Brand and the family business – How having a clear brand strategy can bring focus, cohesion and drive to a family firm

March 2015

Much has been written about the major challenges facing family businesses in the UK, as well as guidance and advice around solving these issues. Yet, all businesses face similar challenges, most of the time. As highlighted in research undertaken by Purpose, CEOs of all types of businesses are facing challenges such as succession planning, talent acquisition and retention, regulations and red tape, speed of change etc. That said, the details, factors, barriers and solutions for all business challenges are almost always unique – family or otherwise.

So why is a clear brand strategy imperative to overcoming these challenges?

How can it help bring a family business focus, cohesion and a strong future?

Alignment is crucial to the success of a business, yet many, if not all businesses struggle with it. Family businesses struggle more acutely with ‘alignment’ due to personal and emotive elements, and this can often be the root cause (or potential solution) for many of its key issues.

Aligning key people, aligning plans for the future, aligning the offer to the market – the list goes on. What alignment brings with it is focus, cohesion and the best possible chance of hitting short term targets and building a strong future. Defining your brand strategy is first and foremost all about alignment. 

The process of a true brand strategy starts with discovering and defining the foundation blocks of a business. It confronts businesses with some challenging questions and surfaces the truths – both the negatives and positives. Done well, it seeks to pool the insights and opinions of all the stakeholders in and around the business and ensures that they all feel they have played a key part in the strategic brand plan that results. 

JCB and Warburtons are just two of a host of highly successful family businesses in the UK. Their success can be put down to a whole range of factors but, in most parts, this is down to how effectively they are aligned internally and the strong brands they have created and maintained as a result.

Not ‘the brand’ that our minds all immediately jump too – be it iconic yellow machinery or bread packaging on our supermarket shelves – but the ‘brand strategy’ that sits at the heart of almost all outstanding businesses. 

Issues concerning ‘succession’ have similar themes but are very particular to each business and each family. These ‘themes’ do appear in non-family owned businesses but the personal and emotive elements of a family business can make them all the harder to solve. The list is long and the fallout, like it or not, makes its way through the direct workforce and through the families in question.

Amongst these there is the next generation or successor for leading the business. Often the lack of unity and alignment comes across in such a damaging way that it leaves potential successors with an understandable lack of appetite for leading the business in the future.

Implementing a brand strategy into a family run organisation can mean the difference between running a successful company for third, fourth and fifth generation members, and having to sell the business on. A business that is fully aligned and has a clear brand strategy in place, created and agreed by all the ‘family’ stakeholders, has the foundation to solve many of the other business challenges that occur, including succession planning. 

A brand strategy isn’t much different to your core business strategy – in fact there is a strong argument to say that they are one and the same thing. Yet business strategies are all too often fairly dry and functional pieces of work that fail to deal with some of the most important aspects of any business.

It is the businesses that are fully aligned and those that have a very clear brand strategy in place that are best placed to solve many of the issues discussed. Of course it’s never going to be a simple and painless exercise, but little that is truly worth doing ever is. 

By Giles Redmayne, Founder and Business Director at Purpose