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Family Business

The natural advantages of family brands

Family owned businesses often have a branding advantage over non-family owned businesses, according to our Chief Strategic Officer Lisa Killbourn, though many may be leaving this latent potential unleveraged within their businesses. Speaking at the Institute of Family Businesses event at Yeo Valley last week, she said that simply emphasising how many years you’ve been in business is now something of a ‘so what’ point for many consumers.

“You’ve been in business for a hundred years, so what?” she said. “To really leverage the value of your family brand, you have to go deeper.”

Consumer needs

Family brands are particularly well placed to address two of the consumer needs that we, as a communications agency, deal with on a daily basis.

The first is the need for consumers to be able to believe in a brand. This isn’t as fluffy as it sounds.

Today consumers can dig around on the internet and discover in five minutes whether you’re trying to portray an image you don’t, in reality, live up to. Which means it’s more important than ever to help them get around their inherent distrust. Brands that genuinely help them reduce cost, complexity and confusion, brands that actually keep their promises and deliver on what they say they’re going to stand for, are more effective.

The ‘why’

And here’s the opportunity for family brands. Consumers will readily identify with a clear sense of purpose, backed up by positive behaviours. ‘Why’ a business does what it does, as opposed to the ‘what’ or the ‘how’, is something very few companies are able to articulate.

Family businesses tend to be the kind of businesses that can; founded, if you go back far enough, with a real sense of purpose and vision. Sometimes this may have been buried or muddied over time, but it can usually be dug up again, dusted off and used to powerful effect.

The second consumer need family businesses address well is the desire for connection. We now live in a digital world where people want to connect. The impact of digital channels means smaller businesses can overleap their reliance on retailers and build connections directly with consumers.

But there is a more profound and long term need for connection, so in the work we do, brand humanity, empathy and personal relevance have become much more important. These qualities can often be found in abundance within the generational story of a family brand. So when we tell brand stories, we make sure we include values and points of view that consumers can directly relate to.

Longevity goes a long way

There is, as the old saying goes, a difference between involvement and commitment; like the difference between ham and eggs, the chicken is involved, but the pig is committed.

What you see with family businesses is longevity of commitment. There is a deeper and more sustained commitment to vision, value and intent, than there is traditionally in non-family businesses. This generally leads to brand consistency and continuity over time. Customers know your brand; they’re familiar with it and can predict its behaviour, this trust leads to preference and loyalty.

Indeed, for a family brand, the quality of your relationships can actually become your point of differentiation. You can offer a product that’s very similar to your competitor’s, but if you’ve built a better, closer, more meaningful relationship with your consumer, they may still prefer to stick with you.

We work with a disproportionate number of family owned businesses, so we’ve become experts at identifying and leveraging these advantages.  You may well be exploiting them very well already. They may be sitting latent as an unrealised and powerful business asset. But if you want to maximise them, articulate very clearly what you stand for as a company or brand and emphasise your consistent values and sense of purpose in everything you say and do.

Bring it all to life so people can relate and identify with your story and your brand. That’s how you inspire preference and loyalty – and that’s how you achieve commercial advantage.


The really clever stuff in this article is from the brain of Lisa Killbourn, Bray Leino's Chief Strategy Officer. To find out more about how we can supercharge your brand, please get in touch.

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