I am consulting for a not-for-profit at the moment and we are exploring options for their products and services and how best to position them for their next stage of growth.

I am passionate about working with SMEs to ensure that their brand and their marketing is both sustainable for the business and staff, and right for their audience.

When working with a small business, the first thing I differentiate is brand and branding:

brand: your promise to your customer

branding: how you present your promise including logos, typefaces, images

Changing your branding won’t make your business different.  It is essentially a facelift, but you are still the same person you always were underneath, but perhaps with less wrinkles and better-shaped eyebrows.

However, many small business develop amorphously – without a lot of focus on the brand.  They might develop because an owner is passionate about meeting a need, or because someone has a trade, or because an owner sees opportunity in a new product.

The scramble to get the business up and running, particularly on the small budget of an SME often precludes much forward thinking about brand.  Once started, the business grows and one service offered becomes three or four, because they are adjacent and. well, you have the skill set right?

You now face the admirable problem of deciding what to do with your growth.

One of the first questions I ask a business owner is, ‘What’s your end game?’.  Do you want to sell the business?  Franchise it?  Walk away from it eventually?  Leave it family members?

Particularly if the answer is one of the first two, we need to look at how the products and services meet the needs of audiences and what those audiences respond to.

You may be the equivalent of Samsung – you have disparate products (mobile phones, cameras, TVs, refrigerators, air conditioners) that all leverage the single, strong brand.  The brand lends it’s strength to each product and sector and your knowledge and positive experience of one will encourage you to think well of that brand in another product sector.  If you love your Samsung TV, you will consider purchasing a Samsung air-conditioner.


Alternatively, you may be the equivalent of Unilever.  Unilever is the brand behind many brands.   For a full list of the Unilever brands, see here.

Some of its biggest brands in Australia include Lynx, Dove, Lipton, Streets, Bushell’s and Continental.

These products are so disparate, with the purposes and audiences so diverse that it couldn’t possibly market them all under the one brand.  Some of this is naturally due to acquisition of additional brands over the 80+ year history of the company.

However, the strength for the unilever ‘brands’ is the individual and recognisable brand identities – customers buy Lynx because they think it will get them through the awkwardness of teenage years with as little heartbreak as possible.  They are purchasing the brand – the promise to the customer – that is unique to Lynx.

Can you see that one is a branded house (Samsung) and one is a house of brands (Unilever).

A branded house is certainly less work for a small business – one set of branding elements, one focus, each product building the brand as a whole; but if you are planning on segmenting your brand, or franchising or selling part of it, it becomes difficult – all or nothing.

A house of brands works best with the individual brands clearly defined by distinct target markets and marketing strategies.  It works where one of the brands would not be well received by a particular target market e.g. the user of Dove isn’t particularly enamoured by the Lynx brand and may not want their body care routine associated with that of teenage boys.  Similarly, a teenage boy isn’t going to want the brand of curvy, semi-naked older women associated with his attempt to get some action on the weekend.  The downside is that it requires more effort to plan and build different the different brands that make up a house of brands. Again, it is very important that the brands don’t cannibalise each other – in that case, you are better off with a branded house.

Hopefully that has enlightened you about the options when setting up your companies and your brands.

All I want now is a house with a beautiful concrete floor and floor to ceiling windows overlooking a sea of grasses.  Too much?


This post was originally published on LinkedIn.