Before I started working with passionate artisan producers, I used to manage the UK marketing for well known big, global alcohol brands such as Campari, Beefeater Gin and Courvoisier Cognac. With huge budgets, sometimes over £1m a year, marketing activity was pretty full on! I managed every element of marketing activity from research, new product development and packaging through to PR and advertising. Despite the luxuriously large budgets, every piece of activity had to be strategic, targeted, focused and measurable. The strategy for the brand was clearly defined each year before any activity was planned and everything was planned way way in advance! This meant that key dates were hit, and plenty of time was built in for planning.
So having managed the whole marketing process for these brands, I wanted to capture some key big brand learnings that are just as applicable to smaller scale businesses.
Having a successful brand that grows year on year, no matter what it’s size, is down to a number of things.
1. A clearly defined vision. I real understanding of what it is the brand is ultimately trying to achieve. As an example, Courvoisier cognac was always the number 2 cognac brand in the UK. Our vision was to become the number one brand in terms of market share, volume and value sales. This was a position that Courvoisier had NEVER held in the UK so we had a big job ahead! With everyone aligned to that vision, everyone who worked on the brand knew what they were aiming for. It gave them focus and a target. (Courvoiser DID hit the number 1 position and as a result my team and I were presented with a bottle of Courvoisier L’Esprit to celebrate the occasion!)
2. Knowing your consumer. With huge budgets, it was easy to throw money at consumer research. Questionnaires, focus groups, new product development trials, you name it, we researched it. We did get to know our current and target consumers really well but the advantage that smaller scale producers have is that they can actually meet and talk to their purchasers directly and face to face. The distance between producer and consume is shorter thanks to farmers markets and foodie festivals. Take this opportunity to ask your consumer questions, get feedback, learn from their feedback. It’s so valuable.
3. Always working in a way that supports your brand values. This was really important when I worked on speciality spirit brand Taboo. Taboo was all about having fun, being with the girls, being a bit cheeky, being upbeat and positive and carefree and so having an ad placed in Vogue magazine was not something we ever considered! It would do nothing for the brand and wouldn’t reach our target consumers. Anyone working on the brand had to either fit the brand values or completely understand and respect them, and any promotion that was run for Taboo had to fit these values. Any event that Taboo sampled at had to be an upbeat and fun event where our target market would be attending (18-25 year old girls) and any consumer magazine we advertised in had to be fun, girly and positive. It’s important to have a set of values that you operate by so that you can identify and focus on the right opportunities and say no to the wrong opportunities.
4. Being consistent. Everywhere. This was key working with big brands. Marketing communication was everywhere, not just the UK but globally so whenever you saw the brand, or some activity from that brand, it had to be consistent. To build a strong brand you have to send the same messages, look the same in terms of packaging, logo, brand colours and have the same tone of voice/style of writing. This consistency has to go right through from packaging to website to social media. This is just as applicable if you are building a small brand. Consistency is key. Mixed messages and inconsistencies cause confusion and lack of trust.
5. Great customer service. Everyone can name a big brand that has awesome customer service: Apple, First Direct, Dyson; but it is just as important for a small brand to give great customer service to retain loyal consumers and to gain positive referrals. If there is a problem, put yourself in your consumer’s shoes – what would YOU want as a solution? Whatever it is, offer it. Bad customer service spreads like wild fire, good customer service keeps your loyal consumers coming back as they trust you and gets them recommending you to others which is priceless.
6. Sometimes you need to do things differently. You need to give an idea a go, try something that at first seemed out of the question or too much hard work; try something new that injects life into your brand/business. This was the approach we took with Courvoiser. We introduced a new style of cognac with a different shaped bottle, (still the same Courvoisier identity and values) into a different type of outlet. It appealed to a different target group and subsequently grew the brand sales. It was risky but paid off as we believed in it, stuck with it and wanted to constantly move on and up to reach our vision.
7. Persistence. Big companies rarely just give up. They appreciate that it takes time to see the rewards of marketing efforts and that in order to build a brand, you have to keep building. Turning off your marketing spend when you have a few months of ‘not so great’ sales is doing nothing for brand consistency and persistence.
“Stopping advertising to save money is like stopping your watch to save time.” - Henry Ford
It took us two years to get Courvoisier into the number one cognac position in the UK and this was down to a clearly defined visions, a new way of thinking, understanding our current and target drinker, persistence, consistency and a focused passionate team that never gave up.
So I hope you find these big brand learnings of interest. They really are just as applicable to smaller scale producers as they are big companies. If adopted, they will help you build a consistent, strong brand that consumers trust and admire, with the result being growth in sales. Try it!
Please tweet me @lisafromklarity or leave a comment below if you agree with any of the above or have given or are planning to give any of the above a go. Happy brand building!
Lisa from Klarity x