Thinking of launching a new brand but don’t have a large budget and are unsure about where to start? Read this… a pragmatic overview of what it takes to create a strong brand on a low budget. Reproduced from an article in SHARPEDGE magazine 2007 by brand creation specialist Paul Thwaites.
So, you’re a budding entrepreneur. You’ve got a big idea and a potentially great product – you know it will fly if you could just get people as enthused about it as you are.
Therefore, based on the adage that a strong brand is built on an engaging proposition backed up by a great experience, you’ve got exactly half of what you need for success. What you don’t have is the stunning brand proposition.
You know that you need to tackle the dreaded B word but where to start? Money’s tight and one thing you know for sure is that at this early stage in the growth of your business you can’t afford a big consultancy. If that’s the case, I hope these few words help…
I’ll start by saying that branding isn’t, or shouldn’t be, a black art. It’s not all about paying a band of expensive consultants to go off and ruminate for a couple of months and then deliver back a tome that makes a thwack on your desk directly commesurate with the the size of your wallet. It can, and should, be a lot simpler.
Let me go as far as to say that if you can’t write the essence of your brand on the palm of your hand you’ve probably got something wrong. Because if you have to reach inside your pocket for a prompt-sheet it means that you won’t have ‘got it’. And if you haven’t got it nobody else will either.
So what is it that should be written across the palm of your hand?
Well ,firstly, use a cross to divide it up into four sections. That’s because this is the number of things that you’ll need to articulate – no more and no less – for your own benefit and that of everyone your business will come into contact with. Everything else, no matter how important, falls in behind to support this core proposition.
In the top left hand quadrant you should write the words “The Big Idea” or “Vision”, whichever you prefer. This first quadrant deals with where your business is going. It’s the big goal on the distant horizon that you are aiming for. It’s what you are going to be famous for. It’s the note for editors on future press releases.
You’ll need one simple statement of intent that everyone can get behind – your staff, your investors, the media and, most importantly, your customers. And it should not be an uncomfortable amalgam of two or three sentences American style, nor should it ever use words like “exceed” or “expectations”!
Needs a bit of thinking about, yes. But it’s worth considering that at this early stage in your business you are in a far better place than most big corporates– because you know what you stand for already. You are fresh, have no baggage, no history and therefore no nasty credibility gaps to bridge. All you’ll need is a good independent person, or small team, to help guide your thinking and to help you to package the balloon of ideas that comes out of it into a proposition that means something to the outside world.
There you have it. Simple? Well, no, actually. But then it isn’t that difficult either.
An example is the work that we have just done with a new brand start-up called nitenite cityrooms who are introducing budget boutique hotels into European city centres. The concept revolves around prefabricated luxury ‘cabins’ offering just enough space for a double bed and a stylish wetroom, allowing a central-city stay at the price of a budget hotel. So, a generic sell for this entirely new sector, in addition to launching a new brand.
With nitenite we defined the overarching brand as “Changing the way that people feel about European city hotel accommodation”. Open ended and inspirational – providing enough room for creativity yet enough of a framework to keep everyone motoring in the same direction.
In the second quadrant you should write “Values”. You’ll need three or four key words or statements that define how your business is going to act as you aim towards your business’ ”Vision”. This’ll set the culture of the business, or to put it another way, you could say it’s “how we do things around here”.
You’ll then be able to apply this as a template to everything that you do – both operationally and from a communications perspective. It’ll help to ensure the money you are spending on communications is not funding a black hole of disparate activity, but instead is all aiming towards one vision – and thus building long-term value in the business.
Equally, it’ll mean that you’ll also be able to apply the same rationale to things like choosing outlets, suppliers, future products and employing staff and training them – because it’ll be easier to ask the question: “does this person fit the way we do things?”
In the case of nitenite cityrooms four core values were defined – Stylish, Creative, Familiar and Dependable. And everything that we do – from communications to operations – aims to overlay perfectly against these ideals.
Having defined these first two slightly more intangible elements we can now work on the two aspects that everyone can see: “Identity” – which is perhaps the most tangible, and “Language” – which is the most pervasive.
So, in the third quadrant write “Personality and Language”. This deals with the way your business comes across in written and verbal communications.
Look around you. We are bombarded with advertising messages every moment of every day – and we are becoming ever more adept at filtering them out. The brands that are cutting through are the ones with a believable story, the ones that use engaging language to win their audience. Nobody can have failed to have noticed (and smile at) the messaging on the back of an Innocent drinks bottle.
Win people over this way and they become evangelists on your behalf – and good PR is vital when you don’t have a big budget for other activity. Just ask the guys at Innocent, Howies, Powwow or… Serious**.
In fact, Serious** is a great example. It could have rebranded as something inane like “Alpha Waste Management Solutions” but instead they used self effacing humour to front up to what they do for a living – which is basically shovelling s**t. Hence the name Serious** and a thousand audience-smile-inducing puns were born.
In the case of nitenite cityrooms, the danger is that corridors in hotels can be faceless and unfriendly. So we set out to change this by using a fun and self-effacing humour across every brand touchpoint. In fact, it was formally defined as being “like a conversation with an old friend whom you are always pleased to see”.
The final quadrant is all about what the man in the street thinks of when thinking of Brand. That’s how your business looks – “Identity”.
This is all about appropriating powerful visual elements such as colours and icons that become synonymous with you – much as in the original sense of branding cattle. It’s about creating something magical that energises every touchpoint – just ask Simon Woodroofe at Yo!Sushi how powerful that can be when you get it right.
With nitenite we created the powerful speech bubble visual device which not only alluded to the chatty and friendly personality but would give major impact and leave people in no doubt whatsoever of the brand that they were seeing – whether that was draped 100ft tall across a building under redevelopment, or applied to a tea cup.
Well there you have it.
Clearly great brands are not just built on powerful and inspiring brand stories – they have to be backed up by equally powerful delivery of the product. There’s nothing new there and forgive me if I’ve appeared to state the obvious. But that’s all branding should be… simple… and to an extent, obvious. And the more effective it’ll be for it.
As a guide, budgets for this type of brand creation start from as little as £4-5k and rise dependant upon the number of elements the the brand is applied to. In nitenite’s case it was over 50 elements including literature, signage, clothing, vehicles, packaging and the web.