When is a branding consultant not a branding consultant…….

When he tells you what you want to hear rather than what you need to know.

By Stu Higton, Creative Director of octOpus.


The answer is known – deep down but how often do people really want to hear the truth?

If you ask a brand consultant their opinion, prepare to hear the truth.

Anything less than the truth is a waste of time and money, while brand stakeholders may like to hear nice things about their brand rather than the ugly truth the consumer will be voting with their feet. A business’ brand is accounted for as an Intangible Asset while being the business’ most valuable asset; customer opinion of a brand matters.

Brand consultants find constructive, truthful ways to assist businesses with their brand image but it often takes difficult conversations. One of these conversations starts with “You are irrelevant” quickly followed up by an introduction to the Customer First approach.

The Customer First approach does not ignore the brand owners, in fact it holds at its core the brand owners’ values; what it focuses on however is the perception of the brand in the eyes of the business’ directors, shareholders, suppliers and customers and compares this with the brand owners’ values. Do they correlate?

This is a process of Brand Orientation and is broken down into two halves. The first half is internal and this process is called a Brand Audit. It asks the key stakeholders, the business owners, of their brand’s values, their vision and mission. This is followed up to see if, internally, these values are shared amongst the rank and file, both inside and outside the core business, i.e. everyone prior to 1st customer contact. Typically it is like Chinese whispers and the essence of the brand’s values are diluted the further from the brand’s core you get.

Corrective measures can then be taken to get better brand orientation through internal communications and training programs.

So this is before we get outside the Business’ doors internal brand dilution. So what do we find out there?

This is the second half and is called Market Intelligence. What does the market think of your brand? What does the market think of your competitor’s brand? Is the market even aware of your brand? This process is carried out in varying depths depending upon the type of business. It can consist of focus groups, qualitative and quantitative, online research panels and telephone or street questionnaires alongside simple walking and watching how your customers interact with your brand at the critical point of purchase. Whatever it takes to get a statistically accurate sample on which to make decisions.

Orientation complete, there should be some solid data and knowledge on perceptions of the brand. This can be overlaid with the business performance and planning for real success starts here.

Business and communication gaps are identified internally and externally the communications and marketing program can be tailored to meet and deliver against the business needs.

The qualitative findings from Market Intelligence are used to provide insights to our target audience. These insights are used to build a communications program that connects with the customer. Ads and communications create an environment in which sales can flourish; with impactful sales support tools and team training to ensure the brand promise is understood from the core out, a brands true potential will be realized.

Its at this last stage that the pretty pictures can come in, having understood the business issues, customer perception of the brand and the challenges to be tackled. The brand image we create is like wrapping paper, pretty, but soon forgotten if the gift inside is rubbish.

You see branding is more than just a logo, a look and feel, it is the constellation of values and emotions associated with your brand. Its called the brand experience and it is only as good as the weakest link. Great products with sexy logos, ads, offices and products can all be let down by poor customer service. All the underlined can be interchanged as the weakest link. Branding/Rebranding is not always about a new look or logo, it runs deeper and requires tough questions and honest answers.

At octOpus our mission is Find the Truth, and it comes with its fair share of slaps and handbag attacks.

So the question isn’t “Does my bum look big in this?”

Its “Do your customers like big bums?” Now DUCK!