Introduction (or so much more than beans)


Imagine you are in your local shop and want to buy a tin of beans.  In the UK we are big lovers of baked beans, happily having them for breakfast, lunch or dinner and we eat more cans of it than the rest of the world combined, making our way through more than two million cans of baked beans every day!  Over 25% of us eat them 2-3 times a week.


With lots of brands to choose from, most of us choose Heinz – who sell 1.5m cans a day in the UK (75% of the total consumed).  However, they do not always come top in taste tests and there are many other less expensive brands.  But it is the most recognisable and memorable brand, with the ‘Beanz Means Heinz’ line going back to the 1960s and survived through to the 21st century (2009).


Or think about the Nike swoosh, Amazon’s arrow or McDonald’s golden arches which are instantly recognisable without the brand name.


As a small business you can have the same strategy as your brand can give you an edge and make you stand out.  After spending over 25 years working with big brands from Selfridges, Asda, Harvey Nichols, Peugeot, Marriott to National Trust, I now champion small brands as they can be a powerful marketing tool but in the wrong hands can lead to being inducted into the Marketing Hall of Shame.


Big brands, with their deep pockets and agencies on speed dial, still manage to forget the simplest of marketing lessons.  Great news for small business owners though, as we can learn what not to do!


Lesson 1 Ignore Customers at Your Peril


Tropicana relented to customer pressure after changing their design from an orange and straw illustration to a glass of orange juice. Customers did not like the new design so the old one was brought back. A big brand who forgot their customers are invested.


Another example is Gap who redeveloped their logo in 2010. But they had to revert back to their original brand because of the negative reaction of their customers. Words such as cheapy, tacky and ordinary were used. The retailer made the mistake of only changing the design and nothing else – a purely cosmetic change. So had to go back to its 20-year-old original design.


Lesson: to involve customers as they are invested in your brand too.


Lesson 2 Check, Check and Check Again (or and Check it One More Time)


Any big brand marketing material will have to go through a number of approval layers before any customer sees it. You would think with that number of layers everything would be picked up. But you would be incorrect.


La Redoute published a photo in their catalogue and online advertising their new range. What no one had noticed was the naked man in the background!! Funnily enough, I am not going to include the photo. And you can easily find it for yourself as it is online forever, much to the retailer’s embarrassment.


Lesson: please check anything you are going to publish, whether it is online or in printed material. And if you have designed it yourself, please ask someone else to check it, just in case.


Lesson 3 Understand Who Your Customer Is


There are brands that have a customer base who seem willing to buy any new product from them. Think about Apple, could they literally introduce any sort of product?  Unlikely as Apple know their brand and appreciate customers trust them so will fiercely guard that.


Unfortunately for Harley-Davidson, they pushed their brand too far when they decided to launch their own perfume and aftershave.  Even with success in extending their brand to items such as jackets and t-shirts, licensing their brand to a fragrance was one step too far.


Lesson: understand who our ideal customer is and what their issues and needs are.  Only then can you provide products or services that they will come to you to purchase.


Lesson 4 Know Who You Are and Why You Do What You Do


Customers need to trust you so being clear on what you stand for and what you do are important.


If those values keep changing, this is unlikely to happen.


What happens if you make a complete departure away from the product or service your customers buy from you? How about if a toothpaste brand launched a line of frozen meals?  Colgate wanted to expand and made a decision to get into the frozen food market. For customers there was no connection just confusion.  And they could not see how this fitted with the toothpaste brand.


Lesson: stay true to your niche. Expanding your brand can be successful as long as it is aligned to your core values and brand.


Lesson 5 Treat Your Customers Like You Would Your Closest Friends


How would customers react if they felt used?  Sainsburys, unfortunately, found out a few years ago when a poster meant for internal use only (for staff rooms etc) was displayed in a store window for all passing customers to see.


The message on the poster was “let’s encourage every customer to spend an additional 50p during each shopping trip between now and the year-end”.  It was an internal poster as a staff incentive programme to help profits.  So not really customer friendly.


Lesson: treat customers and staff with respect.  If this has been the case, the incentive would not have been approved or published as it was not a positive customer message.


Thank you

Lisa Simcox, Little Artisan Marketeer, Small Business Brand Champion and Marketeer


Please read my blog for more information about the importance of brand in a small business: HERE


Lisa is a member of the Woman Who Achieves Academy