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08 September 2014

Your Brand and Your Promise

Just say two words to me and you’ll have my immediate attention – “Krispy Kreme”. The emotional impact that a deep fried, sugar glazed, circle of dough has on me is a mystery even to myself. But an effect it has. It may be the associated sugar rush but I can still receive my sugar fix from other foods. So what it is it about those “Krispy Kreme’s” that gets my pulse up?

It all comes down to one thing, the brand.


“Krispy Kreme” along with countless other well-known brands carries a certain power, an allure. They have an emotional effect. Just pronouncing those words has me salivating but the psychological association is even more powerful because I associate a Krispy Kreme doughnut with treats. And we all like to treat ourselves, sometimes on a pretty regular basis.

This is part of the power of brand because it builds loyalty and my committing to spend money because of how it makes me feel.

That’s why every business needs to do serious work on their brand. And I mean serious. Get your brand right and you win customers and more important, keep them. It’s a truly fascinating area, so what I want to do is to introduce the concept and encourage you to pursue it further.

And the reason why I’m so in love with ‘brand’ is because I’ve seen how it has transformed small businesses and not just the house hold names. On our Innovating for Growth programme we have a dedicated workshop and one-to-one advice on brand and this has made a real impact on many of the business’s growth.

The question then, is how?

If I were to sum up brand in a sound bite it would be this: your brand is your promise to your customers. It makes sense really. If I buy a luxury garment from a luxury clothing label, I expect the best material and the finest design. So if the zip breaks or the button falls off, the brand is tarnished and its power is lost. Why? It didn’t live up to its promise.

That’s why your brand has to stand for something to begin with. It has to communicate something that resonates with me, a potential consumer. If your brand is on my wavelength, then I will tune in and listen and, who knows, even buy from it.

The most common mistake early stage businesses make is that they think their brand is just their name and the iconography that goes with it. But it isn’t, it’s a whole lot more. The name and design is just a visual representation of your promise. The more true you are to your promise, the stronger an asset the visual identity can become.

Given this, you should also invest in trade marking your brand at an early stage. There are some things to be aware of and the Business & IP Centre can help you search for existing trade marks and point you to other areas of Intellectual Property support.

What promise then are you making to your customers? Your competitors are making promises and may well be taking business that should be yours. Or perhaps you’re making a promise that is so unique to a certain group that it’ll impact them right away. In doing this you need to appeal to the right senses and emotions to get your message heard through the noise.

Doughnuts of course are easily appealing, something like Information Technology isn’t. But with good branding it can be.

Let’s assume you’re an IT business providing a service to SMEs. Which promise sounds better, “We provide IT Solutions for your business” or “Our IT service saves you stress and time”? The latter surely because the problem is stated more clearly and an emotional button has been pushed. This is where developing and positioning your brand gets really interesting.

I would recommend studying the brands of your immediate competitors and also those who are larger than you. That helps you to position yourself in relation to them. Is your message clearer or more appealing to a particular segment? Look at different industries too as there may well be some interesting lessons to pick up from them.

Good brands have a personality and tone of voice. What’s the character behind your Innocent brand and can

you do something a little different with your brand personality to make it distinctive? The oft mentioned Innocent Smoothies gets it. That’s why their brand’s personality is so appealing.

This ‘personality’ (and there are many types you can explore) should then impact all your external and internal communication too. If your brand is true then it has to be true inside the business as well as out.

Dedicating focus on these things alone should get you results, not least an uptake in interest for your product and service. You can be as creative as you like with your brand but of course never so creative that you lose the very people you want to speak to!

FascinateThere is a lot of great writing around brand and plenty of helpful comment. On my recommended reading list is Sally Hogshead’s Fascinate: Your 7 Triggers to Persuasion and Captivation. She identifies seven universal human triggers that fascinate; lust, mystique, alarm, prestige, power, vice and trust. Adding a couple of these ingredients alone will build real strength into your brand.

Now back to the doughnuts. If I were to analyse my fascination with Krispy Kreme, I would have to be honest that there are a number of primal instincts at play, a little bit of vice, a good dose of lust and a lot of trust because I know the experience of eating the doughnut will always be consistent.

It begs the question, what feeling, affection and loyalty does your business attract? If that’s a challenging question then maybe it’s the right question to ask because the answer will always lie in your brand.


Jeremy O’Hare is a Relationship Manager for the British Library’s Innovating for Growth programme, which provides £10,000 of fully-funded and tailored advice for businesses looking to grow.

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