What’s in a name? How to Build a meaningful brand

The purchase of Jaeger by M&S, and Debenhams by Boohoo was an acute and brutal reminder of the value of a name.

Nothing new in brands buying established brands of course. In 1998, Rolls-Royce Motor Cars was purchased from Vickers by Volkswagen for £479 million. I chose this particular example as it highlights the fact that VW was under the impression it was buying the whole business including the trademark, hence the hefty price tag. It wasn’t. The rights to the Rolls-Royce name, its radiator grille and Spirit of Ecstacy emblem for use on Rolls-Royce cars, were all sold separately to rival BMW for just £40 million. Long story short, this is why Bentley is now made by VW and Rolls-Royce by BMW.

The point is, no-one cares that a Rolls-Royce is made by BMW; consumers are buying the prestige of the brand, and this is why M&S and Boohoo purchased their chosen company’s intellectual property* dismissing the ‘physical’ – the stores and staff. Sadly, the only value to the retailers was in what the brand represented: respect and emotional attachment.

In Boohoo’s case they also acquired the Debenhams’ website. For them it was about converging a revered brand with their own products, ultimately utilising the Debenhams’ online look and feel. But we were changing the way we shop well before the onset of Covid sent retail brands tumbling. Our ability to purchase goods online, primarily cruising the shops for leisure, wasn’t sustainable. The pandemic simply accelerated the recent demise of so many well known brands. 

A true brand is not just a name

I’ve assisted in several brand transformations. These have evolved into various brand icons, loved by all who share a pride – along with a sense of ownership and belonging – in being part of its family. Simply by adding ‘the(ir)’ logo to whatever they were creating gave it real credence.

Few brands make the premier league in terms of resale, but this is not the aim of the majority of those who begin the dream. Building brand equity takes time, energy and belief. In order for your brand to earn respect and loyalty – both as an individual, or as an organisation – doesn’t need complexity, but it does need to fully resonate with your sector audience. Why?

  • It’s not about what you want to say, it’s about what your audience wants to see and hear. Connecting emotionally with them by telling relevant stories and letting them know how you can help is key.

  • Defining your social purpose: it’s essential we add to people’s lives. That when we say we’re sustainable we truly are and able to demonstrate this. We all need to be conscious of community, to make a difference in the way we operate and ensure it’s ethical.

  • You need to be innovative in your brand building: keep it simple, appropriate, colourful and varied. Exceptional customer experience rewards with loyalty.

  • In your organisation, be conscious of your people, no matter who they are. They come first as the voice of your brand. If they love what you do together, you’ll keep them engaged, proactive and positive.

Laurus Trust branding designed by Andrew Greenwood of Visual Sense

Sketch of Jamie Oliver

And finally… putting a name to a face

As an individual, your ‘logo’ can simply be your face. Jamie Oliver’s a classic example. Always up front and personal on his book covers, Jamie’s audience initially bought in to his cheeky Naked Chef series, first screened in 1999. 

However, it’s paramount to revisit and evaluate your brand regularly, even when it’s successful. Reflecting on its direction, then adapting and changing along the journey, means you remain in control.

By introducing then girlfriend Jools, along with friends, chefs and more recently focussing on the Olivers’ wholesome family lifestyle, Jamie took his audience with him on his very personal journey. Over 20 years later, Jamie is ‘Chef & Dad’ with 10 million Instagram Followers and – along with Jools’ 560k Followers inadvertently promoting him through her family sharing – he has certainly successfully maintained his brand longevity.