustrated the importance of this through her experience of rebranding MyTutor. Their first attempt at rebranding had failed due to the task being undertaken solely by the marketing team, who represented only a portion of the company. Learning from this, the second effort was led by open discussions during which every department was represented. This ensured internal agreement with the new brand direction and allowed Nicola to successfully launch the rebranding to a positive reception from both employees and customers.
Responding to the question of how often a business should think about rebranding, Martin emphasised the responsibility that comes with inheriting a brand. It is crucial to understand the brand’s roots, and these should be the guiding inspiration for future improvements and the growth of the brand.
“The way I measure personal success is ‘did I leave that brand in a better place than when I inherited it?’” – Martin
Similarly highlighting the importance of engaging with the history of the brand, Nicola ensures all new starters are given brand sessions and Rafe hosts weekly or bi-weekly meetings with all employees; this prevents everyone from losing sight of the core foundations of the brand as the company continues to grow.
Brand is something that produces both tangible and intangible results, and both are important to consider. Martin encouraged finding a balance between making use of metrics and A/B testing, whilst simultaneously not obsessing over performance marketing statistics, as brand extends deeper than this. He succinctly summarised the ways he measures brand success:
- Growth of the company
- New customers
That said, the amount of data and metrics currently accessible can often be overwhelming. Acknowledging this, Rafe stressed that it is what you do with this information that is most important; businesses should be seeking quality over quantity when it comes to measuring brand success so that effective decisions can be made.
Nicola also added that it is also vital to question why something did not work. Branding techniques, whether they fail or succeed, should be tested properly in order to draw constructive conclusions for future efforts.
Additionally, much of the success that stems from branding is intangible and this is equally important to consider.
Martin explained that this is largely due to successful brands inciting trust from their customers and developing a relationship that extends beyond statistics; something that is applicable to all industries, be they finance, music, or education.
In order to develop this relationship, it is crucial to understand what people care about. Consequently, our panellists collectively concluded that the key questions to ask when building a brand are “who are your targets?” and “what is the best way to connect with them?”. Both Nicola and Martin aptly highlight that this should not be forgotten with B2B companies; decision makers are also people, and the importance of communication and connection should not be undermined.
“What do your customers think your brand is? That is your brand.” – Nicola
Martin additionally advocated for experimenting with different mediums of marketing. He found television to be a particularly effective way of telling his brand’s story and connecting with potential customers.
Brand is often viewed as an expensive and immeasurable channel within marketing, qualitative rather than quantitative. It is therefore often eschewed by cash-poor start-ups, who focus on customer acquisition through digital channels, with brand as an afterthought. However, brand is not simply the logo or general aesthetic, it is both the internal and external messaging of who you are as a business, what you are there to do, and who you are aiming to serve. Brands need to resonate with their target markets. It is, therefore, vital that companies define who they are, and ensure that all employees have an engaged understanding of this. This is equally important in both B2B and B2C businesses, as ultimately the buyers across both are first and foremost people. Keeping the “North Star” at the centre of any brand strategy is the key to success.