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Mark (Creative Director) was asked to do an interview for the Island Business Magazine by the Chamber of Commerce all about branding, what it is and why it's so important for businesses to get it right.

Naturally, it was brand focussed and they wanted to delve deeper into what a brand is, why it is so important for businesses to get it right and how the world of technology has changed the way we interact with brands. The interview offers a valuable insight for businesses of any size so we suggest sticking the kettle on, grabbing the chocolate biscuits (it is a Friday) and taking 5 minutes to read his pearls of wisdom.

Mark Bate, brand interview

Written by Tom Stroud

When you talk to about “branding” and “the brand” what do you actually mean?

There is a difference between brand, branding and brand identity. They all have different meanings and yet they are used very liberally these days and the word ‘brand’ has been cheapened by the range of people using it without being experts. A lot of people think that the brand is just the logo and we have to say no, it’s not. It is more like a set of associations and perceptions in people’s minds about an organisation or their service or product. These associations are based on either a personal experience, something that they have come face to face with whether in person or online, or something that they have learnt, perhaps through networking, referrals or social media “sharing”. A brand is a contract, a promise from the company or a product to the consumers - the logo is just a signature on that contract. So you see the Virgin logo and think ‘oh yes if I go with Virgin I will have a really good time’ and with cars, if you see the BMW, you think of the ‘ultimate driving machine’. The brand is a set of values the customer buys into and the brand identity is what communicates these values visually.

You work with all sorts of businesses but getting the right branding is particularly crucial for start-ups isn’t it?

Yes. Small businesses usually haven’t got huge budgets; they haven’t got the resources, they’re trying to do the work of three people and they haven’t really got the time to invest in their own materials and their own brand. Let’s think about the journey though. If you imagine you were going on a maiden voyage, you would want a vessel that takes you there safely and that you can rely on and trust that it won’t sink. You invest money in it because your life or your trade depends on it. The brand is often the last thing on the list for start-ups to invest in and it’s really sad to see great business ideas failing because it wasn’t invested in properly from the start. New businesses will go and spend £15,000 on a company van but then will put a huge logo on it with no thought to the overall marketing strategy. The brand is really the vehicle which is going to carry them and not the car! People aren’t going to do business with you just because you have a transit van. They are going to buy into your business because they engage with the values your brand is built on. When you’re starting up is the time when you want to spend the most money on getting your brand right. You don’t want to find out five years later that you’ve been barking up the wrong tree and your brand identity and communications haven’t been focussed enough on your target audience.

Do businesses know what they want? Is the customer always right?

Branding is subjective and when people have a brand they get so attached to it and it becomes precious. When you meet a new business and think there are possible issues with the branding, when you tactfully suggest that improvements could be made and they basically choose to ignore you, it is a difficult call. We find ourselves saying time and time again that ‘it’s not what you like and want, it is what your customers expect’. Your brand is not what you think it is, it is what your customers say it is. Clients sometimes say ‘oh, but we’ve always done it this way, we’ve always had this colour we’ve always done this and that’ – yes, well that was 20 years ago and it is a different market place. Your business has evolved, so your brand needs to evolve with it. Communications have changed and you don’t want competitors to get ahead of you. If at any point you have taken your branding seriously and have invested in your brand, then you ought to keep it on the agenda as an ongoing investment because the world is constantly changing.

Do you have to do a bit of persuading? Do businesses always see the value in investing in branding?

There’s definitely a disproportionate investment in quality design and branding. People thinking that they don’t want to spend much money on design is a fairly big hurdle. Companies miss out on it, then five years down the line they wonder why they aren’t doing so well. Your brand should be more valuable than a logo that you can get for £5 online. Your brand is what people are buying into and your brand communications are the leverage to get people to come to you. There has been research on return on investment and for every pound invested in design, a business can expect over four pound in increased net operating profit return. Sometimes clients are so attached to what they have had for many years that they have to take a leap of faith. We have over twenty years experience with brand revitalisation and nine times out of ten, when the client has gone through the process, they will see a rapid difference in their bottom line. They can see that they are getting more sales through the website, or the phone is ringing more. On the one hand we want to be really creative, but on the other hand we have to be pragmatic and want to get business results. We’re not doing what we do just to make pretty pictures, we’re doing what we’re doing to make a change to somebody’s business.

“The times are long gone when it was all about consistency and religiously following guidelines. The impact of technology, new market places, social media and the internet on branding over the last few years has been amazing and really exciting. I can remember five years ago where people were saying that they didn’t want to get involved and do things but now if you are not developing your brand communications on a regular basis then you are seriously missing out on opportunities.”
Mark Bate, Creative Director, Bate Brand Communication

If this has struck a chord and you'd like to chat more with Mark, give him a ring on 01983 810505 or drop us a line