The importance of branding

1 September 2016  |  Admin


ACCELERATING COMPANY GROWTH: A PRACTICAL GUIDE FOR CEOs / Brendan DowlingBrendan Dowling explains why branding is so important:

To me, a brand is the representation of your business: your logo, brochures and documents should all look and feel like there is a core brand at work in the business. By getting this right, you can communicate quality and trust that is picked up both internally by your own staff and externally by anyone who touches your business.

When I was in my early 20s, I set up an accountancy practice in my home town of Carlow. It came from my desire to act as a consultant to many different businesses to get a feel for the industry that I would choose for my business and entrepreneurial career ahead. I started with one or two customers based on friends and family but I knew that, to scale the business and ultimately build value in it, so that I could sell it to a third party, I needed to build a brand. The brand needed to show a mature business with lots of history, a safe pair of hands coming from an accountancy background. My letterheads and brochures were important but I could not achieve the brand effect from these alone, so I looked at old buildings in Carlow town until someone pointed me to the old railway station. The station-master’s old house, a beautiful building built in the 1800s, was perfect for an office and, because no one could see its potential, I got it for little or no rent. I took it over and renovated it to look like a very old office by installing old wood panels on the walls etc. This building had a huge impact on growing the business quickly: I remember after winning a large contract, the owner of the business said to me, “You must consider yourself very lucky to have inherited such an old and well-established practice from your father.” Just the brand effect I was looking for!

If budgets are scarce, you can build a brand by association. I used this tactic very effectively when I was trying to build my Nautique aftershave brand. I had no money to spend on advertising, yet I wanted to compete with the big brands like Boss, Polo, etc. So I made sure that my product was positioned on the same shelf as these products and priced at the same price point with a product that was equal, if not better, in every respect. This strategy was hugely successful for building an unknown brand with no budget.

I did the same with iO by displaying our content partners’ brands – companies like Sony, EMI, Discovery, Disney, etc. – so we could gain instant credibility in the market as a key supplier with substance.

Brand values are what you stand for – although many brands say the same things, branding matters and works to help a company accelerate its growth. I am a great believer in getting everyone to buy into the company brand, its products and its culture. For example, when we created the imagine brand, we gave everyone a baseball cap with the logo, I wore a jacket that had the logo on it in bold writing, and we created brochures and information leaflets that looked cool. We infused the brand and what it stood for into the organization. This works; when your own people start to believe in a brand, they will live it and they carry the brand values into customer meetings, marketing meetings, supplier meetings, etc.

I engaged with a major US company that was looking to acquire an Irish technology company. During the acquisition, the US CEO commented, “When we buy a company, we make sure that we send two branded T-shirts to the employee’s home – one for them and one for their partner – to make sure that they know they are now part of our team and to let their partners know also.” I smiled at the thought of this being important enough to the CEO for him to say it in the midst of a deal worth millions of dollars, but he was right: it matters.