Rachel Clarke, a founding partner at Strat House, explains why scale-up brands need to be clear, crafted, consistent and connected to reach the next phase of growth.

Scale-up brands

This article is part of a series of articles from the WARC Guide to scale-up brands.

You’re doing great, but isn’t it time to build your brand? There may be a feeling that the performance marketing you’ve been busy activating is all you need to do, but there’s enough evidence out there to indicate that it is now time to take the next step and to build up your brand. The first thing you may be asked by your sales team is why, their sales tactics are working? Well, here are three things to think about

  • Distinct brand assets are one of the major drivers of penetration (along with availability).
  • Equity-driving activity alongside sales-focused messaging is critical for long-term growth
  • According to BrandZ research, brands that have meaning (or purpose) capture five times as much volume, command a 13% price premium and are four times more likely to grow value share.

But where do you start? You don’t have to rip everything up and start again, a lot of what you need is probably already there: colour, words, stories, shapes and sounds. You may have more, the values, the personality and tone of voice. What you probably don’t have at this point is everything codified in a way that can be used everywhere you are or want to be and with all your partners. What building a brand does is help everyone know who you are and what you stand for, ensuring you hit the key points.

  • Clear: It’s described in such a way that everyone who works with the brand can understand it.
  • Crafted: It’s thought about and worked on so there is little room for doubt.
  • Consistent: It’s used the same way across all your touchpoints.
  • Connected: It works holistically across your activities.

You don’t need to employ a big brand agency to build a big brand – for a starter, you’re unlikely to have the budget! But you do need to have a plan and work through the process, preferably with someone who has done it before. That may be by employing an expert directly or bringing in outside help for a while – it shortcuts the process and makes everything a little easier, hopefully.

You have to start with the audience. You’ll hopefully have lots of sales data, knowing who buys the stuff, but you hopefully know a little more about them, what matters to them. Some points of difference are becoming hygiene – sustainability is no longer a USP on its own – but you need to be aware of what your customers care about. Get some research done – talk to them, investigate what your customers are saying about you on social channels and what they talk about outside of brands. Ask them. Sometimes a simple survey can work.

A brand is not just what you think you are – the audience perception of what you are is where a brand lives. So, seeing if there is a disconnect between your current brand feelings and what your potential customers think you are is a starting point. All aligned, then away you start building. Too big a gap, and you need to understand why. And take note, if lots of people think your product, or customer service, or CEO’s attitude is bad, then no brand building is going to fix that until you fix your fundamentals.

Now for the crafting … thinking and reviewing. Write it all down, get all the right people to agree with it. Do the design work, think about how you want to be presented. Sometimes, you’re just pulling together things that are already present in the company, tweaking them and making sure they align. Other times, you’re creating stuff for the first time – dig deep and get it done.  Any more than 10 slides for your core brand information is far too much.

You have the brand heart, next to work out how it works across your channels. Whatever your next focus is – be it comms or digital or influencer or the other areas – it’s just about how your brand is expressed in these channels. You can’t do everything at once, you need to make choices about where your focus will be. And having done your audience research, you’re going to know where your audience plays. Use video for emotional connections, whether on TV, TikTok or YouTube. Keep the performance/sales driving ads going, although your budget is now being split and combined with equity-building storytelling. Don’t try and do everything at the same time – plan the year so you have the right balance between channels. Don’t do the same thing across every channel – know their roles and how the audience uses them. Finally, get the measurement sorted. If you don’t think about it before you start using the brand, then how do you know it is all working?

Read more articles from the WARC Guide to scale-up brands.