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Why brand is the most valuable asset to your business

with Rita Clifton CBE

 

Rita Clifton CBE has been labelled the queen of branding, a brand guru, the doyenne of branding and the brand leading the brands. She’s been at the very top of major agencies Saatchi and Saatchi, Interbrand and BrandCap, and sits on a number of retail and non-profit boards. If there’s something about brand that Rita doesn’t know, it isn’t worth knowing!

‘I’ve always had one foot in the advertising business and branding consultancy business, one foot in retail and one foot in the environment and sustainability camp. That’s been my three legged stool in my career.’

Her early experience in retail, combined with a career overseeing some of the biggest brands out there, has given her a unique perspective of the impact branding can have on customer engagement and loyalty. 

Read on to find out why Rita thinks ‘brand can be the most valuable asset in your business’, and what she believes are the three fundamental characteristics of a successful brand.

Rita quite literally grew up in retail, with her parents owning a toy and record shop which she worked in from a young age. It was these early experiences with customers that ultimately shaped her career.

‘If I wasn’t working in that shop, I was working in another shop and that understanding of customers was really what inspired me to go into something that was related to customers at a later date.’

‘Your brand is a tangible asset, perhaps THE most valuable asset you have, and needs to be treated that way.’

Rita has played a pivotal role in helping countless companies understand that brand is a real, tangible asset – a living thing that must evolve with their business.

‘I went into brand consultancy because I think the way brands need to connect with people is much broader, more holistic. Making sure that you are wrapping your whole brand experience around your customer and that it is in everything you do – that is a truly exciting and creative place to be.’

Rita believes there are three fundamental characteristics of any successful brand, whatever size or stage.

1. Clarity of what you stand for…

‘Not necessarily the product, because as we know, products become obsolete, but what is your brand going to stand for now? That’s easy to say, difficult to do, because clarity and simplicity is often difficult to wrestle down.’

2. Coherence…

‘Coherence about how that clarity shows up through everything you do is fundamentally important – think about the people, the experience, the places that you’re going to distribute. You’ve got to make sure all of those are coherent. For example, Jack Wills was interesting. It chose particular places to put its stores in a way that really reflected what its brand stood for.’ How can your people, places, pricing, positioning, the whole experience inside and out, help build coherence for your brand?

3. Leadership…

‘How do you symbolise all the very best about your brand and what it stands for? You are living those values, symbolising those values. And that’s not an easy thing to do with authenticity, but leadership is also about restlessness, it’s by innovation. It’s about setting the agenda and making sure that you are prepared to flex your hard offer over time, in line with what your customers need.’

‘So those three characteristics, I think, all easy to say, difficult to do, but fundamentally important.’

And these things need to be stitched in from the beginning!

‘The most successful entrepreneurs I’ve come across have been those that have stitched the brand thinking in from the outset. How can we show that through the people we recruit, how we answer the phone? Whatever it is that you’re going to do and whatever your business is, make sure you are stitching in what your brand stands for through all of those things, because that’s going to be the thing that really allows you to grow and flex and develop over time.’

If you’re at the beginning of your journey, now is the time to stop and think about these things, ensuring they are part of your foundations that will grow with your business. And if you’re a little way down the road already, don’t panic! You can still establish a strong brand if you don’t feel you’re there yet. And even if you are, revisiting it on a regular basis is a great practice to work into your business. Letting something as valuable as your brand fall by the wayside or go stale is the beginning of the end for many businesses.

‘Whatever it is that you’re going to do and whatever your business is, make sure you are stitching in what your brand stands for through all of those things, because that’s going to be the thing that really allows you to grow and flex and develop over time.’

Key takeaways:

1. Three fundamentals: There are three fundamental characteristics to any successful brand; clarity, coherence and leadership.

2. Treat it like an asset: Your brand is a tangible asset, perhaps THE most valuable asset you have, and needs to be treated that way.

3. Think creatively: A creative approach will help you wrap your brand experience fully around the customer, fully immersing them in what you believe and stand for. From your copy, to your packaging to your social media, each small element of your brand helps to build the full picture.

‘Brand heart patch’ – Emma Giacalone

Hear more from Rita

After a chance meeting, Holly knew she needed to get Rita on her podcast to share her experience and invaluable branding advice with the small business community.

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