At Orange Umbrella we work with lots of people starting a new business. It’s an exciting time and things quickly start to take shape.

Justin one of our Directors ran a media agency prior to Orange Umbrella. He wrote an article about brand values to help when your getting your business started and we thought this was a great place to start.

When I ran my media agency for 10 years and in that time was involved in the branding design of hundreds of companies. In that time I came to discover that this is a hugely complex area of design had a common theme no matter wahat the business. I’m not writing to tell you everything you need to know about branding as this is a massive subject. I’ve outlined some of the techniques that we used to design our brand, but I’d recommend you always work with a skilled designer or media agency. A good brand doesn’t have to cost the earth and by working with a local company you can get really good value for money. As a quick guide you should be looking to pay in the region of £500 to £2000 if you are a small business. Remember that the logo design is only part of a branding process and a brand is more about how your image is carried across all marketing and sales materials in a consistent manner.

Did you know?

The stock market value of The Coca-Cola Company, for example, was around $136 billion in mid-2002, yet the book value (the net asset value) of the business was only $10.5 billion. A vast proportion of the value of the business (around $125 billion) is therefore dependent upon shareholders’ confidence in the intangible assets of the business, and the ability of the company to manage these profitably. Coca-Cola owns few intangibles other than it’s secret recipe, it’s contracts with it’s global network of bottlers and it’s brand names. An independent analysis estimated that the value of the Coca-Cola brand name in mid-2002 was almost $70 billion, well over half of its intangible value.

Source: What is a Brand? By Tom Blackett of Interbrand

Our brand values

Our primary goal in creating the Orange Umbrella brand was to promote our strengths and emphasise what we are good at and what we believe in as a business.

Our first job was to create a set of values for the company which are:

  • High levels of customer service
  • Value for money
  • Focus on Technology to bring automation and efficiency to non technical clients.
  • Provide coaching and mentoring as part of our service
  • Innovate using the latest in technology and accountancy skills
  • Honest, ethical and behave with integrity
  • Give our customers a completely different experience compared to our competitors
  • Truly care about our customers

Your list of company values becomes something that is often referred to as brand values. It doesn’t need to be a hugely extensive list and in many cases they reflect your own personal beliefs. You need to remember that if you have a list of company values you must always deliver them without fail or you dilute your brand values; this is considered a deadly sin in the branding world.

Your brand values will build the foundations and they must be communicated to the whole team to ensure authenticity. Many businesses jump the gun and start promoting a brand to their customers before they have the buy-in from members of their own team. If your team doesn’t believe in the values of the brand then you’re never going to get customers to buy-in.

Tell your customers

So once you have the buy-in from the team you need to do one more thing before shouting about your brand. Think about how you will communicate your brand values to new members of the team entering your organisation and third parties involved with your business. In the early stages of your business you will be organising advertising and other marketing activities. If you haven’t briefed your suppliers about your brand values they will make their own interpretation which can cause disastrous results. This is just one example in which your brand can be diluted, but even though it may be out of control you can assert a certain level of influence.

Once you have your brand values and have an effective method of internal communication it’s time to tell your customers. Please remember that every possible contact is potentially a new customer, so you need to reinforce your brand values.

These are the key areas we considered:

  • Business name
  • The names of product lines
  • The slogan we use
  • Logo design
  • The style and quality of our stationery / printed literature
  • Product pricing and packaging
  • Where we are based
  • Marketing
  • How our customers could communicate with us and the ease of contact
  • How our employees perceive our values
  • The design of our website

We’ve worked on the assumption that if all these factors were in line with our brand values, we will have a constant result of strengthening the brand.

Top Tip

You may have heard of Michael Heppell, who is a bestselling business author. In his book How to be Brilliant, Michael talks about fantastic, satisfactory and bad customer service. He uses a great analogy which I’m going to use here. “You’re picking a friend up from the airport and the first thing you ask is, how was the flight? Most of the time you will get, it was ok and that is the end of the conversation. However, you are just as likely to get this response, the plane was late taking off, they double booked my seat, they charged me for going 1kg over on my luggage allowance, the staff were rude…” or the old favourite, “they lost my luggage”. But how often do you hear I had the best flight ever! I got to the airport and found they had double booked my sea, so they upgraded me to business class with no extra charge and gave me a free pass for the first class lounge.  The staff were so friendly it made the whole experience incredible, I’ll definitely fly with them again. This is an excellent example of how both a customer and the airline perceive a brand. Don’t forget that the customer with the satisfactory experience didn’t go onto mention the details of the flight or who they flew with. It’s only if you deliver excellence with your brand values will they go onto talk about who they flew with. As a rule of thumb those who have either a fantastic or bad experience will go onto tell 10 people. You need to ask yourself, how can I get my staff to understand about brand value to this level?

Hang on a minute!

You’re thinking he’s not talked about the principals of designing a logo or any other design, surely this is the most important part of a branding process? In my view this isn’t the most important aspect. Once you have a plan for how your brand is to be communicated, hand it across to a skilled design professional. I’m going to burst another bubble; you can’t design your own brand unless you yourself are a branding designer. Even in this case I still would say this is a bad idea as you’re too close to the business. The three Fs being Friends, Family and Fools are also a bad choice for helping you turn your brand values into a logo or give you feedback as they don’t like telling you bad things.

I hope this gives you an insight and will make you think carefully about what a brand is really all about. If you are starting your own business, stop sketching out logos and first write down your brand values, then you can think about the design. It’s all too easy to get carried away with the exciting parts of the business such as logo design, but always remember, never forget the basics.