What makes a brand truly exceptional?

By Helen Chantrey

I’ve been working with a business who recently asked me what makes a brand great. I pondered this while on my grand tour to find my top three local pies (see below), and came up with four key things.

The word brand began simply as a way to tell one farmer’s cattle from another – “it’s mine and no one else’s, don’t steal it” (see picture, left). The essence of that stays true today, though it is more than just a name tag – a brand defines the identity of a specific product, service or business. It not only tells us what a business does, but portrays how it does it and reveals its personality.

So what do great brands have in common?

1) Define a tight target

“He who tries to please everybody pleases nobody.” This couldn’t be truer for great brands – they don’t try to please every potential customer. Instead they define a tight group of existing or potential users who would be their ideal loyal fans. They then listen to these people closely, finding out what’s important in their lives and how they feel about their favourite things. If the brand can appeal to this loyal fan base, it is amazing how the popularity can spread.

2) Functional and emotive

Great brands not only offer excellent products or services but also draw consumers to them because of what they stand for and believe in. A business can offer a good, efficient service or delicious food, but when it manages to create an emotional link to the audience, that’s when it starts to become loved and cherished. Where we buy into a brand’s lifestyle or beliefs, we grow to love them more – so a brand should wear its heart on its sleeve.

For food products, there needs to be more of a story these days rather than to simply say it’s natural or locally sourced – what is it about that particular farm or the way the product is made that can make the brand experience more endearing to its target? When this is backed up with an outstanding product or service, a business is onto a winner. I think Hambleton Bakery of Exton is doing this well – its popularity grows not only because the loaves taste fantastic, but we also buy into the nostalgia of traditionally baked bread.

Julian Carter of Hambleton Bakery

3) Consistency

It may seem obvious but I’m amazed at how many times businesses manage to change their look, feel and messages. Apparently around 10,000 brands are born every day, so that’s a lot of new messages. Keep your message simple and consistent everywhere your brand is seen. Use powerful visuals over words as people usually remember an image before the words.

4) Get talked about

Nothing sells a brand better than someone you like telling you about it. Brilliant brands manage to create stories that people talk about. We all remember Cadbury’s drumming gorilla. I’m not suggesting that local brands need or can afford TV adverts, but the point is that being unconventional can get you talked about. All that’s needed is a good dollop of creativity and people who are prepared to take the odd risk. So why not try something slightly bold and different?

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A Northfield Farm apple pie

And finally…

The Insider’s top three local pies:

With the British Pie Awards coming up in Melton Mowbray on June 8, I thought I’d be missing an opportunity not to travel around and partake in a spot of pie tasting. Here are my favourites:

TRADITIONAL: After much local sampling, my favourite pork pie is from Bailey’s Butchers in Upper Broughton. On the spicy side with rich pastry. Tel: 01664 822216

SOMETHING SWEET: A winner in last year’s British Pie Awards, Northfield Farm’s apple pie is superb.

A BIT DIFFERENT: Hambleton Farms Fine Foods Game and Apricot Pie. A beautiful sweet and savoury mix.

More information on the writer…
Food marketing expert Helen Chantrey recently moved to Leicestershire from London, where she worked on a range of Blue Chip brands at Unilever Foods. Now running How Now Marketing, she’s passionate about local food.

If there are topics you would like to see written about in Helen’s magazine column – called The Insider – or blog, or you would like to hear more about how Helen could help your business, do send her an email. She’d love to hear from you.

Visit Helen’s website

Matt Wright
The author:

Matt lives in Leicestershire with his wife, two kids and dog. He is passionate about British pubs, slow food and home brewing. He founded Great Food Club (originally as Great Food Magazine) in 2010 after being inspired by local producers near his home town of Melton Mowbray - Britain's 'Rural Capital of Food'.