We are delighted to welcome brand strategy and experience consultancy Brand Vista and Schwa, a leading specialist in tone of voice, to Definition Group. The two consultancies will sit alongside Redhouse, TopLine Film, W&P and Definition Agency, bringing the Group’s revenue to £10m and adding a Manchester office to its bases in Leeds and London.
Brand Vista – rated by the Financial Times as one of the UK’s leading management consultancies in 2022 – was founded in 2000 and specialises in brand strategy and the alignment of customer and colleague experiences. The company’s portfolio of clients in the international leisure and hospitality, retail, built environment, charity and B2B sectors includes David Lloyd, Merlin Entertainments Group, Greene King, Places for People, Iceland, Fiat Agricultural and Yorkshire Cancer Trust.
Founded in 2017, Schwa is a team of writers, trainers and psychologists who use tone of voice and behavioural science to help organisations engage better with customers and colleagues. The company uses language to improve business performance, with clients spanning large corporates and global groups including BT, John Lewis, Marks & Spencer, Network Rail, PepsiCo and Sony Music.
The enhanced service lines expand Definition Group’s insideout communications™ delivery model for major brands, business leaders, member organisations and government bodies. They boost the group’s ability to deliver a broad range of services across the brand strategy, experience and communications spectrum, enabling organisations to enhance their reputations and deliver business growth.
Cheap attempts at branding can have a serious cost for your brand. We examine why there’s no substitute for professional branding – check it out
Don’t fall for cheap “branding”
Branding: is it worth a big investment? The growth of services like Canva and Fiverr mean it’s now quicker, easier and cheaper than ever to produce a halfway decent looking logo.
But buyer beware. A brand is a specialised tool – and a cheaper, off-the-shelf option is unlikely to do the things your business needs it to do.
Before we look deeper into what makes professional branding distinct from beginner efforts, we need to ask what a brand actually is. While there’s a common misconception that a brand is just a logo, a brand is actually a carefully crafted identity that covers every element of a business and reflects its story, vision, market, and aspirations.
Why is cheap branding so expensive?
Cheap branding means trading short term gain for long term pain. Off-the-shelf branding jobs fail because they go straight to design without understanding enough about the business. So you end up with something that doesn’t represent your beliefs or help you make meaningful connections with your target audience.
Businesses that jump into branding without defining who they are, what they can offer and who they’re trying to speak to are doomed to fail. Conversely, a successful brand clearly communicates something that inspires its target audience. These are all things that must be considered from the very beginning of the branding process – a quick and easy graphic design just won’t cut it.
We see this especially with start-ups that try to retrofit their whole brand narrative to a logo that was only ever meant as a placeholder, or that run through a variety of logos in quick succession looking for one that “fits” – it never quite works. In many cases, the sunk cost fallacy is at play and businesses continue throwing good money after bad.
In fact, investing in strategy upfront and getting the brand right first time will save you rebranding your business while in flight, which can cost you both reputationally and monetarily. There are few things as fundamental to a business as its brand, and every day that it uses branding that’s not tailored to its purpose is a day of missed opportunities for investment and growth.
A professional branding agency helps a start-up identify its brand story, creates a comprehensive identity that reflects it, and sets it up across every platform to create a cohesive experience for clients, customers and colleagues.
At Redhouse, we call these three stages:
– brand definition, which consists of research and strategy to identify what the brand should represent about the business
– brand expression, where we create a bespoke visual identity by identifying the colours, typography, language, logo and other elements that will create the right impression
– brand engagement, where we apply the brand to business communications like the website, social media, events and campaigns.
Branding is a process, not an event
Successful businesses don’t stand still, and their branding shouldn’t either: a brand should evolve over time to remain a reflection of the business it represents. This evolution doesn’t have to mean a complete overhaul every year, but rather a constant questioning of whether the brand still captures the organisation’s mission. When something doesn’t match any more, it’s time for a change.
As a branding consultancy, we also offer a Brand Accelerator Workshop, which assesses your brand in five key areas and pinpoints high-impact actions to rapidly improve performance.
With more and more companies now offering hybrid working as a result of the pandemic, it’s more important than ever to join up internal and external communication.
According to a survey of more than 500 CEOs and Board members at major UK companies, reinforcing ‘purpose beyond profit’ is a top priority in this new world of work. Reinforcing this message is essential to keep hybrid working employees informed, engaged, loyal and productive, as well as to maintain client and customer sentiment.
Definition Group commissioned the survey to understand how businesses’ experience of the pandemic will affect their communications priorities. All the respondents represented companies with more than 250 employees and annual revenues ranging from £50m to more than £500m.
Senior leaders in these large companies are concerned that hybrid working could lead to people becoming disengaged (29% agreed) or even create a two-tier workforce, with negative consequences for morale (26%). A quarter of respondents (25%) foresaw this culture change eroding loyalty and making employee retention more challenging.
Of course, employee engagement, cohesion and retention can all be improved by more effective communication. Communication has been at the heart of how businesses support employees, customers and clients alike throughout the frightening ups and downs of the pandemic. And it’s just as important now, if not more so, as companies adapt to the changes and challenges the pandemic continues to bring about.
Just under a third of the business leaders surveyed have already shifted priorities in recognition of this, with 32% making sure their purpose is reflected in all communication activity and 29% demonstrating it in practical ways, such as supporting charities and community projects.
A clear purpose and values can directly address businesses’ concerns about employee engagement, morale and loyalty: 31% of the survey respondents agreed that values and purpose make employees proud to work for the business, and 28% said they help with recruitment.
It’s clear that success in this new world of work will require a joined-up approach to internal and external communications, with a strong purpose-driven strategy underpinning customer engagement, corporate social responsibility activity, employee engagement, recruitment and more.
To address this challenge, Definition Group has developed insideout communications™. insideout communications™ harnesses the skills and expertise of Definition Group’s member agencies, including Redhouse, to create integrated and innovative brands, strategies and campaigns for clients in diverse sectors of the economy, across the UK and internationally.
We’re looking forward to helping our clients adapt and thrive in the new world we all face.
Like every element of your brand, your vision and values are tools. They’re not just there to sound nice in the annual report; they’re designed to be used. Use them right, and they can improve organisational efficiency, customer experience and employee engagement.
An organisation’s vision and values are usually defined along with the rest of the brand, when the brand is first created or as part of a rebrand. When we carry out a brand definition project, we aim to agree the vision and values with the client at an early stage, so they can inform other elements like the brand’s visual identity and tone of voice. But that’s not all your vision and values are useful for.
Your vision is a brief statement of what your organisation aspires to achieve. You can think of it as expressing why your organisation exists.
For example, the Alzheimer’s Association’s vision is simply “A world without Alzheimer’s disease”. The Association exists to create that world. On the consumer side of things, Ikea’s vision is “To create a better everyday life for many people”.
A clear vision, and one that genuinely sums up the organisation’s reason for being, can do wonders for strategy and efficient decision-making.
The vision provides an end goal to focus strategic thinking. Short, medium and long-term goals can all be thought of as steps on the way to the ultimate goal of achieving the vision. It’s a constant reference point you can use to check that different parts of the strategy are all working together to steer the organisation in the same direction.
It can also help to simplify complex decisions. When you’re deep in the weeds of budgets, resources, risk assessments and other granular factors, having trouble identifying the right way forward, it helps to simplify the decision to “which option gets us closer to our vision?”
These are the uses we have in mind when we define visions for our clients. For example, Ghanaian investment bank GFX Prime’s vision is “To promote growth and sustainability for Ghana’s market, to achieve global recognition of its status and value”. And the Government Office for Science’s vision is “Government empowered by scientific evidence, policymaking that stands the test of time”.
Your values indicate what matters to you as an organisation. They’re principles that inform how every member of staff approaches everything they do at work. Naturally this means they inform your external audience’s experience of your organisation as well.
Good values set expectations. They let potential new employees know what to expect, and inform all employees what’s expected of them. Not all brands use their values in external communications, but they can also let customers and stakeholders know what to expect from their relationship with the organisation.
Values can do for your organisational culture what your vision does for your strategy. Values-based recruitment improves employee retention by making sure new employees are a good cultural fit for the teams they’re joining.
And values provide a starting point and a framework for resolving disagreements and conflicts. In our work for University College London Hospitals, staff told us that it was easier to open up about difficult topics like workplace bullying when they could frame the issue as “the way I was treated was not in line with our values”.
To make sure your values can be used in these ways, it’s important to define and communicate what living up to your values looks like in practice. Ideally, for each value, you should give two or three specific examples of everyday things employees can do to uphold that value, in their interactions with each other and with your external audience.
If you want to be able to put your vision and values to use in these ways, it’s important that they’re clear, specific, and based on true insight into your organisation. Vague visions and values can’t inform decision-making or help anyone understand what’s expected of them.
But invest in getting your vision and values right, and they’ll be reliable tools – ones that will pay back that investment in efficient strategic decision-making and a strong employee culture.