Branding is a word often bandied about by businesses and marketers as the 'magic formula to success'. But while the term may conjur up images of the big multi-nationals, it's not just the Cokes and Tescos of this world that can benefit from a little branding, independent butchers can protect and build thier businesses with a little canny know-how.
The great thing about branding is that it does not discriminate against large or small, and, get the brand right, and you are on to a winner! Of course, the opposite is also true - if your brand is associated with bad quality it can destroy a business. Take Gerald Ratner's misplaced remarks in the 1990s when he declared the jewellery he sold was "crap". Ratners went from being the most ubiquitous high-street jewellery store in the UK to extinction within a matter of months.
GETTING IT RIGHT
So how can the retail butcher get it right? There probably are not many of you who have not heard of Boxleys of Wombourne or Eastwoods of Berkhampstead or Lishmans of Ilkley - all just high-street butchers like many of our readers. So why should the Boxleys or the Eastwoods of this world be so well known, what is it that makes them stand out from the rest? The simple answer is; they have made a name for themselves - a name that has become their brand.
Targeting the consumer is key, says Joe Collier of Eastwoods of Berkhampstead: "One of the most important things is to know your marketplace. Place your business in the market you want to be in, whether that be the top, middle or bottom of that market. Make the decision and stick with it."
Ray Jones, from The Chartered Institute of Marketing, explains how branding can work for the smaller retailer: "It is tempting to think of 'a brand' as something that only matters to the multi-national giants in business. Many people running smaller companies dismiss branding as the preserve of the likes of Tesco or Toshiba and other companies that have big advertising budgets to match their big names.
"But a small business can be a powerful brand in its area. The high-street butcher with an excellent reputation can offer the same reassurance and guarantee of quality that consumers can get from choosing an internationally recognised brand name."
Jones adds that in a crowded marketplace, brand identity may be all that separates one company from its competitors. "A strong brand inspires loyalty," he continues. "It prompts a customer to return time and time again. It is worth cultivating, no matter what business you are in."
On the surface it may be viewed that a brand is nothing more than a logo with the company name set out in selected colours, but the brand is really more about the 'essence' of the business, the whole experience the business gives its customers.
Jones continues: "Branding is more than a corporate colour and pretty packaging. A brand is the consequence of a user's experience of a product gained over many years. This experience is comprised of a multitude of separate experiences - good, bad and indifferent. These could range from the pleasant smile of a sales assistant, to a piece of unfavourable press coverage. A brand is not what the owner of a company tells his customers, it is the genuine sentiments in those customer's hearts."
Keith Boxley, of Boxley of Wombourne, says: "Over the years the name Boxley has become synonymous with award-winning sausages and pies, as we became more successful in competitions that we entered. I've always made sure the name went with everything that we did, so inevitably people got to know our name."
David Lishman, of Lishmans of Ilkley adds: "We concentrated on what we did best and using PR and as much free editorial as we could get we managed to get our message across to locals. This enabled us to build a reputation in our area as being the best in our field."
However, not everyone has a masterplan. Brian Randalls, of Randalls Butchers in Fulham comments: "I didn't actively go out to set up a brand, it's almost happened by accident. Over the years we have got a lot of publicity by appearing on TV, we've been on programmes such as the BBC's Good Food programme and most recently The F Word. It helps that I count well-known names like Gordon Ramsay and Jamie Oliver among my customers, but ultimately they have been attracted to the shop by the quality of what we have on offer. I've worked hard over eighteen years to build that reputation and that has been paid off with our success."
Jones explains that by tapping into the true needs and concerns of customers, businesses can turn a brand into something that will strike a chord. "In many ways the small organisation, such as the smaller meat retailer is better placed to do this than the conglomerate that is separated from its customers by layers of management and cumbersome bureaucracy," Jones argues. "The business owner who is in close day-to-day contact with customers can quickly find out what they really want from a brand. It might not be important that a local butcher carries the largest range of products in the south of England, but next-day delivery could be crucial. The customers of another retailer might care that a shop stocks a good range of sausages rather than an extensive range of exotic cold meats."
Collier says that due to the 'poor location of his shop' he had to work to attract customers: "We never had a budget to advertise so we had to find other ways of publicising ourselves," he comments. "I have always believed in giving back to the community and we have run many events to raise money for charity over the years. This of course attracted articles in the local press, which created publicity for the shop and helped spread our name through the area."
Boxley advises: "I would say you need to persevere. Enter competitions and make sure you tell people about your success."
Of course once you have created the brand you need to reinforce the message with a professional look, be that with uniforms, shop display/fittings, carrier bags, labels, vehicle livery or perhaps all of the above and, perhaps most essentially for the retail butcher, by word-of-mouth. Boxley continues: "We put our logo everywhere that is customer facing, including our delivery van, wherever it goes our name goes - its simple effective advertising."
The image of the business is important and must convey the brands philosophy. The image must be right both inside and outside the shop, through the product and the staff.
Lishman says: "Most importantly you need to find your niche and promote this, always play to your strengths, it is what the customer recognises and it is that which give you the brand."
Jones adds simply that smart branding is about 'going back to basics', which gives the customer something they can rely on. "A brand that delivers its promise and has real meaning for the way customers live their lives, is one that is genuinely powerful," he explains.
Top tips box:
? Find your position in the marketplace
? Establish what you and your brand stands for, eg: good service, high quality etc
? Create your own publicity
? Keep an eye open for marketing opportunities
? Know what your customer thinks - carry out regular customer surveys
? Spread the word - get your branding seen on your vans, your shop, your bags, your staff!
? Don't be complacent once you've established a strong brand - continue to innovate to maintain your reputation
? Grow your reputation by entering competitions such as Butcher's Shop of the Year
? Take advantage of modern technology to promote your brand - websites, printing etc
? And above all stay consistent to your brand values