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Ignite your brand strategy

For the fourth instalment of our Feel-Good Brand series, we returned to the intimate Victorian Loft at Lumiere London to discuss the element that breathes life into your brand: Strategy. This time, our panel of experts included Alex Guest, Zingy Life; Jess Titcumb, Twisted Halo; Jenny Tschiesche, Lunchbox Doctor; and Andy Brattle, Beyond. Together, we traced the highs and lows, blessings and pitfalls, triumphs and tears of building a Feel-Good Brand from the ground up, and explored one vital question: How do you ignite your brand strategy and become a trailblazer in your industry? 

Let’s find out.

What is brand strategy?

Essentially, we’re talking about ‘your brand’s plan for success’, begins Andy Brattle, Director at Beyond. Brand strategy is the blueprint that outlines your brand promise and how you will achieve it, and if it doesn’t bring to mind seemingly endless hours of brainstorming, strenuous decision making and near meditative contemplation, then perhaps you haven’t yet delved deeply enough. Your brand strategy should allow you to convey, with utmost clarity and consistency, your proposition and personality. In other words, what you do, who for, why you do it and how.

The first hurdle

It can be a catch-22 situation because the more intimately you know your brand, the harder it is to take a step back and see it from the perspective of a new prospect: your audience. This quandary has been suitably named the ‘Curse of Knowledge’, and can be a dangerous thing. The ‘Curse’ can turn the most exciting proposition into a monotonous, meandering monologue. 

Case in point: Apple would be inaccessible to the majority of their audience if the technology brand focused on detailing how their products work, explaining process and functionality as opposed to the beauty of the user experience. Similarly, when President John F Kennedy addressed congress in 1961, he outlined the aim of ‘landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to Earth’ – a statement that had no risk of losing meaning and which would be instantly captivating to audiences everywhere. JFK knew that there was no need to muddy his message with unnecessary, detailed explanations (in our world – too much content); this would only lessen the impact.  

What does this mean for our brands? 

Yes, you may know everything there is to know about your sector or subject of expertise, but all your audience need to learn is the experience that they will have as a result of your hard work. Your brand strategy should therefore help you decide how to convey your personality and promise in the simplest way possible, removing all superfluous information, which is likely to distract or confuse. A creative branding agency can be an invaluable asset at this stage of your brand development as agencies are a step removed from the personal relationship between brand and owner, and can offer an outsider’s perspective on how your brand is behaving.

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Alex Guest, Zingy Life

First of our panellists was Alex Guest, creator of the Feel-Good app, Zingy, which launched on the same day as our London event. Zingy is a new fitness resource that focuses on taking the hard work out of analysing our nutritional needs and achieving a balanced diet. Designed around each individual user’s lifestyle and goals, it promises a ‘better life through nutrition’. Throughout Alex’s experience of creating Zingy, and indeed across the course of his career (specialising in driving commercial growth in entrepreneurial business), he has learnt what he calls ‘five universal truths’. Luckily, we were soon privy.

The ‘Universal Truths’

While creating your brand strategy, consider:

  • Trust — between brand and user
  • Communication — developing a beneficial dialogue between brand and user
  • Control — the user’s ability to take charge of their experience
  • Augmentation — adding extra value to an experience
  • Proximity — the use of location to enhance experience

Alex illustrated the above using British Airways (BA) as an example. The popular airline makes use of a range of cutting-edge technology to refine their user experience. As a passenger ventures through the airport, the BA app accompanies them every step of the way, making travel as straightforward as possible. Timely alerts and notifications, based on proximity, will even notify them when their gate opens, for instance. Consumers also have an element of control, choosing how and when to use the information at their fingertips. The result is an easy and enjoyable user experience tailored to the individual — all part of building BA’s reputation as a trusted and reliable airline.

Airbnb is a fitting example when discussing brand trust. Not only must Airbnb imbue trust in its own reputation, it must also trust the 3rd parties that their customer experience (and therefore Airbnb’s reputation) relies upon. Online reviews of hosts and travellers are a vital part of their brand strategy, as is making sure that — although Airbnb does not have complete control of the experience that their customers receive – they do at least enjoy a consistent, ‘on brand’ experience at every touchpoint. And it works — a quick survey of the room suggests that not one of our audience members have been disappointed by Airbnb. 

Alex finishes by tying each of the five truths together into one underlying truth: use your strategy to define your promise, and stick to it.

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Jess Titcumb, Twisted Halo

Next up was Jess Titcumb, founder and creator of Twisted Halo, the name behind a range of sparkling alcoholic drinks with no sugar and ‘no nasties’, perfectly designed for health-savvy tipplers. Jess focused on her decision to re-brand and re-launch so early on in the lifecycle of her range, and why it was the game changing decision that eventually kept Twisted Halo alive. 

Her message was simple: when you think you have your strategy nailed down, stay flexible and be prepared to adapt.

Murphy’s Law

First time round, Jess claims to have made practically every branding mistake in the book. And it’s true that the launch of Twisted Halo’s predecessor, Lovo, appears to have stumbled at all hurdles, from trademarking and manufacturing, clearly defining their proposition to designing the look and feel. With a seemingly overwhelming range of limiting factors, Jess decided to take stock and return to the drawing board. Luckily, every mistake became an invaluable lesson learnt, enabling the creation of a new and robust brand strategy, and the dawn of Twisted Halo.

Rising from the ashes

Twisted Halo offers a working example of why knowing every minute detail of your brand, from key messaging and target markets, to where you will be seen (touchpoints) and over what timescale (growth) should be meticulously planned in your brand strategy — that way, nothing should be overlooked. The bottom line: do your research, don’t be afraid to get it wrong, and if it does go wrong, the lessons learnt will be invaluable. Starting from scratch could be the very best decision for your brand.

Jenny Tschiesche, Lunchbox Doctor

Jenny Tschiesche, a.k.a. the Lunchbox Doctor, was our final expert to stand at the Feel-Good podium where she told a personal account of how strategy can greatly affect the uptake of branded content. Jenny’s brand, Lunchbox Doctor, began when her daughter started primary school and she became aware of the less than inspiring quality of the standard packed lunch. Worse still, your typical packed lunch is well below satisfactory nutritional standards. As a leading expert in nutrition, Jenny used her knowledge and passion for healthy, wholesome food to design lunchbox recipes for parents, and shared them online and via social media.

Often, less is more

As more and more recipes were designed, perhaps Jenny became a victim of the ‘Curse of Knowledge’ herself; her website became increasingly saturated with every recipe and idea that she came up with, all freely available to anyone. Despite good intentions, the cluttered state of the Lunchbox Doctor website was undermining the simplicity of her brand promise, and newsletter subscriptions became stagnant. Jenny needed to rethink her strategy.

With the help of creative agency, Beyond, Jenny stripped away her online content leaving only the essential messaging and a tasting menu of the array of recipes that subscribers could receive. Without the excess ‘noise’, and with simple messaging supported by high quality photography, the user experience was reformed. A clear, concise and tempting proposition was revealed. The result? Despite there being far less content openly accessible, newsletter subscriptions rose considerably – people were duly tempted and wanted more. The lesson became clear: don’t bombard your prospects with more than is absolutely necessary. Every branding element needs to work in harmony for absolute clarity (imagery, messaging and content) — these simple guidelines would enhance the user experience. More often than not, less is more.

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Look to the future…

After a resounding applause for our panellists and a quick-fire Q&A, discussions amongst fellow Feel-Good brand owners and marketers continued over drinks and nibbles. For many, a lurking concern was how to differentiate their idea within an increasingly saturated marketplace. This is why your brand strategy must be resilient, yet flexible — ready to adapt at the drop of a hat, or the invention of new technology.

\Your strategy is the blueprint for your success, so make sure you cover both long and short-term milestones, and constantly re-evaluate them. Hang on to what works, your brand equity, and relinquish what doesn’t. Inevitably, it might not be a smooth ride, but every hiccup grants you an opportunity to further strengthen your brand.