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Brand-led business

Brand-led business
This presentation explores the idea of the brand-led business. Many of the world’s most successful businesses are brand-led. There are some examples here. When they make decisions, they’re guided by the ideas they want to stand for in people’s minds. And being brand-led can deliver results. A study by Booz Allen Hamilton and Wolff Olins showed that 82% of brand-led businesses outperform their competitors.
But there are many other ways to run a business. Instead of being brand-led, you could be customer-led, or you could be finance-led. And these are external focuses. Or you might be internally focused. You might be purpose-led. You might be product-led. You might be employee-led. So if you’re purpose-led, you’re focused on achieving your purpose. If you’re product-led, you’re focused on perfecting your product. If you’re employee-led, you’re focused on satisfying your employees. And I’m sure you can think of companies that are examples of each of these.
And in reality, businesses are complex, and they make trade-offs between these options. So people might be thinking, do we do whatever customers want, which is customer-led? Or do we follow our own beliefs, which is purpose-led? Do we make quick profits– finance-led– or invest in new technology– product-led? Do we cut costs– finance-led– or pay good salaries– employee-led?
And there are many ways to win. Brand-led is only one way to succeed. And actually, you can think of companies that are brand-led that do well, like Apple, but also brand-led that hit problems, like Kodak. Equally, you can think of companies that are not brand-led that do well, like Ryanair, although Ryanair is now increasingly taking brand seriously. What are some other examples in each of these boxes?

Many famous organisations are brand-led: their decision-making is guided by what they want to stand for. This slideshow explores the idea of a brand-led organisation.

It’s a great ideal, but most businesses aren’t brand-led. In fact, most are led by a complex mix of different forces. Here’s a simplified typology.



What matters most: building the right set of ideas in the minds of customers and others out there in the world, in the belief that’s the best path to low-risk growth.

Customer-led or audience-led

What matters most: understanding customers and meeting their needs.

Finance-led or shareholder-led

What matters most: keeping the share price up. Which usually means: achieving the most recent growth forecasts you made to investors.



What matters most: achieving something valuable for people or for the planet, in the belief that the money will follow.

Product-led or technology-led or skill-led or content-led

What matters most: creating the best possible product, or the cleverest new technology, in the belief that customers will then find it, want it and buy it.


What matters most: rewarding careers for employees. Or (in the case of some banks recently) maximising the take-home pay of senior staff.

Over to you

Think of three companies you know. Which category do they fall into? Are there other types? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each approach? Which mix makes for the most effective and long-lasting business?

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The Secret Power of Brands

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