There are so many brands I admire from the iconic market leaders like Land Rover, Aston Martin, Cartier and Chanel that have managed to retain their credibility for decades, to more recent success stories like Jo Malone and Ultimo.
One thing they all have in common is a unified approach and a clearly defined set of values that their target consumer is going to identify with and aspire to.
When starting a business, branding is the first thing you need to nail in your business plan before you tackle the nitty gritty of numbers, projections and cash-flow. A small local business can hardly expect to match the brand power of these heavyweights, but you can certainly strive to be the most powerful within your target market.
When I started my business, defining where I wanted my brand to sit in the market was absolutely crucial. The events linen and chair cover sector is a crowded marketplace with lots of products of a similar quality, all competing on price so I had to differentiate my business. If you’re competing on price eventually you have nowhere to go, so I was always clear that I wanted to compete on quality.
From the start I knew the key words I wanted customers to associate with my business – quality, innovation, aspiration and creativity.
Choosing a name that encapsulated the business’s core values was also key. I chose Simply Bows & Chair Covers because we purely do linen and chair covers rather than being a jack of all trades. We don’t dabble in floristry or event management, instead preferring to focus on one specialism and do it well.
I tend to agree with brand expert John Parham who says “It’s better to be clear than to be clever”.
Building a brand that has longevity is all about consistency. So my logo, website, marketing material, uniforms and vans all reflect that. You have to be prepared to stand by your initial marketing strategy too. I’ve turned down business when it’s all been about price, because I didn’t want to compromise my brand values.
Maintaining brand power is all about customer experience. Marketing guru Simon Bradley has managed to do this brilliantly with Virgin Atlantic. This relatively small airline is competing with the big boys but has carved out a niche identity by defining its customers as “adventurous mavericks” who want something a bit different. So their planes are more like ultra-cool but fun boutique hotels. Passengers can have a drink in the onboard bars, enjoy a massage or get their nails buffed. The resultant word of mouth is like “little earthquakes going on all over the place” according to Bradley.
Satisfied customers will always spread the word. It’s something I always bear in mind as I know I’m only ever as good as my last event.
:: Sarah Pittendrigh is managing director of www.simplybowsandchaircovers.co.uk . Ask a question via Twitter: @simplybows