Let’s cut straight to the chase: Building a brand reputation from your product or service alone isn’t enough. Your marketing is just as important, and in exceptional cases, it can be a brand’s stand-out moment. We’re talking about Innocent Drinks’ irreverent social media presence, Ben & Jerry’s bold approach to activism, and not forgetting John Lewis’ often-imitated Christmas ads.

These are big brands, and so with that, we’re talking big budgets too. But it’s all relative. At some moment in time, the internal marketing team has set a strategy and decided that they want to be a brand that breaks tradition and in many cases, sets a trend. By doing so, they not only build a reputation in their own market but they begin to get noticed by broader consumer audiences too.

Are we saying that Innocent’s quirky one-liners and oddball advertising turns people on to smoothies? People who had never considered buying a smoothie before? Yes, yes we are. When a brand can execute marketing at such a level that it almost eclipses the product itself, you know they’re on to a winner.


Where does it all begin?

Marketing directors and brand teams don’t necessarily wake up one day with a great idea, execute said idea and watch the cash come rolling in. Okay, some do, but we don’t have that magic formula bottled and ready to sell just yet.

Getting your marketing just right is a delicate balance of strategy and iteration. In other words, finding that fertile middle ground between a crazy idea and a reliable bed of research.

John Lewis and their foray into Christmas advertising is a prime example. On the one hand, it seems crazy to concentrate so much marketing budget on a one-hit campaign, particularly one so reliant on emotion and storytelling. On the other hand, they know their audience: Affluent families who, for the most part, see Christmas as a time to come together and celebrate. The message is clear: Christmas is a time for giving, and John Lewis sell just about everything you might want to give at that time of year.

But what does this look like in smaller organisations? How can you apply big John Lewis thinking to your own brand marketing without making your customers cry at the TV?


Here are five essential starters:


Understand your current audience

Building reputational marketing is a great opportunity to go back to basics. Who is your audience? What are their needs? Their goals and aspirations? What inspires them? What keeps them buying from you?


Understand your potential customer 

To build a greater reputation, it goes without saying that you’ll need to broaden your customer base. How can you appeal to a wider market? What are customers’ buying patterns? How can you stand out?


Trends, fads, virality and clichés 

It’s 2024, a time when brands live or die at the flick of a switch. It’s important to understand what’s hot and what’s not. Furthermore, what’s best avoided and what could land you in hot water? Being brave is popular right now, but being controversial can quickly backfire. Take your time in studying the market.


Stay close to your mission 

Never lose sight of your brand’s overall mission. Question every creative decision you make and ask yourself if it helps in achieving your goals. While individual marketing campaigns can net short-term gains, it’s how you weave these into your brand story over time that will net your long-term success and, ultimately, a reputation to be proud of.


Keep an ear to the ground

We believe that it was Jeff Bezos who said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room” (which is a little ironic, no?) Audience opinion is one of your greatest feedback loops. And it’s never been easier to see what your customers are saying about you. What is important is that you act upon feedback when necessary and create a brand culture that is open to change.


Get in touch with your touchpoints

While it’s important to take a holistic view of your audience, don’t zoom out too far. It’s your touchpoints that make the greatest difference, and it’s important that you understand each and every one of them, not to mention their nuances. 

To truly build a strong brand reputation, you need to be the first name that comes to mind when they think of your product or service area. So first impressions are everything, whether that’s through an onboarding form, an exhibition stand, a social media campaign or even printed media.

Not only should your touchpoints resonate with your customers’ needs and aspirations, but they should also be consistent. Reputation is built through consistent experiences, so it’s no good  if a brilliant campaign is followed by poor customer service.

Love and longevity

At the other end of the journey, we have audience retention. It’s easy to front-load your marketing efforts and assume that once you’ve attracted your customer, the work is done. Far from it. Keeping customers is just as much the responsibility of your brand marketing as winning them in the first place.

Customers want to feel valued, listened to and respected, and that happens through a multi-channel approach. It might be text updates to remind them to do certain things that relate to your product or service. Maybe it’s loyalty offers or rewards tied to their longevity as a customer. Or perhaps it’s just marketing flourishes like a birthday discount or even a personal check-in once in a while.

Customers need to feel the love, and brands that don’t invest in marketing will quickly find that consumers start turning to competitors. If your reputation is what customers say when you’re not in the room, leave something in the room! Give them a reason to smile. Don’t let them forget you. Don’t forget them!

Six steps to reputational nirvana

We’ll be honest, our clients don’t have the ludicrous budgets of John Lewis or the consumer reach of Ben & Jerry’s. Not to mention the ice cream. But they do have brilliant products and services, and we love nothing more than helping them build a brand around those products and services.

We work with marketing teams who are hungry for a bigger bite of the market. Whether you’re a software company looking for a greater share of users, a charity looking to secure more donations or a retail brand aiming for increased footfall, we have years of experience in building big brands and bigger reputations. And here’s how we do it:

Start with you. Yes, you!

You can’t build a reputation from nothing. There’s got to be SOMETHING there. Whether that’s your company culture, the product you’re building, or the service you’re offering, start with discovery. What’s your grand vision? What’s your mission? And what values will help you get there? Discovery sessions are the best foundation for building an exceptional brand reputation.


Think big. No, bigger!

You can be forgiven for thinking your ideas are a little too crazy. We’d like to challenge that and say, “Let’s be ‘aving you.” No idea is too ridiculous, and you might be surprised at what a creative partner like us can do. It’s not always about budget or resource. Sometimes, you just need the right people on your side to help you nurture those big ideas.


Work smarter, not harder!

Building a reputation is no mean feat. There’s a lot of work involved, and there are countless ways to market. For that reason, our processes around messaging hierarchy, brand architecture and campaign identity provide a reliable framework that ensures the right creative is used in the right channel and there’s no uncertainty around your brand assets.


Talking the talk!

Many agencies will tell you what you want to hear. We’re not like that. We’re people people, and we believe a good relationship is built on trust and understanding between you and your creative agency. We take a ‘partnership’ approach with all of our clients. We’re a friendly ear, a dependable donkey, maybe even your best friend.


An unbiased voice! 

It can be difficult to get a fair and balanced view of your own product or service, especially when you’re living it every single day. A creative partner can offer a new perspective and even help you understand more about your audience through customer research and market analysis. This is something we try to offer to all clients. You’d be surprised how much you can learn from a simple brand audit.


A return on investment! 

There are many famous Roys in the world. Roy Walker. Roy Orbison. Roy Keane. But there’s only one great ROI looking over all of us. We have no doubt that your CEO and your board want to see a strong return on investment when it comes to marketing spend. It’s a scary time for marketers, so it’s so important that your ideas and your campaigns are strategic and built upon validation and no assumption. Internally, we talk a lot about brand evolution. We don’t just want to make you one big idea – we want to grow with you and help you achieve those big, bad goals!


It’s not them, it’s us

So if you’re feeling a little unloved by your current creative agency or a little overwhelmed by the murky marketing landscape, let’s have a chat. We build bold, memorable and consistent brands that connect with customers and turn them into lifelong advocates.

Now if you’ll excuse us, we’re off to get some cookie dough ice cream.

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