Monthly Archives: December 2012

Brand personality and a bit about airlines

I Love the recent news story, and classic sun headline ‘Willie Wager’, about Richard Branson’s bet with British Airways. It reflects the personality of the two brands oh so well.

On one hand we have the traditional corporate figure of Willie Walsh, with his serious pinstripe suit to go with his serious predictions for the downfall of Virgin, cue evil laugh. And on the other we have the smiley Mr Branson in his laid back linen number, on his Caribbean Island, basically saying ‘bring it on Willie, let’s have some fun with this.’ Virgin v British Airways – The Big Bet The bet from the Caribbean, that BA pay £1 million to Virgin staff, if Virgin is still around in 5 years or vice a versa, comes following Mr Walsh’s claims that, if Virgin goes ahead with the Delta airlines joint venture, the Virgin name will be ditched.

Richard Branson’s put your money where your mouth is way of completely dismissing the predictions is in itself a great bit of marketing. And is the kind of response we have come to expect from the, less conventional, business magnate. Of course should Mr Walsh reply with the light heartedness, typical of the Virgin brand, it would immediately seem at odds with the stiff upper lip and bowler hat personality of BA. That isn’t to say that one is right and the other is wrong, just that they both have a very definite voice which we, as consumers, associate with each airline and which must be reflected in all communications.

Know your business personality

The individual personality of each corporation can be seen right from the visual branding through to all communications and staff behaviour. Visually British Airways is classic and refined and, I have to admit, when you look at a row of BA planes you do get a certain feeling of patriotism. The Virgin brand on the other hand is a lot more vibrant, loose and fun.

Fly on a BA plane and, in my opinion, you really don’t get much in the way of personality; it’s all very just so. With Virgin, however, you even get little jokes in the flight and safety briefing and the vibrancy is carried through to the way you are looked after on board and the way all Virgin crew communicate. Having said that it would seem wrong if BA were to start cracking jokes during their safety briefing, just as it would if Virgin were to suddenly take a far more serious approach. Don’t surprise us As consumers we like to know what to expect, we don’t generally like surprises. So what a business promises with its brand visuals and communications, we expect to receive. And when we don’t we fall out of love with them and go elsewhere.

A great brand begins on the inside It is, therefore, essential to define what your brand is, what it stands for, where it sits in the market and who it is targeted at before you start any outward marketing. A good and very simple exercise we ask clients to do is to answer the question ‘If you were a supermarket what supermarket would you be, and why?’ You can also take this further and align yourself to a magazine, newspaper, brand of car etc. It helps you to develop a clear picture of the personality you want to portray. Are you fun and vibrant like Virgin or Classic and dependable like British Airways? Once you have decided all this you must now make sure that you communicate all this to the outside world in all your branding. Make sure your staff fully understands the personality of your brand and how to reflect this in their behaviour and communication with all your clients. Review your brand and respond to the market And it doesn’t stop there. You must constantly review your brand. Ask yourself how are we being received? Have we changed as an organisation? Does my branding and communication still reflect the business as it is today? Has the market changed and are we reacting to this? British Airways is a good example of a brand that was falling behind the competition in terms of brand perception.

A year ago, according to YouGov’s BrandIndex, it was positioned only 21st in a chart of 25 aviation brands. A year later, thanks to the ‘To fly, to serve’ campaign and the campaigns that supported the 2012 sponsorship it is now rated as 2nd only to Virgin. I guess the ‘wishful thinking’ that Mr Branson assigns to Walsh’s recent claims will hit a nerve! The BA adverts were not a complete move away from the brand as we all know it, but rather than focussing on destinations and aircraft, as many airlines continue to do, they focused instead on customer service.

Bringing it back to the customer, something Virgin do very well, has meant a far better buy in from consumers. Not that I am suggesting for one minute that you run out and place a load of adverts, but just as British Airways did, you do need to protect the future success of your brand. And when a change is needed you need to recognise it and respond. Willie or Won’t he? So as Willie wriggles his way out of accepting the bet laid down in front of him, who is your money on? For me it’s Mr Branson all the way, but you probably guessed that already! Thanks for reading, Sarah

Who is checking your financial information ?

Information is a powerful tool and the information super-highway, aka world wide web, is having to face up to a number of challenges as its usage grows.

There are issues surrounding social media use and abuse in particular. But it’s not just a matter of social etiquette and personal privacy. How accurate is the information provided? And who is checking? There is no doubt that the internet is an amazing source of information about all sorts of topics and, as such, has transformed most people’s lives. Within a moment or two of wondering what the facts are about a subject, we can ‘google’ it and, in a few clicks, have the knowledge.

The problem is that if anyone can publish anything, how can we trust what we are reading? With a source like Wikipedia people with different perspectives may challenge and amend what is there, but what of the business world?

Certainly speaking personally the new problem that is emerging in my area of work – access to loan finance for small businesses unable to fully meet their requirements from other sources – is summed up in a couple of questions: 1. Who is keeping the web information up to date? 2. Is it reliable and fully informed?

There used to be a number of mainly public-sector-supported national and local websites to point potential applicants and their advisers in the right direction. Nearly all are no more. New sites are either ‘under construction’ or a ‘work in progress’, but regrettably at the moment they are not truly ‘fit for purpose’. They will need considerably more input.

The Google approach on its own can also prove misleading, because I can see that many of the sources or articles on the first page and onwards are either well out of date or are dominated by paid-for results, which leaves Wonga and other high cost lenders well in front of the game. In our own case, as we develop and change our terms and conditions according to the funding we have available, I have become aware of how hard it is to keep a track of every online listing there is which mentions our previous terms and conditions.

A classic example of this issue which I recently came across is a scheme that finished three years ago still being promoted on a ‘sources of finance’ site! In order to help, people most frequently think of setting up new information ‘hubs’ rather than adding to, or signposting to, existing sites. The problem here is that it not only takes time and money to make businesses aware of new sites, the different options have the potential to offer conflicting or different information.

All this makes it harder for small businesses to access the information – and money – they really need. It seems we are reaching a situation in which information is actually getting in the way, rather than supporting, the matching of available funds to needy businesses.

The time is certainly ripe for some fresh thinking. Now that would be a constructive challenge for the British Bankers Association, which just happens to have launched If they could get everyone offering support for the small business sector to input to and update their site that would truly be a deserving cause that would support small businesses and the UK’s economy.

Filling the Gap, Turning the Tide?

A very unusual time for UK Manufacturing, without any doubt the Automotive Sector is, to coin a phrase ?making hay, while the sun shines? at the moment, it?s really encouraging to hear that the UK economy is making such a positive impression and leading the way at a time when our Continental counterparts are seem to be looking around for any type of guiding light.

But it?s not all about Automotive, true many first and second tier manufacturers in our Region are expanding back to pre-downturn levels of performance, if not in some cases, growing much larger thanks to the Rise and Rise of the Great British Auto Sector. Rical Multiforms a division of The Midlands based Rical Group and based in Cradley Heath, the heart of the Black Country is seeing a returning need for mid to high volume components not just in the Automotive sector but in the much more historically volatile sector of Building and Construction along with Electrical Sectors.

Rical Multiforms specialize in Multislide and Bihler component manufacture of pressings and wire forms in what has always been a very competitive market, with buyers constantly bench marking, moving to ?emerging? economies and looking for fast, immediate, cost effective bulk, sometimes spot buys in a Sector that has seen terrible peaks and troughs over the last ten years or so.

Multiforms is now filling the gap, as overseas customers along with strengthening UK OEM?s are looking to utilise the Multislide and Bihler method of manufacture which for its wide variety of applications offer a very competitive edge against the expensive tooling option of Progression and Transfer methods of production used by manufactures in the UK during the difficult times of the downturn and as a result of ?off shoring? they had to struggle to self-finance projects as away of enticing that, at the time very illusive Sale.

Now this is no triumphant announcement that the Building and Construction sectors are breaking all-time records, it is though perhaps that UK manufacturing companies like Rical Multiforms are again starting to see more of the market share of Supply as industry ?Globally? see?s advantage in manufacturing its Brackets, Clips and wire products with the Multislide and Bihler processes that the UK can offer?Manufacturer of metal pressings and wireforms