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Why your brand is the life force of your business

by Holly

 

Many times in my career I’ve had to become the defender of the ‘B’ word – brand. You see, for some, it doesn’t carry the same weight as the things you can neatly track and stick into a spreadsheet. It’s invisible much of the time and so can be overlooked; it’s importance undermined.

Brand lives within hearsay, a recommendation over lunch, a smile, a saved website in a bookmark, a corner folded down in a magazine and so on. But the truth is, those are the actions when your brand is causing reaction outside of your product or service offering – sort of the holy grail when it comes to business!

Those are the actions of when your brand has created energy bigger than just what it offers. I like to think of brand as the living life force (I coined the phrase in the height of Harry’s love of Star Wars!) that sits at the heart of your business, powering everything around it. Let me explain more…

As we built notonthehighstreet, we knew our brand was the most important element which we had to protect. I remember the conversations Sophie and I would have about the businesses we took on board to join our new business. You see, we were creating the first curated website (didn’t quite realise that at the time!) which meant we would turn away 90% of all the businesses that would apply to sell on our platform. They paid £199 to join and this was the only income we received, seeing as our sales (product being bought through the till) were practically non existent for a long time! We knew we were only as good as the partners we brought on board and that every customer would judge us, on our virtual shopping shelves and what we stocked (so to speak). 

‘I like to think of brand as the living life force (I coined the phrase in the height of Harry’s love of Star Wars!) that sits at the heart of your business, powering everything around it.’

Now what no one knew, is that at this very point in our personal and business lives, we were in such financial trouble. We were paying staff from our credit card cheque books, we had such personal financial worries as we’d not paid ourselves in over a year and it was all not sustainable. We needed those £199 more than life itself and the easiest thing to do would have been to allow small business to join, purely to help us survive. But we didn’t. Actually, I do not think it even was a conversation. We had to protect the brand, whatever that meant and I suppose we would have stood by the side of ‘brand’ even if it meant we failed. 

Fast forward many years ahead and I would say the only reason the business is alive today is because of the deep brand roots which grew, thanks to the love, care, protection and nurturing we gave it at the start of its life and in the earliest years. We built a brand that the business knew, as we grew, was sacred and at all costs it had to be protected. 

We allowed the roots to bed in, become strong which allowed a tree to grow; the magnificent tree of notonthehighstreet that was able to weather 100 years’ of storms – thanks to the foresight that brand, is the greatest asset a business has.

If you look at the world today, I’d say that brands are more important now than they’ve been in the last century. You see a brand is the psychology and science brought together as a sort of promise and love mark as opposed to a trademark. What you create be it a service or a product has life cycles as we all know, but brand outlives them all. It’s just so much bigger than that.

As we built Holly & Co, I had learnt from near business death experiences, what it meant to the company to have a strong brand and how it was imperative, we learnt from the mistakes of my past, but also my deep respect for a company’s identity. We knew Holly & Co would live and the life force would burn strong if we had a cultural movement strategy (a plan that works around how the world evolves, how we approach work but also embodies the movement of art, the sciences and philosophies for instance). I suppose that’s what we did at the time with my first business baby, but didn’t have such a fancy way of describing it then!

‘If you look at the world today, I’d say that brands are more important now than they’ve been in the last century. You see a brand is the psychology and science brought together as a sort of promise and love mark as opposed to a trademark. What you create be it a service or a product has life cycles as we all know, but brand outlives them all. It’s just so much bigger than that.’

I believe building a brand now, requires a cultural movement plan as opposed to simply thinking of how to amplify the brand alone. A cultural movement strategy can fast forward your brand’s rise to fame thanks to the permission it gives you to do almost anything. You can be involved with other businesses who are unlikely business friends, you can become involved in conversation with depth, collaborate with others and so forth – maximising the power of social media and I suppose technology. The world has changed. We are now living in the age of uprisings and movements.

People don’t have relationships with products, they are loyal and love brands. In a ‘movement strategy’, brands have a purpose which people (us!) can get behind. That life force can allow millions of people to get behind a community, a vision and a purpose. That’s how we have built Holly & Co and now looking back, how we built notonthehighstreet. 

I loved what someone (can’t quite remember who, but they were super smart!) once said when speaking about brand, they said “brands are Russian dolls, with many layers, stories and beliefs that can create great followings of people who find them relevant. Brands can activate a passionate group of people to do something like changing the world! Products can’t really do that.”

Today, brand is what you need to build and then protect. Think of the roots and the tree and imagine your business. Imagine the force of energy that propels out of it.  Think of it as the only asset you have, which will see you through it all. Brand is all mighty.

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