Creating a ‘GENIUS’ brand strategy to send online sales through the roof

How do you take a start-up to millions of pounds in revenue with a successful brand strategy? The man behind Protein World's stellar growth reveals all…

All start-ups and entrepreneurs talk about the importance of brands – but what is the magical formula needed to lift a brand head and shoulders above the competition?

We talked to Tim Heard (pictured below) from Not Another Design Agency, who took sports and health supplements brand Protein World from an entrepreneur’s ‘idea’, to a household name with a turnover in the tens of millions in less than three years.

Now, as independent guns for hire, he shares some of Not Another Design Agency’s knowledge and experience.Tim Heard body 2

How do we understand what a brand really is?

There are many different interpretations. However, we regard it as simply a consistent look, feel and tone-of-voice that we apply across every touchpoint, from the name to the packaging, the e-commerce sites, the social media presence and everything in between – even the product development.

Design and our understanding of brands has changed; we are at the point where the ‘logo’ is way down on our to-do list – we build all the elements of a brand as one and the logo comes later, as a result of all our development and thinking. It goes against convention, but it’s a refreshing way of looking at things, and it works.

What are the foundations for creating a successful brand?

Again the basics are actually very simple – it comes down to innovation and differentiation. You can either be innovative by bringing something new to the market, or simply differentiate in the way that you ‘package’ an existing category, which is essentially the way you sell yourself against the direct competition. Without being able to tick one of these boxes, you’re probably going to struggle.Protein World body 3

How involved should an owner-manager / entrepreneur be in the process?

Very. Inventing a powerful brand from scratch is about an entrepreneur and a lead creative sharing a very clear single vision. If you don’t set off in the same direction with a mutual understanding of where you are heading, again, you are going to struggle.

That vision will shift and evolve as you go through the process, so as a combined client and creative team, you have to adapt together. I am a strong believer that you can be the ‘best’ entrepreneur working with the ‘best’ creative, but if you don’t have that unified vision – the success will be limited.

How do owners measure how successful their brand is becoming?

Ultimately it’s about the bottom line. A beautiful looking brand is one thing, but a beautiful brand that delivers commercially can be entirely different. Good design is simply a tool for good business. Additionally of course, the social channels are a very good indicator of awareness and engagement, particularly with new businesses.Protein World body 2

If you are launching a consumer business that doesn’t create much interest or noise on social media, that is probably a pretty bad sign. However, as a business grows, the social channels generally become less influential in converting a growing following to a corresponding bottom line.

When we launched Protein World, the company lived and breathed through social and their influencers – it proved so successful that the website would crash every other day under the strain. We knew very quickly that we had struck gold, but it was equally visible in figures.

What other tools can businesses use to grow and measure?

The great thing about social is the two-way dialogue that enables you to really understand your consumers – who they are and what they think; the dialogue they have with each other, their motivations and even exactly what kind of house they live in.

Protein World body 6This enables businesses to plan and build other communication strategies. Our Beach Body Ready campaign looked simple, but was a whole year in the planning, based on daily trawling the Protein World channels and Google Analytics.

The campaign generated over 970 articles and press stories in the UK and USA alone. For a modest £150,000 investment, it generated sales over £2m. With diligent understanding and insights from easily available resources, businesses can work out where to go beyond social.

How should you choose a design agency to create your brand?

London and the UK in general is awash with truly first class creative talent. Many agencies form themselves around their specific target clients that have very specific needs and ways of working – so a creative agency that works with blue-chip corporate B2B clients is a very different entity from a small team that helps brave owner managers to launch their new B2C ventures – it really is a horses for courses thing.

A final word on this is: choose a team that is motivated and invested in your commercial and financial success with a clear proven track record to match your business.

How do you kick-start the process?

Protein World body 5For entrepreneurs and start-ups, it’s often about breaking the rules and getting from A to B as quickly and cost-efficiently as possible. We are advocates of doing things differently from conventional agencies.

Our research is the same, but beyond that we employ shorter, sharper and simpler processes that still tick all the boxes, without labouring or over-thinking. We have learned through experience that speed and momentum are truly vital to maximising the potential of a new brand.

What timescale are you looking at and how much does it cost?

A successful branding solution can be the difference between business success and failure. To do it well, even by streamlining the process to its shortest possible format, it is still a serious time and cost commitment for all involved.

We work with clients from the very beginning, often before there is even a name or sample product – and in this instance would take in the region of six months to get to market. Costs would typically be between £50,000 to £100,000 to do everything required, which includes brand creation (positioning, strategy and creation of all digital and print collateral); packaging; e-commerce user experience and design; technical build; all photography and multi-language copywriting for brand, product and social content. We even do the small print.

Lastly, what important lessons have you learned and what are your top five tips?

  1. Remember that the real work starts on the day you launch.
  2. The business you launch will inevitably be different from what you imagined it would be when you started out six months earlier. Six months is a long time in the consumer markets, so you have to constantly monitor and change accordingly, as you build towards launch.
  3. If you have successfully innovated, imitators will be very shortly behind, so you have to work hard to maintain your position.
  4. Maximise every touchpoint of your brand – make every element better than the competitors. The fine detailing counts.
  5. The braver, the better – and as Donald Trump famously quipped: ‘If you’re going to be thinking anything, you might as well think big.’

Tim Heard is the founder of brand design specialists Not Another Design Agency.

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