Questioning What We Know About Brand + Business

At Butchershop, clarity is at the core of everything we do. We seek out clarity in how we work, how we help companies beat failure, and how we approach brand and business problem-solving. As we were preparing to launch The Clarity Project, we saw an opportunity to find clarity in what brand really means to business leaders and identify some of the perceived challenges that companies face with brand building today.  

To gain some insight into these topics, we launched a brand study in March 2020 among our network of company leaders, investors, and other agency professionals. Despite the challenges associated with trying to keep the momentum during a global pandemic, we were excited to see over 150 responses from all over North America, the UK and Europe. Although this sample size fell short of our goal to reach an even wider global audience, we mined through the data and open-ended responses to identify 4 key takeaways.

1. Brand is Everything, But Where Do You Start?

These days it seems to be common knowledge that a brand is much more than a logo. Although there’s no single agreed upon definition for what “brand” is, we see a collective consciousness in the business world that in many ways reflects the idea that brand is everything. When asked to define brand in their own words, nearly all survey respondents conveyed similar themes such as perception, emotion, values, purpose, identity, and story. 

Despite the common vocabulary, it’s often what’s left unsaid that creates a disconnect between what companies ask for and what they really need when it comes to brand and marketing initiatives. We often work with company leaders who believe a refreshed website design or a fleet of new digital assets will help them achieve their goals, when in reality, there’s a deeper business impact that can only be achieved  by taking a hard look at their brand positioning, brand purpose, brand experience, and brand behavior.

2. Brand is a Journey, Not a Destination

Brand is fluid and iterative. No one wants to invest in building a brand that won’t be relevant a year or two later, but the reality is that as companies grow and evolve, brands need to scale and adapt alongside them. More than 2/3 of the company leaders and founders we surveyed indicated that their companies had needed brand work or had recently completed work on their brand. 

Because brand is always evolving, words like “rebrand” or “brand refresh” can be misleading and cause confusion with company leaders who perceive brand work as binary rather than on a spectrum. The key is in diagnosing the real challenges that a company is facing to arrive at a more informed and sharper point of view of what kind of brand work will have the greatest impact on the business. 

3. Know Thy Customer. Know When Thou Knows Nothing

50% of company leaders surveyed indicated that acquiring more customers or users was one of their top business goals. With customers being so central to the success of a business, most company leaders seem to feel confident in their understanding of who their customer is and what they care about, with only 10% acknowledging this as a challenge they’re currently facing. Investors and VCs, however, seem to have a different vantage point. The #1 challenge they believe start-ups and early-stage companies are facing? Not knowing who their customer is and what they care about.

4. The Connection Between Brand and Business is Still Elusive

Brand valuation is a hot topic for economists and consultants around the world. While some methodologies exist to try to assign concrete metrics to some of the world’s biggest global brands, the perceived value of “brand” remains incredibly hard for company leaders and investors to grasp. Over 60% believe that one of the most valuable benefits of a strong brand is to drive revenue/business impact, yet very few are able to articulate why.

What’s Next?

So, how do we arrive at a better understanding of the value of investing in brand? If we think of brand as nothing more than mental real estate, the ROI of building a desired perception needs to be measured holistically – from the impact on company culture to the brand’s reputation among customers and prospects, and ultimately with business metrics like sales & revenue, customer growth & retention, and venture funding.   

It’s this lack of clarity around the relationship between brand and business impact that we plan to tackle next, starting with an in-depth qualitative study among investors and venture capitalists around the world. We aim to start a dialogue with those who occupy a critical role in helping companies scale in order to understand the perceived value of brand throughout the lifecycle of a business – from the pitch meeting to fundraising, to growth stages, to pre-IPO and beyond. 

If you’re an associate or partner of an venture or private equity firm and you’re interested in sharing your perspectives, please reach out to research@butchershop.co to be a part of our next study.