As an industry, SME’s brand building and growth is our responsibility.

Branding for Entrepreneurs

“Entrepreneurship is an undertaking of the courageous and the passionate. These entrepreneurs are visionaries, with a strong drive and big ideas. And when such is the case, even the smallest nudge in the right direction can set them on the path to success. I feel, as an industry, we can give them that nudge. Their brand building and  growth is our responsibility.

SMEs have their own brand problems to solve. Few they are not aware about, and few are yet to reach to them. I am a strong believer of the problem solving methodology. I believe that conferences and forums should not be treated as ‘entertainment shows’, where ‘good presentation’ is often treated as a piece of entertainment. In fact, giving high-flying examples subliminally gives these entrepreneurs the message that “you will not understand this” or “this is not for you”.

This is why I decided to use the session I was invited to present as a ‘free consultation’ session.  So instead of putting forward international case studies, which are packaged well and have a lot of ‘wow’ value, I preferred case studies that they could actually relate to; things that I had actually learnt and experienced while working with my SME clients.

Not all entrepreneurs start off with swanky logos and a brand positioning line in place. Many of them grew organically, but got an impetus through a change in their branding at the right time. So even though they fall in the ‘small and medium scale’ category, they have the potential to be big – not just in terms of turnover, but also in terms of brand value.

This talk was a way of giving these entrepreneurs an insight into the process of brand building, the strategic thinking that goes into it. Probably this understanding will help them respect the role of communication professionals. Understanding that brand building is a collaborative effort will also help them provide their communication partners with more refined inputs, resulting in more impactful outputs.

I tried demystifying all these branding ‘jargons’ and ‘processes’. More importantly, I’ve stressed on the significance of Brand Architecture – a topic that many brand owners have ambiguity towards. They often confuse Brand Architecture with ‘verticals’ and end up creating a bigger mess. But Brand Architecture is all about a logical, economical portfolio structure. It’s not about creating a clean structure but about business results. It’s more about product commitment. By outlining your Brand Architecture, you can focus resources on the brands that best support your business goals.

I’ve elaborated certain parts of my talk below. I think that these are a good starting point for any SME to begin working on their Brand Architecture.”

– Rugwed Deshpande

Customers will never love a company until employees love it first.
Your employees are your first clients. Internal clients. Both of you should share the same brand understanding and belief. It is an ongoing process.

Write a clear brand policy.
A better brand policy can build a better brand. Refer to the Pret a Manger – Brand Manifesto. He has clearly defined the way he wants to run his company. He guides his staff, defines HR policy, product development policy, communication tonality in one single document. You don’t need an advertising agency or brand consultant to write this document. This policy will guide everyone in your company while taking complicated decisions.

Develop or evaluate your brand identity on the basis of company’s key differentiators.

Slide3Leave the job to the experts. Make them understand what your company stands for. If an identity is built on strong understanding it will stay relevant for longer period. Don’t fall prey to ‘trends’ and ‘styles’. They are never durable. People often come up with fancy logos that do not represent their company. Remember, people relate with your company through your brand identity.

Decide clear brand positioning.
Understand your market. Identify key strengths of your brand. And be relevant. Relevance is crucial. Relevance has always been key to building strong and influential brands. If you are relevant, you will be remembered.

Define the brand experience you would like to give. Set a review mechanism. 
There are no rights and wrongs here. Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does. As a brand, everything you do creates some kind of experience. Every good experience will add to your word-of-mouth. Advertising is irrelevant if the customer experience is bad. 

Make sure your brand has a distinct personality.
There are various methods for this. Forget all of them and ask various questions to your brand. Define its behavior. Set examples. And see, if your policy, identity, positioning suits this personality. Do not exaggerate or underplay. It’s important to be ‘you’ to connect with your audiences. Define your brand’s personality and see what kind of communication and tone suits your brand.

Define your brand architecture needs in advance. Use it as a business tool.
Analyse your existing brand structure. The brand architecture isn’t about designing a clean framework. It is about defining a logical and strategic portfolio structure that support your business objectives.

Here are some of the most commonly used structures:

Type 1

A single brand strategy OR Monolithic brand architecture

The ‘single brand’ strategy is very efficient, and pours all the equity into a single brand. But the downside is that it’s more difficult to highlight specific areas of competitive advantage.Slide9

Type 2

A ‘house of brands’ strategy OR Freestanding brand architecture

Each brand has a focused positioning, but it costs a lot to market all these different brands.Slide10

Type 3

Endorsed brand architecture

The endorsement of a parent brand should add credibility to the endorsed brand in the eyes of consumers. This strategy also allows companies who operate in many categories to differentiate their different product groups’ positioning.Slide11

There are no set formulas for successful brand architecture. You need to evaluate all the options and develop the ideal balance your unique business situation demands.

4 thoughts on “As an industry, SME’s brand building and growth is our responsibility.

  1. Nice content. Most companies are not. Clear about d company objectives goals strategy and measures thats where they do basic mistake. They never get the ogsm in place.. Design business Plan and fail to prepare marketing plan with well defined brand key…
    If these steps are followed logically. N religiously then d entrepreneurs will definately improve brand sucess rate.

  2. Very valid points made rugwed.

    Given the fact that the (SMEs) account for a huge percentage of all businesses across the world, yet many choose not to invest in branding, or are just not very clear on how to go about it.

    Since I do extensive work in the area of Human Resources in the SME segment, I found the blog very informative and mirrored a lot of real issues and myths that exist in this space.

    Many reasons for this reluctance to stem from misconception or misinformation.

    This blog does demystify and gives very clear and simple perspectives on effective and business contextual branding.

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