5 reasons to make branding the key ingredient in your food and beverage business

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The food and beverage industry is one of the fastest growing industries world wide with new concepts launching everyday and existing concepts growing by leaps and bounds. It is also the industry with one of the highest rates of failure. Successful concepts suddenly fade and disappear due to innumerable reasons. New concepts catch the attention of consumers and many fail right at the launching board itself. 

Though issues like planning, staffing, quality of food, location, cash flow planning and timing play important roles in the success and failure of F&B concepts, branding lends itself to help stand apart from and attract customers. A well thought out brand can cut right through the clutter and be a strong catalyst for evolving into a regional and eventually an international brand. With the emirates set to attract almost 20 million visitors  by the year 2020, the opportunity for great local home grown brands are phenomenal.

A well constructed and strategically created brand can  boost your F&B business. Here’s 5 key reasons why your business needs branding to help leapfrog past the competition.

1.Showcase your Unique Selling proposition

‘If you aren’t a little different than your competition, you are in trouble.’

-Mark Sanborn

Your business needs to have something unique that differentiates it from the competition. A concept that doesn’t have a unique story tends to fade out and be without a context for the consumer’s choice. Its important to work with the branding agency and discover whats sets it apart and weave a story that can be communicated across all consumer touchpoints. Competition on price and quality is a dangerous game without an entry barrier and pushes the business into becoming a commodity that doesn’t stay relevant. Often existing concepts don’t even realize they already have a USP and they havent gone ahead and manifested it. It may be simple aspects like how friendly the place is or how the food is made, or the passion for excellence, or a fusion of food and maybe even a special dish that was created by the chef. Branding allows to discover or express this uniqueness and showcase it into the logo, the messaging, the space and the vibe of the place.

2.Connect emotionally with your consumers 

‘If people believe they share values with a company, they will stay loyal to the brand.”

-Howard Schulz, Starbucks

Branding is the art of finding an uninhabited space in the consumers mind and sparking a positive  emotional response to the business that makes them come back again and again. When a brand evolves into an emotional relation with the client the risk of competition recedes. Emotional brand connect can happen through every manifestation of the brand and this is what translates into a concept that can then be marketed and eventually franchised. Without brand emotion, again the business tends to become a commodity until the next best thing comes along.

3.Your consumers to do your marketing 

‘A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is- it is what consumer tell each other it is.”

-Scott Cook

A good brand that stand apart and connects emotional creates evangelists that market your product for you. In todays age of social media being your biggest marketing force, having reasons for your consumers to scream about your brand is crucial. Smart branding that imbibes hash tags, messages, cool interiors, unique names for dishes, humor, ambience and rituals spark reasons to share these stories through social mediums and aggregator apps (Zomato, Trip advisor, Talabat etc). A well laid branding strategy can imbibe consumer led marketing and nudge their top marketing officers to go forth and scream from the rooftops.

4.Ready for expansion and franchising 

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you are not in the room’

Jeff Bezos, Amazon

Branding standards, repeatable processes and detailed guidelines pave the way when franchisees come knocking, when new locations seek out your brand or you expand on your own. When each location has the same experience, you are officially a brand. It makes business sense to invest in systems and processes that allow your brand to take off into the next level.

5.Stand apart from the competition

‘If your business is not a brand, it is a commodity.”

-Donald Trump

Around 19000 outlets are expected by 2019 in the UAE, almost tripling the current numbers according to a recent study. The market size for the UAE places it amongst the top 20 in the world and accounts for almost Dh 60 billion, making it attractive for concepts from all over the world even with the high rate of failure. New concepts will always be born, international chains will arrive and entrepreneurs will hunt down new and successful concepts and bring them to the region.

The challenge is for businesses to compete and stand out in this crowded market space and find their feet. A well crafted story manifested as a brand will help your business cut through and be noticed by consumers and set the business up for continued success. Without a brand, it becomes increasingly tough for home grown brands to stand head to head with international chains with established brand strategies and consumer programs that are tried and tested.

Our new business cards carry our promise

At Idea Spice, we were looking at a business card that clearly defined our USP. We realised our strength was doing creative work that helped our clients grow their business .The strategic aspect of the designs and our involvement in the differentiation and positioning was what we had to communicate. We also wanted to do this retaining our quirky and fun side. There had to be a promise which we made, which every team member had to also know and live by.

Our new designs is inspired by a currency note, which we promise our clients when we handover and say our designs will impact and grow your business and help you make a lot more money. Each person had to sign the promissory note which read “I promise to serve the bearer the most innovative ideas, offer the world’s best coffee and spice their business forever”.

Here are some pictures of the first batch of new cards printed for a few in the Dubai office. The same format is soon to follow for the rest of the team and offices.DSC_2151-1  DSC_2154DSC_2158-1DSC_2150-1  DSC_2160-1

10 ways for SMEs to build their brand image

An article I wrote for a business publication recently:

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10 Ways for SMEs to build their brand image

A company’s brand is one of the single most valuable asset. Your brand image can grow faster than any number on your bank sheet and today it is the biggest asset for any fortune 500 company. For an SME, brand image usually takes a back seat, as day to day issues and operational aspects take precedence. This is one of the biggest follies that companies with myopic vision fall prey to.

 

The brand image is the beacon that lets a company stand apart in todays market space, allowing customers, employees and vendors alike to be attracted instantly. Its an emotional bond that instantly builds a bridge and grows consistently to loyalty. In today’s fast growing market place in emerging countries, with the influx of multiple global brands that seek the attention of your customer, its the brand image that binds them emotionally. Its the bond that ensures your clients ignore the seduction of better price, quality, packages or add ons.

 

Every SME dreams of one day evolving into a Coca Cola, a Starbucks, a Nike or Apple. Becoming household names over decades and being entrenched in the everyday lives of our customers. Even a B2B business needs a strong brand image to attract the right partners, suppliers and even financial institutions that understand effortlessly what the company stands for and its defining purpose for existence.

 

For an SME, the journey to build a brand image that connects and endures need not be an uphill task if you gets the basics right. Its not just the advertising budget that defines the brand image. Rather, it is the basic principles and foundation upon which the company itself is built. This holds true for a FMCG, a service company, an individual, a manufacturer, real estate company, a government or even a country.

 

Here are some simple rules to get started without spending big bucks. These 10 rules will help define and build a brand image for your company.

 

 

1. Be unique.

 

In every business, if you don’t have a differentiated advantage over the competitor, chances are you will shut down soon or you have hit a glass ceiling. If you are growing successfully, then you have a differentiation and a unique way of doing business, but haven’t defined it. It may be the integrity with which you do business, it may be the process you follow or even something as simple as the unique skills of the employees you have. Having a unique selling proposition immediately sets you apart and makes the connect with the customer so much easier.

 

 

2.Know the consumer

 

It’s paramount that you know exactly why your consumer wants to do business with you. On a continuing basis, conversations, observations, discussions or research will allow you to know whats going on inside your consumer’s mind. Without this knowledge, you will never know whats their trigger and what the emotion you possess within their mind. The best brands have always reinvented themselves with the mindset of their customers, and those that failed are the ones that chose not to listen. Basis this knowledge you are constantly positioning and then repositioning your brand in their mind.

 

 

3.Know your DNA

 

A brand is born when you know what you stand for. Every brand has a DNA like a living organism, it has a personality which you build and breathe life to. Your brand has an age and characteristics. You could be youthful, fun loving, hospitable, caring and an extrovert if you are a cafe for example. Then, every manifestation of the brand has to live this DNA. The music, smell, the way your employees answer the phone, the colors, website, tone of communication and a hundred other aspects all live this DNA.

 

4.Delight your customer

 

The most effective way to build brand image is to delight your customers so much that they become evangelists of your products or service. The simple old school business rule of “under promising and over delivering” is tweaked to “promising and delivering way beyond expectations”. If every department and function has the laser focus to delighting customers and the company is consistently wowing them and bowling them off their feet, ignore all other points in this article! The first step to delighting the customer is to be able to know their end objective and most important reason for buying your brand. Then, its mapping the consumer’s decision making process, concerns and issues and installing systems to exceed expectations incrementally such that the experience as a whole is a whopping delight! Only when the experience exceeds their functions requirements and borders on delight, will real brand loyalty be born. This experience has to manifest even within departments like accounts, finance, administration or human resource, not just marketing and sales.

 

 

5.Stay connected always

 

Create reasons to connect with your customers regularly. A brand needs to be on top of mind always. Inform customers about new activities, products, services and your victories. Many of them may not even know what all you are doing now. Build events and information sharing and invite them to celebrate in your successes. Newsletters need to be exciting and interesting enough so it doesn’t reach the junk box as fast as they arrive.

 

 

6.Embrace social media

 

With the advent and acceptance of social media across age groups and demographics, media has suddenly become democratic. With the smart use of the right mediums for the right business, one could exponentially grow their visibility at almost minimal costs. So many businesses that have grown at the speed of light today attribute much of their success to being to connect directly with their consumers directly. Its important to work out a strategy and the brand voice on social media before diving into it and sinking. Clear objectives need to be assigned and responsibilities. Social media can hurt a brand faster than any medium in the past because of the lack of control on whats said and spoken. Its as important to have in your ammo fire fighting tools and methods predefined to combat an attack on your brand. With the use of Facebook pages, an SME can connect and speak to their consumers, the specific demographics can be mapped and the business can monitor the visibility very closely. Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram, blogs etc all give voice and a face to the brand and can be used as catalysts to help consumers fall in love with your brand. Linked In can assist building bridges for the brand with prospective employees and decision makers.

 

7.Create brand ambassadors

 

The best way to build a brand image is to create brand ambassadors who will expound the virtues of your product and service. Every individual that a company connects with have the potential of becoming a brand ambassador. Happy employees who won’t devalue the brand no matter what. Even employees who leave the company should leave happily and remain ambassadors. Vendors, suppliers, bankers and competition can all be brand ambassadors. If other people can speak about your brand and its values its a million times the effect of you shouting it from the rooftops.

 

8.Staying focussed

 

One of the biggest pitfalls for an SME is to deviate from their core competency and strength. The more SMEs have a chief definitive aim and chase excellence in getting better at that, helps evolve a brand image of success. If the effort of an organization is to excel and have a mindset to continually improve with the focus of becoming the best at their industry, their brand will automatically sky rocket. Diversification and forward integration should emerge after conquering excellence and having a system to repeat that on an ongoing basis. Excellence is the biggest catalyst of brand success.

 

9.Adopt a cause and be a thought leader

 

Every brand should stand up for something and then become the voice for that which they hold most dearly. When the core team introspects they will find one or more key messages or words that springs up in multiple discussions. Innovation, empowerment, emerging markets, logistics, cloud computing or even employee welfare. Find these and use every opportunity to talk about it and associate your brand with them. Seminars, lectures, events and workshops all allow the company to build their image by what they say and do and become thought leaders in the field of their choice. Give interviews with your opinion on the cause, write articles, debate, research and implement innovations on your key cause.

 

I am writing this article because our company has adopted branding for SMEs and growing home grown brands as our cause. We help local companies compete with MNCs and put everything behind this cause. For us, this is passion and our ongoing quest. We speak at seminars, conduct workshops and have created 100s of brands that have gone on to hold their own against global established ones.

 

 

10.Innovate

 

Point number 10 is yours to innovate and evolve because the most effective ideas are born from your own knowledge and capabilities. Branding is a continuos process of innovation, so commit from here on to innovating for your brand and instilling in the organization a culture of innovating in each and every department.

 

Get ready for a brand that will soon be worth more than you have ever imagined!

 

About the author

Sajith Ansar is the CEO and founder of Idea Spice. Idea Spice is a branding firm that specialises in helping creating and evolving home grown brands around the world. The company has created and reinvented over 1500 brands including startups, SMEs and countries.

Design Secrets: 5 things a client really wants in a branding project

 An article I recently wrote for a design journal which looks at the design and branding process from a client’s point of view.

 

Clients who require branding and assigning in our hands the one thing that’s closest and dearest to them-their business venture.They breathe and live the concept and are completely committed to that success and will do whatever it takes to take the business idea to the next level.

This is what I have learnt are the critical areas of concern and conflict  for a client and what needs to be addressed to ensure a partnership model for branding.

 

 

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1.See the project from the client’s point of view

A client is looking to create a brand that speaks their story, that packages their USP and tells the world why they are so good. They need a visual depiction of their offering that emotionally connects their business to the consumers, sets them apart from the competition clearly and helps them stand head to head with large multi national firms that are coming into the fray. Clients who walk into the door and connect for a branding or a rebranding are usually ambitious and visionaries in varying proportions. They are looking for a firm and individuals who are creative and can translate their vision. I have realized that when you  stop viewing the conflicts and issues along the way as client versus designer and instead reflect on why they are saying what they are. Is there a fear of losing existing clients? Is it against their philosophy? Are they superstitious? Have they had a bad experience before? Then working keeping their point of view and thinking like them has always helped the process.

 

2.Understand their business as well as them

Clients are always seeking a branding firm that will understand them, their capabilities and craft a language that will become a catalyst for their success. They are expecting a thought partner and a strategic thinker that will relieve the strain of the next steps and guide them through the process. They want someone who will understand their business, be great listeners, ask them their dreams and soak in their ambition. They are looking for a firm that will get them from where they are to where they want to be.

 

The moment a client hears questions which want to understand their business, queries which are inquiries into the nature of the trade, the customers and a genuine need for knowledge before imparting ours. Clients are looking for a design company who want to know where they want to go and illicit enough information that allows the company to know the clear objectives of why they are meeting a branding firm. It’s important to know the history, milestones for success, team, operation model, future plans, diversification plans, HR policy, sourcing policy, CSR initiatives, succession planning, marketing plans in the past and a host of information if the company is already existing. More importantly, these need to be a conversation and not a questionnaire. A conversation which is industry trade talk where you can hold your own wows a clients and earns respect for the effort you have put in. The beauty of running and working in a branding firm is finally the exposure and expertise we have over time in so many businesses and the curiosity to learn more and more.

 

3.Make their consumer your client

Over time, I have learnt that the client respects a branding firm which is not trying to please him or the firm but is focused on the company’s objective. The due diligence of a branding firm is to work for the client’s consumer and not the client. Design work done for pleasing a client at the cost of what the right thing to do always backfires. I have also seen that design decisions explained logically and scientifically as opposed to retro fitting a reason is best. When a client sees that color, type, font, paper, textures, forms are all selected for a specific reason and his consumer is the target, decisions are easier.

 

For a good branding project there needs to be mutual trust and a partnership along with the client and his team. For this to happen, an in-depth knowledge of the clients consumer is paramount. Research, conversation with the consumer, observing decision making, seeing trends, influences and finding a clear segment in their mind is the most important step.

 

4.Differentiation, differentiation, differentiation

A great branding project is borne by having a distinct product or service. Without that, a business will rarely sustain or grow. If a business has been existing and they are successful they probably have one but they don’t know it yet. Speaking to their current consumers, vendors, employees and partners will highlight why they work with the company and what it stands for in their mind. When a start up business is being branded, its important to know the brand differentiator or create one with the client, one they can fulfill and embody effortlessly. I would go as far as saying, if the business doesn’t have a differentiator don’t do the branding, it is eventually going to fail and your equity with it.

 

A branding firm has to partner in breathing life into the success of the venture by communicating this differentiation to the world and help the business stand apart in the crowd, attracting more consumers than the client can imagine.

 

5.Make it your business

Once you sign a client, their business is yours.

Every decision needs then to be a business  led thought. If it were your business, would you print the visiting card with that stock? Does the brochure really need to be 80 pages? Is there a more value based alternative? Is this idea franchiseable? Can the concept be copied easily? Clients love a firm that becomes their thought partner and goes beyond the brief and does whatever it takes for them to succeed. Not a design company thats just interested in the design aspect and the look and feel. When their business becomes yours, and every designer and related members of your team know that, the chances of a successful outcome are heightened.

 

When the process is a thought partnership all along and the business flourishes you get a client who then becomes a friend and client for life and tells the whole world about you.

 

-Sajith Ansar

Sajith is the founder and CEO of Idea Spice, a branding firm with 5 offices around the world and has worked on creating over 1000 home grown brands from startups, SMEs and destination brands.

 

How we do what we do! How we added spice to over 1000 home grown brands!

A short animated film which explains the how, what and why of Idea Spice. This film explains in a fun manner who we are and what it takes for startups and SMEs to stand out from the clutter and connect emotionally with their consumer. We storyboarded this film and Ti22 animated the film. We had a blast making this film, hope you enjoy seeing it!

Home grown brands

A short film about inspiring start ups and their story.

Our heroes and inspirations who have taken that plunge and converted their ideas into successful entrepreneurial stories. We asked them a few questions and here are their responses and stories in a bid to galvanise other entrepreneurs.

In this session, we cover Pantry Cafe by Mahesh Kalwani, M2M bespoke tailors by Kamlesh Ramchandani, Little Champions by Sabina Azizova, Fuego by Arjun and Adarsh Kumar and Farada by Ravi Menghani. From over 1000 home grown brands we have partnered with to create, here are a few in an ongoing series of stories.

At Idea Spice design and Spice works interiors, we work with ambitious, visionary and fun entrepreneurs who have a vision to create and grown home grown brands into international successes!

Directed by Umair Tareen and Camera by Asif Limbada

Shot in Epic Red.

Questions we asked entrepreneurs

While making our movie on home grown brands, we asked the entrepreneurs 5 simples questions to explain their success. The questions are highlighted here in the form of book titles which is how they will be presented in the movie.

These 5 questions are also the basic questions to consider while creating a unique business.

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Questions we asked entrepreneurs

While making our movie on home grown brands, we asked the entrepreneurs 5 simples questions to explain their success. The questions are highlighted here in the form of book titles which is how they will be presented in the movie.

These 5 questions are also the basic questions to consider while creating a unique business.

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If You Love Your Brand, Set It Free

Great article on fluid branding with examples on fluid brands. Jose Martinez argues for an brand thats flexible and connects with the consumer, not one thats strait jacketed.

 

If You Love Your Brand, Set It Free | Smashing Magazine.

Idea spice business card design

Here’s the design of the IdeaSpice business cards. Each person gets an illustration done of their space within the office. When the cards are placed together it forms a puzzle that shows the full office.

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A client who works with us typically will collect all the cards on an integrated branding project. It also communicates to everyone that they are part of one big family which is interconnected.

The card also has a scratch and win within the design. When you scratch the card, you discover that you have won a “cup of the worlds best coffee at IdeaSpice”. We live up to that promise and coffee at IdeaSpice is hand beaten and made with passion.

Each new person who joins is taught the IdeaSpice way of making coffee in every office and they are asked to make it for the others during their probation regardless of designation or seniority. Clients often drop in just for the coffee and a conversation if they are passing by!

Every office of IdeaSpice has the same design of the card with the team illustrations.

Rahul solanki in our office does the ritual of making the illustrations for each person. 20130526-114417.jpg20130526-114425.jpg20130526-114431.jpg20130526-114438.jpg20130526-114504.jpg20130526-114510.jpg20130526-114525.jpg

all the cards together
all the cards together

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The Secret to a Strong Branding Message? Focus.

Brilliant article in Entrepreneur magazine. Had to share

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Entrepreneurs are hustlers. We wear many hats. We’re like the chameleons of the business world, adapting to whatever we need to be at any given moment in time. It is no wonder so many of us struggle when our ventures gain critical mass and it comes time to focus our brand.

In the mind of the customer, you get to be one thing. One. That matters because the customer’s mind is where your brand lives. Not in your headquarters. Not on your website. Not in your PowerPoint deck.

You don’t get to be five things. You don’t get to be three. If you say you are three things to your customer, you are saying you are nothing. If you say you are three things that your competitors already say they are, you are saying you are less than nothing.

Your one thing is the unique value that your brand delivers. Volvo keeps you safe. IBM is building a smarter planet. 7-Up is the uncola.

Your customer doesn’t care what you want to be. They simply walk through life and perceive things. They don’t perceive you a certain way because they’re being difficult. They’re doing it because they are humans and that’s what people do. Just like people make impressions on other people, so do companies.

It’s very tempting to try to be everything to everyone. You might make some sales in the short run by doing that. But in the long run, you sacrifice the impression your brand makes on the collective consciousness of your potential customer base.

Positioning is the art of sacrifice — of sacrificing the things you could be to uncover the one thing you should be.

I know what you’re going to say next: “But we do more than one thing! We have more than one kind of customer!”

You think IBM doesn’t?

That’s OK. Your one thing is a prism, not a box. That one thing may be translated differently across different lines of business or different customers, but at the end of the day, those messages should all ladder up to a single value your company provides.

What makes a powerful one thing? Use this four-point litmus test to make sure your core message will work:

First, your core message needs to have an emotional and rational side. You need to connect with people’s hearts and minds. Make no mistake. People are driven by both. A simple idea like “Volvo makes cars that are safe” resonates on both levels.

Second, it needs to be believable. I could tell you: “Adam is the next President of the United States.” But wish me luck convincing you of that.

Third, your core message needs to be relevant to a group of potential customers. If there’s no market opportunity, that’s not a good place to be. I might own the only lemonade stand on Mars — a great positioning opportunity — but not if there are no thirsty Martians to drink my lemonade.

Fourth, your core message needs to be simple. If people can’t understand, remember or repeat your one thing, it’s too complicated. If it’s too complicated, it won’t find a home in your prospect’s mind. And remember: that’s where your brand lives.