What makes a great brand?

Sarah Dunwell on why you must preserve your founding culture above all else

I have to be honest and say that I’m a bit of a doer. So when I started Create my first priority was to make food and sell it to people who would put money in my hand for it – simple but effective I think. It still remains my benchmark, because if we are not doing that the foundation of all that we are as a business, social enterprise or otherwise, evaporates.

As a girl of action my feelings towards branding and marketing people (or ‘creatives’, as they like to be known!) are sometimes a little cool to say the least. But one thing I did recognise very early on is that creating a brand is vital to delivering business success.

The second thing I learned is that, as a leader, if you have identified that something is logically important but you personally have no interest in it, get someone onto the team who is passionate about it. One of the first members of my management team was passionate about this and I used them mercilessly to develop the Create brand in ways I had no inkling even existed.

As the company grew it needed additional support and it’s money well spent to an external brand and marketing company in my opinion. Although I have little interest in the glitter sprinkling type of branding and marketing one thing I knew was I wanted to start a movement. (Here’s a great video of entrepreneur Derek Sivers speaking on this subject for TED.)

That was partly because mine is a social business that seeks to deliver social value as well as great products and services – but I don’t think that really matters. All brands that are successful are about getting people to love you and your story and therefore to buy your product. It is brand which is the personality that identifies your product, service or company and determines how your company relates to key constituencies: customers, staff, partners, investors etc.

This understanding was vital for me. Create’s brand is like a stick of Blackpool rock. If you looked at us from either end or broke us in the middle you could always see the same thing, because it was written throughout our DNA. So many times I have seen branding used as a tool to try to sell the personality of a company but if that branding isn’t carried through everything you do you can so easily end up with a logo that speaks of something different to your business card, which jars with your email footer, and as for the handwritten notice you put up in reception…don’t get me started!

The good news though is that brand development is free. You, your staff, your ambitions and aspirations are the brand and you don’t need to pay anyone else to determine that for you. Pay a great company to listen to you, reflect your thoughts back to you and draw a nice picture for your logo. Then choose a typeface to match and recognise that these are the bits that cost. But it costs you more in the long run if you don’t know what your brand is and can’t share that with the world. I think ours is summed up by some words on our Leeds restaurant wall…

Create is about believing.

Believing in great food and service.

Believing that food is about hospitality not theatre, caring not showing off.

Believing that people can grow, thrive and excel when given the chance.

Believing that customers want to make a difference and buy with their heart, not their wallet.

Believing that business and ordinary people do extraordinary things.

Sarah Dunwell is the founder of the award-winning social enterprise the Create Foundation, an organisation which provides training and employment opportunities to marginalised or vulnerable people. For more information, visit: www.createfoundation.co.uk

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