5 companies that absolutely nail their branding
Branding is tricky. At its core, the concept of branding is that of building an identity, of choosing who it is you wish to be, the values and ideals you wish to represent, and finding the tone of voice that best helps the decided upon “true you” to come across. All the while selling a good product.
In its most simplistic form, branding is the way you choose to represent yourself to the world. A first date outfit come to life in corporate form.
Of course, branding is also so much more than that, and the bonds people develop with brands they admire can be formidable and longstanding. There’s a reason words like “loyalty” and “fealty” are often thrown around when we talk about our relationship to brands.
Good brands mean a lot to people. Not just because of the product they’re selling, but because through great marketing they come to represent something more. A Harley Davidson T-shirt that stands for freedom. Your favourite brand of lipstick serving as a stamp that the weekend is here. A glimpsed logo in a distant land reminding you of home.
The pitfall for a lot of brands, though, is that in marketing as in life, choosing who you want to be is hard. This is why collaborating with branding experts will often be the best investment your company ever makes.
You see, as humans, we are born with distinct personalities and backgrounds that help shape who we are. Our ideologies and means of expression are at least to some extent out of our control. They elevate and hinder us in equal measure (while ensuring those who pursue careers in therapy will never be forced to sing for their supper).
Brands are a little different. They are artificially created. Not held back by our pesky DNA-induced shortcomings. Theoretically speaking, they can be anything they want to be. Stand for what they want. Speak how they want. Put the best version of themselves across at all times. But when the whole world is at your fingertips, sometimes it’s hard to know where to grip.
As such, many brands stutter and stumble, unable to find their voice, values or make a mark on a whole world’s worth of would-be consumers.
This blog is not about those brands.
It’s about the ones that know what they’re doing. That found their identity and express it with cool, collected confidence. It’s a blog about 5 companies that we at Point 6 think are truly nailing their branding.
So, enough pre-able, it’s time for introductions…
Let’s start with a biggie, shall we? To say you’d have to have been living under a rock these past few years to be unaware of Innocent would be an insult to rock-dwelling smoothie-lovers everywhere. Innocent is massive. And it’s not hard to see why.
Innocent was formed in 1999 in characteristically enigmatic fashion. Three friends from university took their newfound smoothie business to a music festival. Once there, they asked festival goers to vote on whether or not they should give up their day jobs to pursue smoothie-making full-time by throwing their empty bottles in a bin marked ‘yes’ or a bin marked ‘no’. The ‘yeses’ overwhelmingly had it and Europe’s largest smoothie seller was born.
Since then, through creative, accessible and sometimes downright odd marketing techniques (see the Innocent wee-ometer), Innocent has ascended at a rate of knots. And sure, its tasty drinks probably helped with that too.
What we like about Innocent is its laid back yet eccentric copywriting, standout design and commitment to righteous causes.
As early into Innocent’s existence as 2004, it launched the Innocent foundation, with which it gives 10% of its annual profits each year to charitable causes. Innocent decided this was a good idea after the company was nearly bankrupted in 2003 after giving away 46% of total profits. Yeah, this is a company that actually cares.
In 2017, the Innocent foundation surpassed £10 million in charitable donations. The company is dedicated to becoming carbon neutral by 2030, if not before. Its smoothie bottles are fully recyclable and partially made from recycled plastic. Innocent readily admit there’s more work to be done in the all-important sustainable battle, but it is a company determined to use its powers for good.
Most importantly, Innocent realise that doing seriously good things doesn’t require you to take yourself all that seriously. A great trait to have. And one shared by…
“There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another which states that this has already happened.“
This quote from Douglas Adams’ The Ultimate Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy sits atop the glossary page on the Milliways website, letting you know that its approach to selling chewing gum isn’t exactly traditional. But then, nor is the gum itself.
There is no plastic in Milliways chewing gum, nor its packaging.
Oh, and, yeah, all that other gum you’ve been gnawing on breezily and breathily the entirety of your life? Plastic, plastic, plastic galore.
If it weren’t bad enough that we’ve all been nonchalantly freshening ourselves up by gnashing on micro-balls made from the same material as shampoo bottles, consider then that Millliways’ website informs us that chewing gum is the second most littered junk on Earth, is non-biodegradable, is toxic for land and sea animals, and costs more to clean off the street per year than it does to make. Yeah, time to question some life choices.
Or buy better gum. Milliways provides the second option, while still keeping things light.
Its brand messaging flits effortlessly between the (literally) deadly serious consequences of its rivals’ output and perennial Hitchhiker’s references, punchy packaging and a clear confidence in its product.
Even its name is an all-too-fitting reference to Adams’ iconic work. In Hitchhiker’s world, Milliways is the name of “the Restaurant at the End of the Universe.” Milliways’ winking reference to comedy material still hinting at the more existential threat that lurks around the corner…
We all remember our heady teenage days: the first time we snuck out, not telling our parents about the party; the first time we snuck in, pretending (poorly) to be sober; the first time we started a business with our friends that would be valued at over £1billion in less than 10 years’ time.
Not the latter? No, me neither. But for Gymshark founder Ben Francis, that really was the case.
Started as a screen-printing operation in the garage of teenage Ben’s parents’ house, Gymshark is now one of the most recognisable brands in fitness. In 2016, it was named as the fastest growing retailer in the UK, going on to generate sales of over £100m in 2018, with Ben Francis sitting pretty in Forbes’ 30 under 30 list.
You don’t achieve all that without knowing a thing or two about branding. And Gymshark really does.
The thing about starting a business in your teens and growing it in your early twenties is you’re privy to the secret most businesses would willingly shred a limb for: what young people want.
Gymshark didn’t invest funds in TV spots, tube ads, broadsheet spreads or a blowhorn through which it could scream brand slogans at strangers in the park. It prided itself on making the kind of fitness apparel that its founders, as avid fitness fans, wanted and felt was lacking. The same was true of its marketing.
The way Ben and his friends discovered fitness information was social media, and so that was the path they chose.
In the early 2010s, when the term “influencer” existed, but might have been better ascribed to House of Cards characters than Instagram users, the company reached out to fitness accounts it genuinely admired and sent them free Gymshark apparel, trusting in the quality of its product. Sure enough, these accounts then advertised the products to their millions of followers and a now prevalent form of marketing was born.
Through clever and constant social branding, Gymshark has gone from strength to strength. Facebook CCO Sheryl Sandberg even cited the brand as an example of best practice for how to advertise on Facebook. Its YouTube is rife with content, its Twitter flooded by users taking part in Gymshark challenges, its influencer-featuring events all sell-outs.
That garage must be feeling like a distant memory…
Looking back, it’s hard to understand how Lush’s company vision could have ever been seen as at all radical. It believed the public wanted natural, fresh beauty products, not inundated with unnecessary packaging and not derived from animal testing. Pretty standard stuff, right?
But 1995 was a different time. Thankfully now Lush finds itself in a future where majority values align with its longstanding ideals. And it’s thriving for it.
Lush has stores in 21 countries around the world, with over 100 in the UK. And though its recipe for success may seem simple with hindsight, it took guts and self-confidence to execute.
Lush didn’t just stand by its values, it doubled down on them. It introduced a Supplier Specific Boycott Policy, meaning it wouldn’t buy any ingredient from suppliers that test any materials on animals for any purpose—a more stringent policy than those regulated by the Humane Cosmetics Standard, which it self-imposed out of principle.
All the while, it wasn’t afraid to call out their competitors for failing to live up to its standards, openly throwing shade at companies who were selling sterile, stale chemical concoctions that were three years old.
The brand isn’t afraid to court controversy either, which it found when trying to deposit two tonnes of animal manure on the doorstep of the EU in protest of animal testing and lost its Regent Street shop because the landlords didn’t like the fact that three million viewers watched a people-testing protest video filmed in their shop window.
Lush wears its principles on its sleeve and profits have followed. Hopefully there’s a lesson in that.
You might have heard of Hive’s main rivals. It’s that mega-corporation where you get your books, last minute Christmas gifts, streaming content, tablets, groceries, robot speaker slaves and basically anything and everything ever conceived of by mankind. It took over the world, now it’s trying to take over space too. Yeah, that one.
Hive isn’t really like its rival. Though it does come from the same starting block…
See, Hive is all about books. And really, it’s about bookshops (google them, under-25s). What Hive want more than anything is to keep the bookshop experience alive. But it realises that though there’s a romance to ducking into a bookshop on a wet and windy afternoon, thumbing through a rolodex of titles you’ve never heard of before or since until you stumble upon that one, that special one, that catches your eye, that pulls you in as you pull it out from the shelf and hold it lovingly in your hand, a tangible, crafted miracle of bound pages, knowing, just knowing that it’s going to be your favourite book for the rest of your life…that’s not that convenient.
Would rather just order it, mate. Next day delivery. Bosh.
Hive seeks to combine these attitudes, delivering books to your door for the same price as its competitors, while giving a cut to local bookstores. You get the convenience; bookshops get to stay alive. Or at least delay their terminal diagnosis. Book stores collect a minimum of 10% from each Hive order, rising to 25% if you select the store you’d like to receive the commission yourself.
Hive’s tone of voice is openly, proudly bookish and benevolent, though the ‘Our story’ section of its website opens with a wonderfully understated “We’re a British, tax-paying company” [emphasis added] making clear it’s not afraid to take a subtle pop at its infamously less moralistic rivals.
Hive isn’t pushy or showy in its marketing, instead, fittingly given its business model, it is a little more old fashioned, often relying on word of mouth from those who wish to support local bookshops (or not support their aforementioned rival’s quest for world domination).
Ray Bradbury once said, “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture. Just get people to stop reading them.” Hive is doing its very best to keep culture alive.
There is no one-size-fits-all secret to branding success. Each of the above companies thrives for different reasons, though their commonality lies in the confidence of their execution. They know who they are and they stick steadfastly to that.
So, if you want to up your branding game, ask yourself: who are we? What do we represent? How do we want to come across? How do we not want to come across? Once you have answers to those questions, a lot of other stuff will fall into place.
And if you need help with your branding, why not reach out to some experts in the field? Point 6 are always happy to chat, grab a coffee or jump on a Zoom call, so get in touch!
- 6th August 2021
- 12 min read