When I was a young entrepreneur, I was hungry to learn about the ad business. I asked the owner of a large independent ad agency if he’d be open to meet for a drink. He obliged.
John built his agency by servicing a market that most agencies ignored — manufacturing companies in the midwestern US.
Instead of pursuing high profile accounts like Apple, Visa, Starbucks, John’s targets were decidedly not sexy. They were sizeable, unknown manufacturers of pretty much everything, from industrial parts to agricultural products. And none of these companies had a branding strategy.
In fact, there is no shortage of companies that have achieved scale without branding.
Companies like Woodvine Manufacturing Co — a family-owned and operated business which builds hydraulic lifts in their 200,000-square-feet manufacturing facility in Woodvine, Iowa.
Prior to working with John’s agency, Woodvine was already a successful multi-generational business. The most attention the company had ever given to branding was the hand-drawn W it used for its logo and the product catalogues put together by the local printer.
Such companies are known as laissez faire brands.
The success a laissez faire company achieves can be attributed to a form of brand equity. This is the reputation accrued from the character of its principals; the quality of its business and community relationships; and the portfolio of brands and satisfied clients the firm has amassed over the years.
It begs the question, if a laissez faire company can achieve success without a brand, how did John convince his clients to consider branding?
As it happens, John’s clients had hit a wall. These firms fare less effectively outside of their sphere of influence, where their name is unrecognized, they are judged against different standards, and where more strategic brands monopolize market share.
And it’s at this point, when growth seems to be hitting a ceiling, that strategic branding can provide a company the leverage needed to scale beyond the limits of its own network.
Aegis is a relational design firm. We create emotionally-intelligent brands.