Brand is Dead: Lessons in Branding from Simon Middleton

Posted on the 7 May 2019

Brand is Dead: Lessons in Branding from Simon Middleton

Simon Middleton, leading strategic brand advisor and author of bestseller ‘Build a Brand in 30 days’, advised entrepreneurs to build a brand that “gives something back” during the Entrepreneurs’ Forum latest exchange event.

Forty business leaders gathered at the Northern Design Centre in Gateshead to hear Simon’s advice on building and maintaining a brand with strong values and mission at its core.

Simon is an established branding expert, and was voted one of the World’s Top 30 Branding Professionals in 2018. He is co-founder of outdoor menswear brand Shackleton and owns British coastal clothing company Blackshore.

To kickstart the session, Simon acknowledged the correlation between strong branding and business success.

“Brands are mental, emotional and social constructs. They’re not physical products. In one sense, they don’t exist at all, but they are all that we have to drive business success.”

Stating that brands are fluid, and develop and grow throughout time, Simon also acknowledged that the foundations of it must be solid.

Creating a strong and identifiable brand, Simon noted, can be achieved by adopting the six-legged spider of branding, or, the essential needs for any brand, namely: product/benefit, mission, vision of future, style, values and desired positioning.

The model works by looking at each leg in turn, mapping several words and phrases about each, which creates the building blocks of an authentic brand story. It is only once these foundations are established, Simon advises, that you can then focus on building brand awareness.

“Be positive and be great, define your story, your service or product offering, then focus on becoming a strong and recognisable brand. In other words, be great before you seek fame.”

In the afternoon session, Simon also shared the lessons he’s learned building two menswear companies, and what he’s observed throughout his career as both a brand expert and entrepreneur.

“I’ve been studying brands for twenty years and great brands, I believe, have four things in common: they’re authentic, compelling, distinctive, and excellent.”

Simon also invited the forty business owners to reflect on not only their own brands, but highly recognisable brands (such as Apple and McDonalds), and the traits we associate with them, before emphasising the importance of storytelling.

“Brand stories must be existential as the human need itself. Brands are made through stories that make people feel something. Brand is meaning, and meaning relies on trust.

“There are so many things threatening the traditional models of branding, which has meant the trust between brands and their consumers is now broken.”

Simon closed the event by reminding entrepreneurs that while brands are ‘having an existential crisis’, in this new era of marketing, it's not what you say that counts, but what you do.

“In 2019, brands need something else. They need to be contributive. It’s not enough for brands to be great anymore, they need to give something back and do something positive.”

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