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Small company. Big brand.

BGF News 10.07.2014

Just because a company is relatively small in size, does not mean that it cannot be a true leader in its space. It is what BGF looks for in the companies that it backs; it is celebrated in the following pages of this publication; and, it is what ultimately will enable these companies to become the great brands of tomorrow.

Companies such as Trunki, Morphuits, Barburrito, Arran Aromatics, Better Bathrooms and Peyton and Byrne, all illustrate that you don’t have to be a large organisation for your brand to be big.

By pursuing a distinctive vision, developing a highly original product or creating unassailable positioning, small and mid-sized companies can build a dedicated audience of customers that enables them to create formidable brand power and punch way above their weight, even without large marketing resources at their disposal.

So how do they do it?

It helps to think of “brand” as more than just the visual representation of a business. Brand represents everything that the company makes, says, does or provides – this is what constitutes brand equity. Its assets include company purpose, values and culture, people, products and services, customer experience, pricing and positioning, technology, IP and even the company’s valuation. Certainly it is so much more than a visual representation, pretty picture or snappy message.

A brand is in continual dialogue with its customers and other stakeholders. Whether face-to-face at events or on the shop floor, online via social media and the company website, or through the customer service department, it is vital to engage in two-way conversation.

That personal connection can make all the difference to the promotion of a brand. AFG Media, the creator of the world famous Morphsuit brand uses Facebook to showcase their product and create a highly engaging and ever-growing forum for their customers to connect with both the brand and a wider community of like-minded followers. Over a million ‘likes’ and an audience of advocates in the tens of thousands, all for little or no cost.

This dialogue can help in the development of new products and services, identifying pain points and barriers to purchase and will often uncover insights that allow for real innovation.

It also helps if the ‘voice’ of a brand is an authentic one. Arran Aromatics, a business with a turnover of less than £10m, headquartered on a remote island in the West of Scotland, has created a brand that is now recognised internationally. It sells its products in over 30 countries and is one of Scotland’s biggest exporters to Saudi Arabia. Its recent investment in a new e-commerce website for consumer and trade customers has given the brand new global outreach. This brand is built around its provenance, with each of its products made and hand-finished on the Isle of Arran, using the finest ingredients including the island’s mineral rich natural water.

Great brands are often created by a product or service that defines its category. In other words, the category and the brand become synonymous. For example, when Trunki went to market with its unique range of travel accessories for children, it carved out a niche that did not previously exist. Many families across the world now buy a “Trunki”, not just a ride-on children’s suitcase.

Obviously a great idea will never make it big without good management and skilled handling. It takes more than just a good idea to create success, and there are many good ideas that are poorly executed – particularly when businesses are expanding rapidly. Many of the best brands seek to define and distill their own particular DNA before they expand into new markets, sectors, or products so that they can maintain consistency, coherence and most importantly, the successful formula for creativity and commercial success.

Even if a company’s product or service isn’t groundbreaking in itself, a strong brand will find a means of differentiation or a way to create unfair advantage.

Never underestimate the power of a story, all brands are a narrative; the story is what draws us in.

This second issue of Portfolio celebrates the many great stories, voices and personalities behind companies that have been backed by BGF. It highlights the different types of valuable brand assets that these companies have developed. Yes, many of them are still young with further growth still ahead of them, but we know that among them are great national and international brands of the future.

(This article first appeared in BGF Portfolio #2)