How not to be brand bland

In times of strong competition, brand matters more than ever. Mark Huxley offers his guidance in a feature article from LittleJohn's newsletter.

Click here to view the complete newsletter.

These uncertain financial times particularly resonate for the insurance industry, which apart from managing its own business, can have a significant influence on those of its clients. It is a time, therefore, that industry practitioners need to showcase their talents, attracting and keeping valuable clients. Simply put, it is a time for your brand to shine through and work positively for you.

So what is a brand?

Your brand is your business. It is the embodiment of who you are, what you do and what makes you the broker of choice. It must be clearly understood and recognised by your customers. After all, it is their opinion that governs your success.

Take coffee shops – Starbucks, Costa or Caffè Nero. Which do you and your colleagues frequent and why? Compare answers and I bet you’ll defend why yours is the right choice and not theirs. The coffee shops have created their identity and we are disciples of it. This example will equally apply to those that choose to work with you.

So what makes a brand good? There are four elements that must function in unison.

  • Authentic – is your brand fundamentally true to itself? It had a vision from the start, has it stayed true to it? It must never pretend to be something it is not.
  • Compelling – does it engage people emotionally, creating an immediate affinity? It’s this above all else that drives brand selection.
  • Distinctive – it’s innovators not imitators that really stand out from the rest. That point of difference makes you individual; convey it from the very core of your business.
  • Excellent – brand leaders truly deliver; they do what they say and do it well. Make false promises or fail to live up to expectations and you will quickly kill your reputation!

“Your brand is your business. It is the embodiment of who you are, what you do and what makes you the broker of choice”

As marketers, how do we understand and deliver strong brands?

Investigation, analysis & strategy

We ask the key stakeholders in the business to share their beliefs and ambitions. We learn their common values and, just as important, where they differ. This insight allows us to distil these values into words, adjectives and phrases that get to the very heart of the business.

Building the brand

With the words from stage one we have all the tools necessary to undertake any brand creation or re-engineering. We showcase the brand in action across the range of media; stationery, brochures, online, presentational, promotional, advertising, and so on.

Introduction & launch

The newly-created brand needs to be delivered internally before being used anywhere externally. It should be properly documented and presented to everybody. Fail to do this and all the hard work will be undone with a brand that is poorly understood, poorly executed, diluted and likely to fail. Not to mention losing all those potential Brand Champions you employ who can be your greatest sales force.


Now is the time to identify the marketing disciplines that best promote your brand. Print, online, communications, PR, advertising and events are just some of the methods. Every execution needs to be carefully thought out, not just for its own merits but also as part of the wider campaign. A specific date or future event can help build momentum, as well as keeping focus on the whole campaign.

Insurance is an industry where adjectives like trust, reliability and professionalism ring through. With its complex distribution channels and networks, word-of-mouth is still fiercely active. Reputations can be made or broken quickly. In these challenging times, it is therefore vital to actively manage your brand in all its parts. Do it well and you will instinctively gain clients, make a powerful impression on them, and build loyalty, based upon your reputation to deliver.