Hummingbird Bakery: has deployed 'brilliant' branding (picture credit: Benjamin Backhouse)
Hummingbird Bakery: has deployed 'brilliant' branding (picture credit: Benjamin Backhouse)
A view from Ash Bendelow

Why big brands must take lessons from 'brandpreneurs'

Big brands should look to emulate the success of the growing band of "brandpreneurs", says Ash Bendelow, the managing director of Brave.

"Leading household brand seeks a rebellious, restless person with a low boredom threshold to drive profitable incremental sales. Would suit someone with a poor employment record that has demonstrable lack of regard for authority and a hatred of status quo. The ideal candidate should show an unhealthy obsession with money and have the annoying tendency to want to improve absolutely everything, even if it works fine."

It’s a well documented fact that entrepreneurs make terrible employees and if they actually manage to hold down a job, more often than not, they do more damage than good. And yet whilst the above job ad will never grace the classifieds or job boards, brands today need a healthy dose of entrepreneurialism to win the hearts, minds and wallets of their customers. Steve Jobs famously dropped out of college because it was "tediously dull", Tim Cook, however, graduated Magna Cum Laude from Duke’s... draw your own conclusions.

From Zip Car to Avis, Charlie Bingham vs Ginsters, Hummingbird Bakery compared to Greggs  -  which ones would you rather give your money to? More than likely the first of each pair. A psychologist would probably attribute it to the have-a-go hero, David versus Goliath spirit us Brits seem to crave.  Not to mention the brilliant branding each of the start-ups has fostered during their formative years.

All have been started and led by entrepreneurs that cock a snook-at-risk. They are bold, brave, nimble and unconstrained by years, even decades, of learned brand behaviour. They probably shudder at the thought of something as prosaic as brand guidelines. The established household brands in comparison play it safe, they exude a ‘no one got fired for buying IBM’ mentality, after all, they’ve got shareholders to answer to.

Core pillars

The start ups are still small enough to have the corner shop feel. Single customer view isn’t a big data conundrum, it’s part of the company’s ethos. We call this brand entrepreneurialism or brand entrepreneurialism, which is centred around three core pillars - value through ingenuity, efficiency through collaboration and ideas everywhere.  

Realistically however, megabrands are always going to struggle with this  – and it’s not their fault. Try achieving profitable scalability without losing the personal touch – its nigh on impossible. But in a time when consumers demand personalisation from their suppliers this is a real issue for grown up, big businesses.

From coffee shops to Coke bottles, brands are realising the benefits of forging a more personal relationship with their customers

From coffee shops to Coke bottles, brands are realising the benefits of forging a more personal relationship with their customers.  Even Tesco, once proud of its nationwide uniformity, has demonstrated attempts to establish a smaller, family feel  with its stake in Harris + Hoole, the small chain of artisan cafes springing up on the high street. 

Most recently TSB – in a rush to establish distance from Lloyds Bank following the much publicised branding split in September – pledges the return of the ‘local bank‘.  Its TV campaign encapsulates everything for which companies not afforded the luxury of a new brand are striving.  It acknowledges a sort of corporate renaissance, a back-to-basics, start afresh approach where big business is built from the customer up; a marriage of financial stability with the charming flexibility of an SME who remembers your name without glancing at a computer screen.

In order to succeed, brands need to act and think in certain ways, no matter how big or small they are and no matter how big or small their budgets are. Not many can afford to outspend, but anyone can outthink.