By: Yiano Ioannou, director of YCI ltd
Holidays, getaways and breaks from the ‘daily hustle’ are invaluable and vital for self-growth as we take time away from routine monotony that can suppress creativity, and I find New Year a great time for this, as the year’s business reaching the end of one chapter and a new start to the next.
I was lucky enough to take a break in the form of a safari, and that got me thinking about a completely different kind of CAT – namely a lion. In my mind, the king of the jungle has personality characteristics that we may benefit in adopting as business practices – including building our brands and product portfolios.
Leadership is where it all starts. Whether you are the company’s ‘Top Cat’, departmental head or manager, you have teams looking to you for guidance. You will lay the path to be followed. In this case, we must understand and communicate clearly what our brand represents. What its purpose is and be clear of its values. The importance cannot be overlooked and the knowledge not assumed.
Brands executed correctly will hold huge value for our businesses and offer that all-important barrier to entry. A resource unique to us that cannot be copied. It is our job as leaders to ensure that we communicate through the team our brand’s course.
With the brand’s story and course set, the power now lies with you to grow and exploit – albeit whilst remaining true to it. We seem to have been hit head-on with big fiscal challenges for the past fifteen years that have perhaps too easily pushed us to make brand and product decisions that without these headwinds are choices we would not have made. This is business though and we will be faced with them repeatedly.
Making knee-jerk decisions can often be detrimental to our future success. For example, if you have a brand that you set out to be a leader in sustainable products but to save margin as costs are increasing around us have decided to use single-use non-recyclable packaging, you have not only stepped on your core brand value but totally kicked it into the bushes. Once a decision like this has been made it can be impossible for it to be forgotten. Imagine the famous smoothie brand substituting some costly fruit with a few spoons of sugar. It would definitely lose its innocence – perhaps forever.
This may all sound easier said than done when we are against the ropes however we must remember that it is only a quick fix. The strength of a brand remaining true to its values is far greater. It separates itself from others and its story is the reason that it grows and maintains a loyal customer base for the long-term, rather than becoming A.N.Other.
I am sure that we are all familiar with the phrase ‘me-too’. It is not only product and service but life related. In society we have a habit of wanting a little bit of what our peers have. The cake generally stays the same size however, so we are pinching a bit of someone else’s that they will inevitably work to take back. Strive to bake your own cake – or perhaps add a new tier. This is where product development comes into play.
We often need generic ‘fat’ in our portfolios. It enforces our relevance with customers and helps the single—supplier model, however we will be recognised and remembered for what we do differently. Identify the gaps and needs not being addressed. We are not talking about humanity defining revolutions (necessarily) but exciting developments that offer customers the reasons they must buy into our brands.
Having now set your brand values and vision, created your unique product offering and have a clear vision of the path that will deliver your goals it needs to be communicated. Not only externally but internally. Too often in business we forget that our peers are ‘customers’. As product developers, sourcing departments and marketers it is our responsibility to ensure that colleagues are educated about products and services. Without this communication how will they sell what we have spent so much time, effort and investment developing and bringing to range. Remember, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. It takes a team to deliver.
Brand takes pride of place in communications. Even launching the best product ever, doing so with our name at the forefront will deliver repeat business with customers associating the two and relating groundbreaking developments with our brand time and time again. Paving the way for future releases to be anticipated and well-received. Importantly, do not disappoint. It is not quickly forgotten.
Build a brand to be admired. Have enviable values other aspire for. Take pride in what you are working tirelessly to create and watch as your baby grows and grows. A respected brand with products and services that deliver the same ethos will succeed as customers become to know what to expect and trust that time after time it will be delivered.
Be dedicated and resolute. You have considered, planned and decided the best course of action that meets your objectives. Execute confidently and with determination for the best results. Not in an arrogant or stubborn way but taking stock along the way, adapting to the landscape. The goal remains the same albeit with route changes if needed.
Whatever approach you choose, follow the lion. Be a credit to your team.