October 8, 2013 ↘︎

What bank accounts, sandwich fillings and shopping have in common.

The CoolBrands awards were announced in the UK last week. In the past I’ve referred to this website a fair bit to get ideas and to keep up with the latest definition of “cool”. Many of the nominations are as you would expect; Nike +, Apple and Sony all feature and rightly so. But I love to see that a few UK brands, whose product could never be described as “sexy”, are still being labelled as “cool”.

Brands don’t have to be sexy to be cool.

It gives me heart that, in this digital age where the customer is consumed by technology, good old fashioned, emotion fuelled choices are still made because of what a brand means or represents to someone. The brands I’ve picked stand-apart from their competitors for many reasons including consistently demonstrating their brand message. Their reason for being hasn’t changed in the 25+ years they’ve been in business even though consumer expectations have reached new heights. The sexiness of the product doesn’t even come into it. How many other brands can claim that?

Here are 3 of the brands I think fall into this category on the CoolBrands awards list:

  1. First Direct.
    A banking brand that has always placed the customer at the heart of its thinking and really tried to evidence its belief in meeting and exceeding customer expectations.
    Over the years they’ve focused on being so good that you’ll recommend them to someone else. What an awesome brand purpose to live up to for everyone who works for First Direct. What they offer on a product level becomes secondary to the customer’s emotional decision to be treated well by their bank and constantly evidence this positioning in their campaign ideas. Although some of their social ideas have lacked the final punch, their messaging and reason for being in that space is always obvious. Many other banking brands also follow this approach but I don’t think there are any that truly compete.
    First Direct show us that banking can be engaging.
  2. Pret A Manger.
    A high street sandwich shop competing for its share of stomach along with so many others.
    In a market swamped by lunchtime choices how do you compete on brand positioning other than just price? Pret have always positioned themselves as using only the best fresh ingredients in their products that are made on site in their own kitchens (they launched at a time when petrol station pre-packed sandwiches were the norm) and have consistently kept this positioning for the last 25 years. As a customer you can always be assured of the quality of the product regardless of which store you’re visiting. And way before corporate social responsibility became sexy Pret were donating any fresh, unsold products to the homeless at the end of each day. Nice connection to the community.
  3. John Lewis.
    An icon of the British high street and greatly admired by marketers for their true omni-channel approach to marketing.
    John Lewis gets the British shopper and knows how to appeal to them without using celebrity endorsement or huge sales to get us through the doors. Every member of staff that works for John Lewis is a partner in the business, so they all have a real reason to make sure that each and every customer has the best experience every time they make a purchase. The John Lewis brand is their people, and their brand messaging, “never knowingly undersold”, remains consistent and trusted by the high street shopper. 

I was very disappointed not to see the lovely Innocent Drinks on the list. In my opinion, many of the natural and wholesome foodie brands that appear in the list have taken a large pinch of inspiration from this much loved brand who have always understood the need to engage a community of brand-loving individuals in helping them to spread their message.

The take-away from this is that brand positioning and purpose remain as important as ever. As does a brand’s ability to consistently evidence what they do, how they do it and how that makes their customers feel. The technology used to deliver that experience is merely the mode of transport for that truth.

The content and advice contained in this post may be out of date. Last updated on October 8, 2013.
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