Choosing Ingredients for your Brand

We must resist the temptation to simply lump everything together into the pot, stir it up and hope for the best.
You have the ingredients. Now what?

In our last couple of outings, we gathered together some of the essential ingredients for a great brand. First out, we considered the importance of making a commitment to the process of brand making as a means of delivering strategic competitive advantage. Next, we asked what elements of our existing business mix might we choose as a basis on which to raise and keep a brand.

We agreed that a competitive advantage that is grounded in enduring relationships is less likely to be found in what we do than in who we are and how we do it.

And so we began a process of teasing out the key values of our business in order to determine what sort of a relationship we might wish to propose to our guests and what benefits that relationship might deliver to them.

Sift Through the Ingredients and Weigh up Your Options

This process is typically a painstaking one. It needs to be. It throws up for our consideration a wide range of values that underpin our business offering. We are frequently spoilt for choice (most businesses unearth a surprising range of available values) and the temptation to simply stuff everything in to our brand offering can be strong.

Here patience is the key. We must resist the temptation to simply lump everything together into the pot, stir it up and hope for the best. Instead, we must carefully consider our options and tease out the impact that each value is likely to have if added to the mix, particularly in terms of the benefits it generates. A hospitality brand will deliver sustainable competitive advantage only if it makes clear to its guests the benefits of entering into a relationship with it rather than with any of its competitors. Brands that enjoy this clarity include Kelly’s in Rosslare, O’Brien’s Sandwich Bars and, until recently, Aer Lingus.

It is evident then what we must do. We must ask what relationship we are seeking with our guests. We must consider what sort of a relationship they are looking for and ask ourselves what we can realistically deliver given our unique mix of values.

Throughout this stage of the process, we will move back and forth continuously between the choice of values we’ve got and the relationships that this makes possible (we may also decide to revise our business offering and add some additional values to the mix). It is a time of speculation, of testing ideas and exploring possibilities. It will frustrate those of us who are seeking instant results but it is essential that we test our brand reasoning and model as rigorously as we can before we begin to mix the ingredients together.

The Magic Ingredient

This stage is vital. We must decide on the relationship that we are seeking with our guests. We must be clear what benefits it offers to them. We must be equally clear on what benefits that relationship offers to us (and translate those into competitive positioning and bottom-line deliverables as readily as we can). And finally, we must determine what mix of values will enable us to deliver those benefits consistently over time.

Here we are adding what I regard as the magic ingredient: brand intention. We are deciding what the brand will do for us. We are giving it purpose and making explicit its role in our relationship with our guests. We are choosing to achieve success by design rather than by accident.

We are carefully choosing the values that will underpin our business offering and in what proportions we will use them. We are choosing them specifically for the way in which they will drive and support our business. Whilst the act of branding is frequently regarded as one requiring only imagination, it must be balanced throughout by a utilitarian approach. The brand must deliver; otherwise it is simply a vanity or an extravagance that the business cannot afford. We must be satisfied that we have chosen the right mix of ingredients to enable the brand to achieve its purpose.

Then, and only then, can we begin to write our brand recipe.

Writing the Recipe for Brand Success

I talked just now of the importance of both utility and imagination in the branding process. The writing of the recipe for our brand demands that we set out clearly the sort of relationship we are seeking with our guests and then put our imagination to work to describe how we might achieve it.

Next time out in The Blend, we’ll consider some of the ways in which we might take the ingredients we’ve chosen and write our recipe for brand success.