Why write your own blog post when you can get your clients to write it for you? I could start telling you how vital it is to get your positioning right – it is, after all, an integral part of my work as a brand consultant – but showing you how it’s helped my clients seems a better way to go.
So, the format of this blog post is a little different. I’ve pulled out themes from recent client interviews to illustrate what various founders and chief execs have gained, not just in terms of sharpening their positioning, but from going through the process itself. Before I hand over to them, a few words on what positioning is:
Positioning is essentially your point of view in the market – what you stand for in the eyes of the audience you serve. It’s something stable but not set in stone, and every business or organisation should think about reviewing it from time to time.
And now, over to my clients who found that sharpening their positioning helped them in many different and sometimes unexpected ways:
1. Tell a consistent story
ISL Talent came to us aware that their brand identity didn’t reflect their position in the marketplace: “We were telling clients that we were focused on tech start-ups and were in tune with their market but then, if they went to our website, they’d see a very different story being told. So, the challenge was making our positioning and branding consistent with the story we were telling…It ended up being an inside-out rebrand…capturing the essence of the business and telling that story, at scale.” (Alan Furley, CEO, ISL Talent)
2. Become more relatable
Defining your positioning is a way of reflecting the values of your ideal client or prospect and so attracting exactly the sort of people you want to be working with. To get there you need to do your research and find out exactly what your audience cares about.
“A new client was able to recognise that our culture, values, and soft skills were really important to us. Our new branding and messaging communicated that providing an ongoing, long-term relationship was central to how we work and this made what we offer different to what he’d get from another recruitment company. And that is exactly what we’d wanted to portray. I feel confident we’ll get a tenfold return on our investment over three years and, in addition it’ll stop us losing business.” (Alan Furley, CEO, ISL Talent)
3. Prepare for investment in marketing
This is probably the single most cited reason that prompts clients to reconsider their positioning and revisit their brand’s strategic objectives. BaseKit CEO, Simon Best approached us for a number of reasons, but primarily because his company was about to embark on a significant marketing investment with a new team coming on board: “It was important to sort out our strategy and branding ready for the new sales and marketing team joining the company. I didn’t feel we were clear on how to articulate what we stood for any more. I knew we had to get our brand ducks in a row because we wanted marketing to hit the ground running.”
“You can spend a lot of time trying to get your CRM system right, thinking about your sales force and how you operate and train your staff. But getting the brand, the website and how you communicate with people is just as important as any other part of your work.” (Suzanne Rolt, CEO of Quartet Community Foundation)
4. Stake their claim and become the market leader
Both internally and externally, it wasn’t clear what travel company, Solos stood for. Nicky from Solos Travel: “There was this real need to put a stake in the ground and become known as the market leader in our field but before we could do that we had to find the right people to make sense of what is quite a complex business…I think what you [Sue] and Rachel have done creatively, and what Nicky’s done with the words, has allowed us to communicate very succinctly with the customer. So now they’ll come to our website and totally get what we’re about. But more than that, being totally clear on where we stand allows us to be more playful and much less corporate.”
It’s still early days for the Solos brand refresh (launching soon) but Nicky is confident, “I feel sure now that the brand will be able to go from strength to strength.”
Simon from BaseKit adds, “We have true standout now. Before, we looked and sounded like any other web dev company – we needed to be bold, express our opinion and demonstrate our personality. we’ve got that now and it’s really getting us traction.”
5. Reignite pride in the brand
There’s no doubt that a new and revitalised visual and verbal identity builds pride in a brand but the very process of going through the exercise is something that can also help your team rediscover their passion for the everyday work they do. In the words of Belinda Phipps, the CEO of national charity, WithYou, on receiving the brand strategy (after extensive research and discovery workshops): “When you can turn around and read statements about your brand it reconnects you to why your work is so important. That relights the fire. So, if nothing else, thinking about and discussing the brand reconnects you to the soul of the organisation and to individual souls – that point and purpose of why you exist in the first place. A lot of what happens day to day is plain hard work. It can be frustrating when things don’t always go smoothly, but being able to remind yourself why you’re doing it in that consistent and elevating set of statements – that’s really helpful.”
The team at ISL Talent had been frustrated by their previous brand image. It felt dated and didn’t reflect their culture or personality. One of the team said they were embarrassed by the branding which they called “faceless”. Alan, the CEO remembers asking them, “If we wanted to be 10 times bolder as an organisation, what would we do?” Incorporating this bold approach to the rebrand meant that the team now “feel energised by the new brand” and “proud to say [they] work at ISL.”
6. Give their team a voice
It isn’t just the final outcome (a well-defined brand) but the creative process of getting to that position which benefits the team. We tend to run a co-creation session sandwiched between the research/discovery/strategy stage and the creative brief stage. In the words of one client, Nicky at Solos Travel: “Sue’s co-creation session is a stroke of genius. It allows the team to come on the journey, understand the journey and feel that, even though they may not be decision makers, that it’s a very collaborative process. It’s particularly important when it’s a business that people have worked in for years and years.”
Sometimes the answers you need are staring you in the face, i.e. they’re there, within your own team. Quartet Community Foundation’s Chief Exec, Suzanne: “Getting the internal team together is a positive thing as so much that defines your organisation comes from them. They’re the people who are on the ground, doing the work, so when you give them a chance to step forward and say what they think, their views offer rich pickings. For example, when we were talking about values, we went quite deep and talked a lot about the way we work, how we deliver everything we do. The process of discovery revealed a resonant backstory and that has proved really, really helpful.”
7. Build a great a culture
BaseKit not only needed to get their ‘brand ducks in a row’ they also recognised that as a growing and ambitious business they needed to retain as well as attract talent. The founder, Simon isn’t in the business of purely building for growth, he also wants to retain and develop the values he’s built the business on: “Sue’s Values in Action workshop galvanised the team behind our core values – we worked together in break-out groups looking at how we could live our values as individuals, as small teams and with our clients. It was a great way to embed those values and make sure they were part of our culture.”
8. Attract talent
When it comes to attracting and acquiring the very best talent it’s still a seller’s market in the creative and tech worlds. People have become very discerning. They do their research and look for values that resonate with them, looking for companies with a vision and purpose that’s meaningful to them.
Hot off the heels of a new look, full rebrand (name change, clarified position and new website – articulated through a revised brand strategy) Jessica Gillingham, founder and Chief Exec of Abode Worldwide attracted a big hire – an MD to share her mission.
“I needed someone to oversee basically all of the agency, to free me up to focus on growth. An MD is a difficult post to fill, it’s such a key hire. The person we eventually hired wouldn’t have considered Abode before we rebranded – it’s testament to how the new brand helps us look the part and articulate what we’re about so much better than before.”
9. Appeal to a new audience
Quartet Community Foundation came to us with a need to broaden their appeal so they could attract a new generation of prospective philanthropists. They were quick to recognise the importance of listening to their audience at the start of the rebrand so that they could get their positioning right: “If you don’t engage with people, then you can’t start to deliver on all those ambitions that you have – reaching new donors, attracting new philanthropists, encouraging other community organisations to come forward to look at what you’re doing and make a request themselves for support. The investment you make in listening is one that will always pay off.”
And finally, to summarise…
Multi-layered and rewarding as a process, sharpening your positioning should result in a singular, easily articulated and memorable brand positioning statement that can then start yielding all sorts of benefits. I’ll leave the final words to Suzanne and Belinda:
It’s very easy to be tempted to skip things such as thinking about vision, mission and brand values because you assume they’re known to everyone and shared by everyone, but actually, quite often, and especially as organisations grow, they’re not. They’re things that change as people leave and new people come in. The brand review went quite deep. It caused us to really reflect on what we’re here to do and why and how we do it. So, when people talk about a brand review, I think they initially might have quite a narrow understanding of what that might look like.
Suzanne Rolt, CEO of Quartet Community Foundation
Practical, tactical things will only ever take you so far. If it feels like there’s a lot about what your organisation looks and sounds like that needs to change you need to be looking at your brand positioning – really examining that and trusting in the process.
Belinda Phipps, CEO of WithYou.
Thank you to:
Alan Furley, Co-founder and CEO, ISL Talent — read more about this rebrand
Simon Best, Founder and CEO, BaseKit — read more about this rebrand
Nicky Greenwood, Commercial Director, Hidden Travel Group — brand refresh launching this year
Jessica Gillingham, founder and CEO, Abode Worldwide — read more about this rebrand
Suzanne Rolt, CEO, Quartet Community Foundation — read more about this rebrand
Belinda Phipps, CEO, WithYou – brand refresh launching this year