Brand clinic: rejuvenate a craft business
Published:  08 October, 2010

Don Williams, CEO of brand and design consultacy Pi Global, suggests that brands need gentle nurturing as they pass from one generation to the next.

Everything in the universe is governed by life stages: things are born, they reach their prime, they age and ultimately die (cheery eh?). But unlike us frail humans, businesses and brands don't have to shuffle off their mortal coil in a paltry few decades they die only through neglect and, unlike us, they have the ability to thrive almost indefinitely.

Family-run businesses become loved local brands and build up a loyal consumer base, but as the proprietors age, so do their customers.

So how do craft bakers rejuvenate themselves without disenfranchising the people who have been their bread and butter over the years? The process of handing a business down a generation must be difficult, fraught with tensions and, sometimes, extremely painful. It's easy to understand how parents who have put their hearts, souls and hard-earned cash into a business building it up from nothing, creating its personality and knowing it as well, if not better, than they know each other feel extremely uncomfortable at the thought of passing it down to a child, who has some pretty radical, if not alien, ideas for dragging the bakery into the 21st century.

But unless that son or daughter is allowed to have their head and do what they believe is right, then the whole thing will fall apart anyway. The ability to retain the bedrock of what made the business strong while simultaneously setting about injecting new life and attracting younger consumers into the 'brand' must surely be the biggest dilemma facing family bakers who are in this transition phase.

So what's the magic formula to smooth this passage? There isn't one; every situation is different, involving different personalities and a whole raft of intricate functional and emotional issues, but what I would say is, 'Never throw away the Bath Buns with the bakery waste'. If the business and let's remember that the business is a brand has a strong foundation, do not dig it up in an attempt to make it 'trendy'.

Trend brands don't live very long it's a no-brainer! Great or serious brands are timeless; they fit the era in which they exist, without pandering to fads and fashion. This way they don't have to reinvent themselves every two weeks at vast expense and potential damage to the longevity of the brand.

Remember Mr Kipling? The visual equities of the brand were thrown away overnight and we all know the result. Understand the bedrock and gently evolve it. Make it work harder, identify the 'family jewels' and treasure them. Introduce new ones and build on them. It's entirely possible to breathe life into an old tradition without destroying what's great about it. The only reason for throwing away existing equity is if the business is moribund if it has become so irrelevant that there is nothing worth holding onto. Then there is every reason to completely reposition it and create new equity.

In summary, if it ain't broke, don't fix it polish it!




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