• Simon Phillips

The essentials of brand essence

In Richard Flewitt's second article on the importance of brand essence, he writes more about the views of some of the UK's business leaders.


In my previous article I concluded that ‘when you take the time to discover your WHY and WHO, then make your resulting brand essence the foundation stone of your organisation, you will get all your people on-board and success will take care of itself’. In the UK a company that has been doing this for decades is Timpsons.

“Why do you work for an organisation? Because you enjoy it and take pride in what it does... and you’re there with like-minded people. It’s sense of community.” John Timpson, Chairman of Timpson Group

To help create this ethos John Timpson speaks of the importance around recruiting people with the right attitudes and mind-set. ‘You can teach skills but you can’t teach attitude’ is a phrase that is shared by both Timpson and Center Parcs’ CEO, Martin Dalby who firmly believes that the culture and people at Center Parcs sit centre stage.

“Creating success is done through the less tangible aspects of the business. When we get the people right, the customer service right, the quality of the facilities right and the right essence around the brand, we know that the financial success will come”

My invitation to leaders and business owners is to consider how you might set out on this road by first making the time to discover and articulate the core essence of your brand. Explore and experiment with possibilities around how you can engage more openly with your people, creating a culture in which your purpose is known, understood and shared by all stakeholders.

I took the opportunity to present this suggestion to a series of business leaders, one of which was Will Wakefield, the CEO of the YMCA in Nottingham, which has enjoyed increased turnover of 20% year on year under his leadership.

"We need to communicate very early on why we do what we do, and then how we do it. It is absolutely critical that we get the right people on board who share our culture" Will Wakefield, YMCA

Paula Nickolds from John Lewis was also in agreement, explaining to me that the essence of John Lewis forms the foundations that underpin activities across the whole organisation:

“It’s easier to evolve and change, and there’ll be more requirement for this in the future if you have a really clear purpose and reason for being and if you’re absolutely clear about what your golden thread is, it helps you. It isn’t a hindrance to change, it helps you because it’s a kind of guiding, divining rod. It helps you to evolve and embrace the change that you need to survive”

While there are a few examples such as Buurtzorg in the Netherlands and Haier in China who have fully embraced this new way of working, the overall consensus in the UK is more cautious, with companies retaining older leadership models with more control and not being prepared to be totally open and transparent with their people. The shareholder model only serves to enforce this by placing profit as the only measure of success. As Mark Sears suggests, maybe it is the mindset of this group that needs to shift:

“Brands have a responsibility towards their own purpose, towards doing something that is deeper than just earning cash for their shareholders. That means having a purpose, embodying that in their essence and supporting their people to thrive.” Mark Sears – former Head of Brand at Virgin

When your people and purpose are aligned, everyone is on the same page heading in the same direction towards the same goals. Enthusiasm and creativity flow, and your people go the extra mile to make change happen with you. What do you need to do to ensure that your WHY and WHO are clear, forming solid foundations that underpin everything you do?

Read more from UK business leaders on this topic by reading Richard’s chapter in our book "Change Wisdom" available globally on Amazon.

#brandessence #strategy #change


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