The Value of Family Branding

Throughout history, business families and the skills and capital they bring have been the engine room for entrepreneurial activity and growth of economies around the world. To mark National Family Business Day (19th of September each year), the University of Adelaide, together with Family Business Australia held a seminar, ‘The Value of Family Branding’.

Facilitated by Dr Chris Graves (Director of the University’s Family Business Education and Research Group), family business owners and advisors heard from industry leaders (Glenn Cooper AM, Chairman – Coopers Brewery; Andrew Killey, Chairman – KWP; Lowen Partridge, Founder – PearTree Brand Strategy) about the fundamentals for developing an effective marketing strategy and when (and how) incorporating ‘familiness’ into the marketing strategies of family businesses can create a competitive advantage.

Lowen and Andrew emphasised that people often confuse ‘brand’ with their logo but brand identity is primarily about the organisation’s reputation. All organisations have a brand identity (whether they realise it or not) and it may not always be a positive one. So branding (or re-branding) is all about repositioning one’s brand towards a reputation that the organisation wants to be known for. Successful brands build a strong reputation, they know who they are and what they stand for, and live that brand consistently both internally and externally. Brands are essentially emotional (felt) but this is not well understood by organisations. Brands reside in the heart, not the head. It’s about developing an emotional connection with the company’s end customers. Glen highlighted the fact that you know you’ve got your branding right when people come up to you and say, ‘I like your company’ and voluntarily talk about your company in a knowledgeable way. Customers become extremely loyal and people love working for your company.

Family branding is more than referring to ‘family’ in some way (e.g., ‘family-owned’, ‘a family company’) in the logo, marketing and company website. As Glenn states, ‘The family needs to know and understand what they stand for, their values, and what their point of difference is, and build this into their branding’. Compared to other large brewing companies, with Coopers Brewery you can still meet a Cooper (hence the messaging, ‘Hand-Made by the Cooper Family’). Glenn emphasises ongoing family involvement in the business is critical for their brand identity.

Lowen highlights that family businesses have a heritage (their own narrative), which is unique to their brand and a potential point of difference, enabling them to connect with people at an emotional level. Families also have a great opportunity to build their values into their brand as a point of difference. Based on prior research, family businesses tend to be seen as more caring, passionate, honest and reliable, with a commitment to providing high quality goods and services.

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