SIMON SAYS CREATE
Do you have an accidental brand?
“Most Small businesses are underselling themselves”, says Simon Gregory, Creative Director at Clear & Creative, Oxford’s specialist branding agency for SMEs.
“When you set up a small business there’s a lot to learn and most of your time is spent simply finding and serving customers. Big firms have entire sales and marketing departments, but that’s a luxury most small business owners can’t afford.”
And according to Simon, that can lead to all kinds of problems.
“Nobody can be an expert in everything”, he says, “When you start a company it’s usually because you’re an expert at what you do – actually making the product or delivering the service. So when you’re setting up and short on cash you tend to go for DIY solutions: designing your own logo, building your own website and placing your own ads – or getting a mate who’s ‘good with computers’ to do it for you.”
“It can be fine at the start, when you’re working out of your back bedroom or garage, but there are plenty of firms who’ve grown but are still using the logo their daughter knocked up in Word Art on her PC. Because they’ve got used to it they don’t realise how unprofessional they appear. We call it ‘Accidental Branding’. A lot of these firms are baffled when they continually lose work to higher-priced competitors with lower quality products.”
So is it just about the way they look?
“Absolutely not. That’s part of it, but the biggest issue is that they don’t understand their customers. They focus on what they sell rather than how that solves the customer’s problem. Companies that understand their client’s problems, then sell solutions rather than just products outsell their competitors and attract higher value customers. When your messages are skilfully communicated and your image is beautifully designed it’s a no-brainer for people to do business with you. You become their only logical choice”
Simon spent 15 years at agencies working on multinational accounts like British Aerospace, Roche and Budget Rent-a-Car, then set up Clear & Creative with wife Julie in 1995 to bring London agency standards to small businesses who traditionally couldn’t afford it.
“We like to work with firms with 2 to 20 employees because we can make a bigger difference to them. We recently rebranded an Oxford-based IT Support firm that’s been running for 20 years. They’d always done their own advertising and were wary of spending money with an agency. Since the rebrand they’ve gained higher value customers, sales are up by over 50%, and their staff are excited to work there. It’s hard to get that kind of job satisfaction working for blue chip firms”.
How can people tell if they have an accidental brand?
“We’ve put together The Brand Clarity Workbook – a booklet of exercises that SME’s can work through to gain clarity towards developing a unique, authentic and compelling brand. It’s free to download at www.clearandcreative.co.uk”
“Our process usually begins with a Brand Clarity Clinic – a session that allows company owners to really get to grips with what makes them different and who they’re showing up for. One client said he’d been involved in two major rebrands with large firms that used big London agencies, but never been through such a thorough process. That was satisfying to hear.”
As well as Simon and Julie, the Clear & Creative team includes a copywriter, a graphic designer, a web developer and a digital media specialist. Recently Clear & Creative have handled rebranding, websites and marketing for Woodbörd, The New Driveway Company, Affluent Technology, rHaus Home Automation and Family First Solicitors – who attribute much of their rapid growth to getting the brand right before they launched.