Building the Voice of Your Brand to Give You a Competitive Edge

Understanding What Makes You Different

How is Coca Cola different from Pepsi? Why would you choose to fly Virgin Atlantic over Aer Lingus? When a product or service is not completely unique in the market how do you communicate your “significant difference” to your customers in order to give them a compelling reason to choose your brand over your competitors?


Understanding what makes you authentically different and being able to communicate this succinctly to your customers is the key to creating strong brand equity. In fact giving your brand a distinctive, different and memorable voice is one of the most effective tools in gaining a competitive advantage in your market and building lasting customer loyalty.


 Pepsi Live For Now


Pepsi are currently in the process of re-shaping their brand identity in an effort to clearly differentiate their brand in the market. In 2011 Pepsi’s new president decided to find out what makes Pepsi different to Coca Cola. It took Pepsi 9 months to come up with an answer! Their analysis found that Coke is ‘timeless’ while Pepsi is ‘timely’ which in a nutshell means that Coke represents permanent happiness while Pepsi embraces excitement.


Identifying what makes Pepsi different has given the brand leverage to shape a clear position for the brand within their market. Understanding who they are and what they represent has enabled them to articulate their brand message to target consumers much more effectively because they are now armed with a brand message that communicates what makes Pepsi unique.


Pepsi are now shaping this revitalized brand identity through all their brand collateral including tagline, imagery and advertising campaigns etc. With a clearly defined brand strategy they are now consistently reinforcing what makes them different from their competitors throughout all their marketing campaigns.



Finding Your Brands Unique Voice

For many companies, identifying the very essence of what authentically differentiates their brand, be it product or service, from their competitors can be challenging, yet the untapped secret often lies within the heart of their business. It is the people, the corporate or brand culture, the internal core values on which the foundations of the brand has been shaped, that are often the greatest assets to a company endeavouring to build strong brand equity.


These elements are intrinsically unique within each business and can’t be readily replicated by competitors because the fundamental brand proposition is shaped, nurtured and developed through the internal character and strategies of the company and the people within it. The key is knowing and understanding which aspects of your brand “character” and “story” need to amplified in a way that matters to, and resonates with, your target audience.


If you want to develop strong brand equity to grow your business profitably then you need to start by getting a clear sense of who you are, as a brand/company, what you represent or stand for, what makes your company brand different.


When you can answer these questions you are in a better position to understand how to give your brand a unique and compelling voice that stands out from the crowd, resonates with your target market and ultimately builds your brand equity, giving you a competitive edge and increased profitability.


Virgin Urinal Ad


Have a Clear Sense of Who You Are

Virgin is a leading example of how to develop a brand with a voice so clear that it transcends industry and market boundaries. Their expansion through multiple channels has been very successful because Virgin has a clear sense of itself and consistently communicates their brand values to their target audience, while injecting their brand culture into everything they do.


Virgin Adverts 


From its inception Virgin embraced a ‘challenger brand’ status. Regardless of the industry, Virgin aimed to differentiate themselves from their competition by not playing by the rules. Virgin’s brand equity is founded on their brand’s ability to challenge both consumer perceptions and industry assumptions.


How has Virgin managed to succeed in industries as diverse as insurance and airlines, mobile phones, radio and rail? They succeed by consistently building on their brand values of delivering value price, high quality, cheeky fun, innovation and great customer service to every market they enter. They behave like the impudent, yet endearing smaller company that engenders customer affections when in fact they are a global brand power house.



Virgin has been able to consistently leverage its brand across multiple channels because it has so successfully developed it brand voice to “own a place” in the minds of its target audience.


Look how Virgin has been repeatedly able to enter new business arenas with a bang and shake up the existing status quo. The voice of the brand is clear and consistent throughout all the marketing strategies of the various brand/business ventures – a voice that tells the story of a brand that is fun, innovative, a maverick in its field, but equally synonymous with being consumer-centric and providing a quality service. Consequently, Virgin’s brand personality is highly visible in every market within which they operate.



What Does Your Brand Say to Your Customers?

If your product is not unique to its market, then your ability to distinguish your offering from that of your competitors lies in creating a remarkable and strong personality for your brand.


Your brand personality, together with its simple idea, brand story, way of doing things, the brand world it creates and the special relationships it engenders are the defining elements which will attract your target audience and compel them choose your brand over that of others in the market and consequently help you build a much more profitable and sustainable business.


Do you have a strong “voice” for your brand ?


• Do you know key strategic do’s and don’ts for your brand behaviour?


• Do you have a clear sense of where you stand in the market and what works best for your brand?


• Do you have a great product or service but are struggling to say what makes you different?


• Do you know the “magic ingredients” for your brand which makes it irresistible to your target audience?

Are You Leading Your Brand Effectively to Maximize Commercial Success?

Branding is not just about big business. Regardless of whether you have a specific brand strategy in place or not, if you are operating in business then you have a brand – good or bad, weak or strong.


In small and medium businesses the single greatest influence on the business brand is the company leader. Think about it. Even if the company has marketing personnel, the final decisions and creative control lie with the executive director. This is something many leaders of small and medium enterprises fail to recognize.


Remember, your business brand goes far beyond the just the name and logo. Your website design, your marketing message, your staff, your pricing policy, the look of your business interior, your brand collateral, your customer service together with the whole culture of your business all shape your customer’s perception of your business and your brand. And who has overall control of these elements? The leader. So whether intentional or not, for better or worse, as leader you are currently shaping the development of your business brand.


Building a strong brand starts from the inside. Whatever happens inside the business reflects what the customers perceive from the outside.  I am sure we all know of a local business we love to visit because the staff are friendly and helpful. In more cases than not, this is because the owner is the friendliest and most helpful of them all. The owner is the influencer who affects everything around them within the business and beyond.


In fact, many of the world’s biggest brands are shaped by the vision of their leaders.  Anyone who has read Steve Jobs biography knows that he was the visionary of the Apple brand. He influenced everything about the brand. Apple is design obsessed because Steve Jobs was design obsessed.

Steve Jobs Apple


If we think about the brand personality of Ryanair, we think abrasive, sometimes downright rude, unfriendly, brash but invariably the best deal and on time. Now think about Michael O’Leary, Ryanairs CEO, any of those traits come to mind?! It’s no accident that these characteristics are cultivated as part of his public persona to congruently fit with the brand, like it or hate it!


Michael O Leary Ryanair

You can make similar leadership and brand visionary comparisons with Richard Branson and the Virgin brand, amongst others, a very different brand and leadership style but he is undoubtably a very shrewd leader of the Virgin brand. And these are global companies. In small and medium companies where the business leader has total control on decisions, they intentionally or otherwise shape the brand more than anyone else.


We know that some business leaders are better than others in terms of skills and knowledge and this has an obvious effect on the financial success of one business over its competitors.  But business acumen aside, when a business leader is closely associated with the embodiment of a brand their sheer existence in the company has an effect on people’s confidence in the company performance and ultimately the profitability of the business.


Steve Jobs is one of the greatest examples of how strong the influence of a leader is on a brand. When Steve Jobs resigned from Apple the company’s shares dropped as much as 7%. This company is a global titan, with some of the world’s greatest minds and strongest business strategists at its helm, and yet, without Jobs’ involvement customers were wary because Apple had become synonymous with Jobs and his utter embodiment of what made Apple ‘Apple’. Customers found it to difficult to separate the brand from the leader, ultimately affecting the company’s bottom line.


If your business is not performing or where you want it to be, you need to look at what you are doing to influence those in your company, your brand and how its perceived internally and externally and the service you provide.


If you don’t have a clear vision of what your business brand identity is, what your brand stands for and how it engages with your target audience in a way that matters to them, then how can your business have a clear strategy ?


The huge positive for leaders of small and medium businesses is that building a strong brand is not difficult, done correctly and with the right team expertise on board to support you, because it starts with you. 


If you are serious about building a strong brand for your company and maximizing your profit potential then the first step is to undertake brand profiling for your business. Understanding your brand’s current position and identity in the market will help you on your way to understand the role you can play in shaping it to greater profitability for the future.


Your business’ brand strategy lies in your hands and with it the growing profitability and success of your business.

As the leader of your business do you know what aspects of your brand are working effectively, or falling short and in need attention or just tired, out of touch and in need of repositioning and revitalisation to increase your commercial returns ? 

Top 10 Reasons For Rebranding To Grow Your Business

Brands are constantly evolving to ensure they keep abreast of changing needs in the market place. Even some of the greatest brands in the world need rejuvenation.

Brands like Guinness, Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Kellogg’s are iconic, global in their status. Yet when you look at their market leadership over the decades, they have all changed even if it has been in a more evolutionary sense over time, rather then radical overhauls. However some branding does require an extensive change in order for the business to achieve the required regeneration for growth and profitable returns.


Guinness Word Device


Guinness Logo


Revitalisation maintains and celebrates the history and heritage of the brand but shows its target audience (current and future) that you are adaptive to change. Change is necessary to stay relevant to the times in which a brand exists and to ensure its future success.


Starbucks Logo Evolution


Some of the reasons for rebranding, relaunching and revitalising a brand include the following: 


1. Relevance:

Brands need to stay relevant to their target market, to keep up with the times and keep pace with changing customer needs (e.g. services, accessibility, convenience, choice, changing trends, technology). A brand that has become old-fashioned in the eyes of its audience is in danger of stagnation if not already in a state of erosion and loss of market share.


2. Competition:

In a fast moving environment with aggressive competition, rebranding may be required to change the offering to the market in order to create a more compelling reason to buy, in the minds of the target audience. Rebranding can be used as a means of blocking or outmanoeuvring competitors or a way of handling increased price competitiveness.


3. Globalisation:

Sometimes rebranding is required because of globalisation where the same product sold across multiple markets is inconsistent or different e.g. Marathon’s change to Snickers, Opal Fruits change to Starburst, Jif’s change to Cif. 


Starburst Opalfruits Rebrand


4. Mergers & Acquisitions:

When two entities combine there are typically two unique audiences left to communicate with. Sometimes this can require a rebrand or relaunch in a way that will appeal to both. In other cases one of the brands may be more dominant requiring more of a revitalisation or refresh with it becoming the sole dominant player. 


5. Innovation:

Technology is constantly evolving and the rate of change often exponential. If a brand is technology related e.g. internet, software, hardware and the product offering constantly innovating then a rebrand frequently follows the natural and fast rate of change. Rebranding or revitalisation becomes an outward expression of the companies evolution and ensures the brand’s change hungry customers keep coming back to see “what’s new”.


Apple Logo Old And New


6. Repositioning:

Taking a brand to a new position is an involved process e.g. from an economy price fighter to a premium position, and invariably requires a rebrand to signal a change in direction, focus, attitude or strategy to its target market. Also again used as a means of blocking or outmanoeuvring competitors or a way of handling increased price competitiveness.


7. Rationalisation:

Rebranding can be used to decrease business development and operational costs, or a way of countering declining profitability or consumer confidence. It can also be used where there are complex and sometimes confusing mixes of product portfolios which frequently undermine the brands impact, (along with considerable advertising, branding clutter and media proliferation) all of which causes brand incongruence and audience fragmentation and consequently badly needs consolidation through rebranding to achieve brand impact and strong growth again


Mcconnells Old And New Logo


8. Outgrowth:

When small companies grow into bigger entities they and/or their products frequently require a rebrand or revitalisation to meet the needs of the bigger business. Typically smaller companies start with more modest brand offering, due to budget restrictions, which are inadequate to meet the needs of a bigger more sophisticated business and a rebrand is required.


9. Legal Requirements:

Occasionally legal issues may arise that require a company to make changes to their branding such as copyright issues or bankruptcy e.g. similarities between naming and designs e.g. The Jelly Bean Factory became The Jelly Bean Planet in Ireland to ensure differentiation from the USA brand Jelly Belly.


10. Morale & Reputation:

If a company brand has demoralised employees or confused customers then a rebrand may required. A thorough rebrand process will work to unearth the issues that need addressing and could be solved through key changes, including a completely new look and feel to the organisation. A rebrand in this instance can improve a brand’s competitiveness by creating a common sense of purpose and unified identity, building staff morale and pride, as well as a way of attracting new customers, enhancing relationships with existing customers and attracting the best talent to the business.


In the case of compromised or damaged reputations rebranding becomes a more pressing requirement. Obvious examples in the current market include certain aspects of the financial sector and banking institutions with damaged reputations which in time will need rebranding. BP is another example and its handling of the Gulf spill which may also require a rebrand in the US the help rebuild its reputation.


If you’re considering a rebrand to grow your business and would like to know more, give us a call. We’d love to talk T: +353 1 8322724

16 Tips to Writing a Hot Design Brief to Get the Biggest Bang for Your Buck

Over the years I have seen a lot of different brand design briefs of all shapes and sizes from the brilliant to simply dreadful, with too many in-between lacking sufficient substance to really get the best potential return for the resources invested. 


Why is the brand design brief so important ? This might sound obvious, but you need to know what you’re aiming for to hit the goal ! In short it’s a critical factor in ensuring your brand design project is successful and you get a real return on your investment. 


Think who, what, where, when, why and how ? Your brief should be, to some extent, an extension of your business strategy. It should reflect the desired commercial endeavours of your business and provide all the detailed information necessary to understand your business dynamics in depth and should clearly define the results you want to achieve i.e. the commercial objectives of the project. 


In many cases over the years we’ve had to write the client brief, following in-depth discussions, questioning and probing, to ensure project clarity on all fronts, which the client has then endorsed and signed off before the project commences.


The following are some tips on how, and what to include, to write a great brand design brief so you can get the best return for your money. The questions posed should give you roughly 80% of your brief content with the remainder resulting from and thorough an in-depth discussion with your chosen brand design agency.


Upside Down Man


1. What does your business/organisation do ?

Be clear and concise, providing as much detail as possible. Avoid industry jargon and don’t assume your chosen brand design company knows your company or market intimately.


2. What are your business/organisation goals and why ?

How do these goals relate to the brand design project ?


3. What are your primary communication objectives and why ?

Are your trying to create greater brand/product awareness or sell more product ?


4. How do you differ from your competitors ? 

Be objective and tangible in the description of your differences.

What are their advantages and disadvantages compared to your business/product/organisation ?


5. Do you have industry, market or category insights ? 

Are they up-to-date ? It is essential to share this information with your brand design partners so they can develop an in-depth understanding of your needs. Have you completed formal/informal market research into to your market, product etc. ?


6. Do you need brand profiling and positioning work ? 

This will provide the strategic direction for your marketing activities, distinction within your business’s market and drive the inspiration for the creative delivery of your marketing messages.


Upside Down Bald Man


7. Are you revamping, relaunching your business/product/organisation or launching a completely new product/venture to market ?

If revamping or relaunching, how does your old offering compare with the new ? Does your brand/business/product/organsiation have an existing brand style guide ?


8. Who is your primary target market ?

What are their demographics and psychographics ? Describe them in detail.

If you have a secondary market or multiple audiences ? List them in terms of priority.


9. Have you considered the text content required for your project ? 

Do you need professional copywriting input ? How many languages do you need and do you need professional translation services ? A printed brochure or website will have an entirely different requirement and writing style to a brand packaging design project. Compile some raw copy where possible, even in short bullet form, to give some indication of your text content requirements.


10. Does your business, industry, market or organization have legal mandatory information which must be included in all your communications ?

Does your product or market have mandatory information such as colour coding which must be used in specific ways, on or in, your communications e.g. European egg packaging has EU colour coding for designated egg sizes ? If so, it is essential you provide all this information fully proofed, up front with clear guidelines on usage.


11. Do you need commissioned professional photography or illustration ? 

Does your project have specific visual content which should be included ? If so why and what is it ? 


12. What is the full remit of your brand design requirements ? 

Does it have a printed requirement (product design, stationery, brochures, display or exhibition stands, vehicle livery, direct mail, packaging, point of sale etc. all of which is your brand collateral) ? Does it have an online marketing requirement (website, ezine newsletter, Facebook presence, LinkedIn presence, Twitter etc.) ? Do you need a branded digital showreel, video or sales presentation using, for example, Power Point or Keynote ?


Upside Down Girl


13. Do you have industry or market category benchmarks ?

If so what are they ? Are these industry, cultural or category standards ? Your brand design team needs to know as much as possible to understand what is mandatory, what has worked/not worked to date and where they can aim to exceed and excel, to be distinctly different for long term competitive advantage


14. Do you need market research or focus group activity to test your new brand design outputs ? 

Don’t proceed with your launch on a hunch or worse still, your own personal preferences. Your personal preferences are not relevant if they don’t mirror those of your target market and even if they do you should still test and measure !


15. What is your budget ? 

Your chosen brand design experts need to know what your limitations and budget boundaries are to avoid a valuable waste of time and resources. They need to understand where and how they can achieve the best return for your money. 


16. What is your lead time or deadline for launch to market ?

Develop a detailed schedule with key milestones indicated e.g. consultation, concept development, market research, testing, photography, production, delivery and launch to market etc. Be realistic in your expectations. Unnecessary mistakes can be made if a complex project is rushed to market prematurely. Alternatively if the project must hit the market by a critical date then be upfront and honest. Some elements may need to be dropped or postponed to another occasion and a simpler solution offered to meet the deadline.


If you need a new name for a product, business or organization most of this information is just as essential for a brand name origination brief too.



Try not to be too prescriptive on the aesthetic aspects of the brand design brief. You want to get the best out of your chosen brand design team so you need to give them room to manoeuvre creatively.



Do you have anything else you’d like to add to these tips ?


Drop us a line, we’d love to hear your thoughts.