Projects: Branding and brand management

  • Your brand defines your business purpose, your values and personality.
  • At least it should do. It is much much more than a logo – although it does no harm to have a logo too!
  • Brands need to be treated as your most important employee. Which makes sense as they do your most important job in telling the world out therer about your company and what it offers (what’s known as the ‘Brand Promise’). When correctly managed, it can become the biggest asset you have in the form of ‘goodwill’. So it makes sense to develop and manage it properly.
  • Developing a brand needs careful thought about issues such as what your business does, what makes it distinctive, where does – or will – operate. And not least, it ideally needs to be protected through trademark registration so that others cannot ride on the back of your success and pass off their product as yours. Believe me this happens a lot and is a pain to deal with!

I have developed new, and launched existing brands in domestic and international markets, sometimes with marginal investment. I have nurtured and evolved existing brands both owned and managed. Here are some examples:

 Billington’s  – A Sweet life

This is a brand selling the very best unrefined sugars. Now owned by ABF plc as part of its grocery brands, between 1858 and 2004 it was the flagship brand of a private family company trading in Liverpool and its brand positioning and values still reflect that heritage and I was responsible for marketing it.

The job here was to ensure that the brand remained ‘current’ whilst articulating the right sense of heritage (expertise and longevity rather than fusty and old-fashioned) as well clearly presenting an outlier independent brand, clearly different in approach to the big sugar refiners like Tate & Lyle and Silver Spoon. I managed two brand revisions in my 10 years there and also developed the brand and products into Organic and Fairtrade sectors.

English Provender Company and Very Lazy – Divide and Conquer

English Provender – or ‘EPC’ as the trade called it – was a small company acquired by Billingtons in the 1990’s. Through acquisition and private label success, the company grew suddenly and rapidly and so moved its heartland from ‘moms and pops’ shops to the shelves of the major grocery retailers. It made superb chutneys and condiments and also had a small but very successful range of chopped ingredients – a very lazy way of using garlic, chillies and ginger! My problem was that the two really didn’t sit very well together: they had different applications and target customers.

So, in 2009 I stopped trying to put square pegs in round holes and separated the brands. They had different positionings, personalities, liveries and even websites. We (re)launched Very Lazy in a blaze of publicity with a small but imaginative satellite TV campaign featuring an endorsement by the World’s Fastest Chopper, Lazlo Vaslavsky. The campaign also enabled us to regain an important retailer listing which more than paid for the marketing investment. And to this day, the brands are still there in most food stores and each with a distinct and distinctive presence.

Renshaw – The worldwide phenomenon of cake decorating

Renshaw is another great English company and brand with heritage – as well a royal warrant. When I joined the business in 2010 the brand was just coming out of suspended animation after an understandable but misguided period of cost-cutting. Despite having an excellent reputation amongst craft bakers and hobbyists, the Renshaw brand had virtually disappeared off the product packaging. My job was to restore the brand to its former glory and create a strong and compelling positioning worthy of its century-old heritage, as well as to make it relevant to key overseas markets such as Europe and the US. International marketing is always caught between the two stools of ‘global branding’ and ‘acting locally’. It forces you to combine the need for order and clear brand hierarchies, to understand whether in fact you can even market your brand in certain territories (in one we found we couldn’t: drat!), but also to recognise that even people who speak the same language have a completely different response to your brand and product compared to the domestic market. We aimed for a launch in the US market and after careful research and development, we successfully launched in 2015.

My other challenge was to create a new brand to deal with a common issue of ‘channel conflict’. First and foremost, Renshaw is a professional baker’s brand. It does not sit well in the mass grocery market even though we saw huge potential for the product in that arena, as the desire to get stuck into cake decorating percolated down to the mainstream. Private label was an option but the intricacies of retailer policies on colourings made this tricky. My solution was to create another, more accessible brand specifically for use in the mass grocery market. It suited the consumer and it suited the retailers. Launching a brand in this arena can be a big investment and risk, but we were canny, sought reassurance from both trade and consumer, and went for it. Listings that were otherwise very difficult to land, followed with gratifying ease. Maybe we were lucky. But sometimes you make your own luck!

There have been lots of other brands I’ve been involved with, but these stand out as each having great stories behind them, and specific challenges that the brands’ development had to address. Behind these stories are a whole load of techniques and processes that maximise your chances of success. Brands can very easily be damaged or even destroyed (for example remember Hoover, Dasani and Ratners?), so it makes sense to avoid silly and costly mistakes. I can help you avoid the bad and accentuate the positive!

Mark Bosworth

Bonfire Consultancy Services                07742 110018

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