Clear Up, Clean Up...

05 Nov 2014|Matt Woodhams

Business planning season is in full swing, but setting priorities for the year to come can often feel like a guessing game. There’s a quote by Brian Eno, the artist and musician, which is a great way to think about the process of identifying those priorities that are set to grow.

“I often think that I don’t have a single new idea in my head. But the big mistake is to just wait for inspiration to happen. It won’t come looking for you. You have to start doing something: you have to build a trap to catch it. I like to do that by starting the very mundane process of tidying my studio. It might seem like it has nothing to do with the creative job in hand but I think tidying up is a form of daydreaming, and what you’re really doing is tidying your mind. It’s a kind of mental preparation. It’s a way of getting your mind in a place to notice something… (it’s) about noticing chances and acting on them”.

Brian Eno’s quote applies to growing brands as much as it does to the creative process.

The first step is to get your brand, and the world it lives in organised, to understand and structure what you know and what you don’t know. This process of “tidying up” puts you in a strong position to identify any gaps, inconsistencies or misalignments that may be present, giving you a complete and clear picture of where the brand is today. And it can be a powerful way to uncover new growth opportunities. But if you stop here you’re missing a trick. All you’ve done is set up a picture of the now – you still need to take action to fill the gaps, address the issues and plan for future growth.

Once you have a picture of the brand and its world, you can deliberately and precisely change your perspective. Crucially that means you can see things in a new way, either by zooming out; seeing the brand in its broadest context in a way that reframes the issues and opportunities. Or zooming in; looking at the details of individual aspects of the brand to see whether each is working hard enough against the potential opportunities you have identified.

There’s a big difference between tidying up and just moving things around. Tidying up means you need a place to put things; a structure that allows you to see clearly. Including the brand itself, and the total environment in which it resides, the people, the competition, the culture.

Tidying up ‘everything’ might seem daunting but there are really only three broad areas to focus on:

Establishing the Context
Brands don’t exist in a vacuum; they are part of the rugged and varied landscapes of people’s lives and experiences. Segmentation studies can really help in redefining the frame of reference, the heartland of where the brand plays and importantly how far it can stretch.

To do this most effectively requires a solution that reflects the multi-dimensional influences on choice; not just the people or the products, but the when, the where and the why people are choosing to participate in the sector and category. The clarity this brings can drive huge impetus across organisations. It creates an intuitive and recognisable structure for everyone to see where growth can come from.

Knowing and understanding the ever-changing cultural context that your brand operates in, the market/s and the category, as well as recognising the local competitors is key to winning growth. People are shaped by the culture around them, it informs what people believe, the values they hold and how they express themselves. Being culturally aware allows your brand to be able to converse with people in a way that is both relevant and resonant, driving attention and dialogue.

Understanding and surfacing deep human truths, emotions and behaviours connects the dots between personal motivations, culture and brand dynamics. Expressed in their own language, fresh consumer insights inspire you to think about brand opportunities and ignite ideas, and should remain at the core of your brand strategy. Your brand needs to be the answer to current and future consumer needs if you want to drive sustainable growth.

Unilever’s beauty brand Dove is an excellent example here, a brand that has studied and scrutinised the context which surrounds consumers on a global scale. By researching and speaking to women all over the globe they discovered that very few considered themselves beautiful. For years many images from photo-shoots, advertisements and publications have been treated, modified and airbrushed. The media has portrayed the idea of a “beautiful woman” as slim, tanned, trimmed, symmetrical, flawless, blemish free, tall… the list goes on, but the reality of this representation is false and damaging. Dove sought to revolutionise the industry by launching their ‘Real Beauty’ campaign.

With emotive advertising and communications, their series of ‘Real Beauty’ campaigns such as ‘Real Curves’, showing women in all different shapes and sizes in their underwear and sketches of women drawn through descriptions of strangers, successfully changed the perception of what female beauty is. Dove’s sales have more than doubled since the campaign began, proving that knowing the context, your environment, your consumer and culture, will lead to effective growth.

Defining the Difference
More than just a brand model, defining the difference requires a fully detailed holistic description of the components of the brand, made up of two major elements;

What your brand is – its purpose or essence. The enduring reasons it exists; the unique product, service and experience. And knowing the functional, emotional and social benefits the brand delivers and the proposition the brand offers. And crucially, who the brand is – its roots, heritage and stories. Knowing the archetypes that underpin and form the brand character and building a detailed portrait of how the brand expresses itself, in its behaviours, values, visual and verbal language and idiosyncrasies that make the brand truly unique.

Lurpak, Arla’s dairy butter and cooking range, has a strong defining consistent character which stands out within its category by successfully conveying its brand purpose of ‘the love of home cooking’. Incorporating real life home cooking scenarios displayed in expressive and emotive stories aligned with warm, light-hearted language and beautiful imagery, Lurpak draws in consumers with narratives they can relate to.

Mobilising the Brand
Bringing the brand to life is where you can really start to notice new opportunities, start new conversations with consumers and give the brand new relevance and resonance. Defining the brand’s iconography; logo, design, smells, tastes, sounds and fresh cultural expressions of the brand’s key benefits and character traits, with distinctive verbal and visual language, brings the brand difference alive.

Hendricks gin, positioned as a quintessentially luxury British brand, sets itself apart within its category through its quirky and witty language, imagery and packaging. The gin is contained in an old-fashioned bottle that stands out on the shelf, demonstrating that not everything ‘different’ or luxury has to be sleek and polished. Their brand values are consistently captured throughout their communication channels, including immersive events and pop-up bars, displaying unusual playful illustrations and language twisted with a traditional tone.

So to summarise, with all this tidying up completed, you’ve cleared the decks but not yet created the answer, a key reason why exhaustive brand planning processes can sometimes leave you floundering in the search for growth. Tidying is, although extremely valuable and important, just a preparation for creation.

Just like a forgetful decorator, you’ve spent 90% of the time preparing the walls so the paint goes on smoothly – but then forgotten to paint them. If your organisation (including your agencies and partners) doesn’t end up living and breathing this work, then it will be a pointless exercise.

When we go through this tidying up process with our clients, we invariably find that the companies that grow are the ones that actively know all these elements about their brand. They are the ones that tidy up often, who won’t settle for gaps in their knowledge or inconsistencies of interpretation, and they are the ones who don’t have a static perspective on consumers or culture. Those clients are always in a position to have a clear eyed perspective, meaning they can get on with the doing more of the time, driving sustainable growth.

We all know from our personal lives that tidying up can be hard work and without constant attention the hard work can soon be undone. But the benefit of doing a little tidy, and often, is that you always know where to find the things you need. And we all need a clear path to find growth.

Written by Matt Woodhams, Brand Director Added Value UK


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