Our approach to brand-building.

It’s an awkward time to send out emails, in knowing what to actually say. As we speak to hundreds of founders, we are mindful that many are agonising about how to keep their businesses afloat or dealing with sudden and significant growth pains.

For all, this is a time for introspection, for challenging what your brand stands for, what your business model is and what team you will need to deliver your mission. A time to take stock and gaze into a future beyond Covid, a future looking closer than ever before. Although short and long-term pivots are necessary to capture new opportunities or evade heavy losses, we believe it’s still vital to try making these decisions in light of the longer-term vision for the brand you are building.

To help with this thinking, we felt this might be a good time to set out what we mean when we talk about building a brand legend.

Having a purpose

At Piper, first and foremost, we ask if the brand has a clear purpose or mission. This means knowing why it exists and why it does what it does beyond its core product offer and experience. This sums up its role in changing the world or customers’ lives for the better and future-proofs the brand as it scales.

The purpose itself reflects a customer need and should be emotional (what it means to them, how it makes them feel) rather than purely functional (speed, price). However, the combination of the two can be the most powerful.

The purpose is driven by the founder and leadership team and everything the brand does emanates from this. They are also custodians of a brand’s external values that naturally reflect the internal culture of the business. A brand legend lives and breathes these values and communicates them confidently, externally and internally.

A differentiated product and experience

We talk a lot about being better and different. This means having complete clarity about the brand’s differentiation versus the competition. This doesn’t mean compulsively looking over their shoulder, but it does mean continuously monitoring what others are doing to ensure that you are one step ahead. Being able to convey this differentiation to customers is as important.

This also means having a seamless and memorable customer experience, which is focused on utilising technology effectively to over-deliver on customer expectations around web browsing, app, bookings, payments and delivery, as well as softer elements such as the unwrapping experience and customer service. When done well, these functional elements become memorable markers, encouraging customers to return.

A brand legend’s team culture is obsessive about delivering innovative products and experiences, all through the lens of what customers actually want, which involves speaking regularly to them. These innovations deliver incremental improvements to the customer journey, drive brand value and help deliver the brand mission.

A strong brand identity

For many, this is the most challenging aspect of brand building and yet having a clear and consistent tone of voice, a distinctive way of speaking to customers, is essential. This typically comes from the founder and is crafted over time by the wider team. Brand legends are able to bottle, codify and replicate the tone of voice across the business as it scales without losing what makes it special.

A brand legend also has a highly distinctive visual handwriting and can be recognised quickly without the need for explanation. Whether it be a Selfridges yellow bag or a Pret logo, these visual tools send a clear signal to others. This stretches to the imagery and photography that brands use, communicating both the company’s spirit and values. Together, they form a unique code and emotive shortcut to the brand’s purpose.

A loyal community

A critical part of being a brand legend is having a vibrant community of loyal customers for whom the brand is top of mind and a constant part of their shopping repertoires. Their fandom organically drives the brand’s reputation. They are highly engaged and spread the brand’s mission, products and experiences to their friends, family and anyone they meet. This is reflected in a high lifetime value and NPS score.

Alongside this, a brand legend has a loyal tribe of ambassadors beyond paid-for professional social influencers who spread its purpose for free via their network. These are typically respected individuals such as athletes, campaigners, artists and chefs, but can also be organisations that share a similar purpose and values.

Importantly, a brand legend’s awareness is spread in the most powerful way by people recommending it to others. It is not overly reliant on Google and Facebook for finding new customers and, therefore, acquires new customers cheaper than the competition.

Time to speak to customers

Of those of you who we’ve met, you will know that this is a Piper obsession. This is because we truly believe that for a brand to stay relevant it needs to continuously speak to its customers both face to face and online. The insights from this become an important part of the business’ annual strategy and communicated to everyone in the team.

To make this happen, this means having a customer champion in the senior leadership team and ideally at board level. This will help in ensuring the business isn’t blinkered by seeing the core customer in a purely aspirational way (a common pitfall) and that the brand understands new customers are often different from the early adopters.

Going a step further, a brand legend understands that different types of customers have different needs and motivations and so treats them differently. It utilises a mix of technology and people training to identify customers early on in their journeys and find ways to personalise their experience, making them feel special and individual.

There is never a bad time to speak to your customers, but now is an especially good time. Everyone is at home, bored and seeking a distraction. We have designed several online customer surveys over the last few months for our partner brands to help them navigate their customers’ changing mindsets. We urge you to do the same. It will form the backbone for building your brand legend.