The value of brand: why it’s your most important asset
UPDATED 25TH AUGUST 2023
What is the true value of brand? Rita Clifton CBE knows the secret. She’s been labelled the Queen of Branding and is a real UK brand expert, having been at the top of agencies including Saatchi & Saatchi, Interbrand and BrandCap. Find out why…
How does branding boost engagement? Wisdom from the Queen of Brand
“I’ve always had one foot in the advertising business and branding consultancy business, one foot in retail and then one foot in the environment and sustainability camp. That’s been the three legged stool of my career.” Rita’s early experience in retail, combined with decades 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.
She 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 working life. “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.”
How brand is an entity in itself
Rita has played a pivotal role in helping countless companies understand that ‘brand’ is an entity in itself— a living thing that must evolve with their business. Yet few business leaders seem to grasp this. She says, “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.”
How to create a valuable brand? Three fundamentals of brand building
Rita believes there are three fundamental characteristics of any successful brand, whatever size or stage.
- Find clarity in your purpose…“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, but difficult to do, because clarity and simplicity are often hard to wrestle down.”
- Build confidence in your brand…“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,” explains Rita. So how can your people, places, pricing, positioning, the whole experience inside and out, help build coherence for your brand?
- Show authentic leadership and live your brand values…“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.”
Those three characteristics of any successful brand are all easy to say, difficult to do, but fundamentally, extremely important.
Embedding brand values into business: brand story starts from the beginning
It’s these very fundamentals that need to be stitched in from the beginning. Rita says, “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 or 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.
The value of brand: key takeaways…
Whether you’re starting from the ground up, or diving into the next stage of your business, remember Rita’s business advice on how to build the value of your brand:
1. Three fundamentals of branding:
There are three fundamental characteristics to any successful brand; clarity, coherence and leadership.
2. Treat your brand 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 about your brand experience:
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.
Images: Rita Clifton CBE, money origami shirt — by Team Holly & Co, 'Purpose Fuels Passion' key — by Team Holly & Co, 'Use Your Story Well' ink pot — by Vinegar & Brown Paper