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An apple a day: Understanding the healthy brand concept

The world has become obsessed with health. From living and eating cleanly, to finding better, more ethical ways of doing things; the concept of health extends far beyond simple human wellness.

So, when it comes to ‘brand health’ we would most readily describe it as a measure of the overall state of the brand and how people perceive it, both internally and externally. In order to be seen as healthy, a brand needs to consider many aspects of its operation, from product/service manufacture and delivery, customer relationship management, community relationship management, values and more.  Building a healthy brand is a holistic process that needs to be incorporated into every facet of the business and it should ideally begin at the earliest phase in the life of the business.

Perhaps the most user-friendly method of gauging brand health is to simply ask, and honestly answer, the following questions:

  • Does your brand have a meaningful purpose and is this purpose served in all that it does?
  • Does your brand have a unique meaning and identity?
  • Is your brand an engaging, effective and coherent communicator?
  • Is profit a consequence rather than a main driver of your brand’s activities?
  • Does your brand build sustainable relationships by never taking more than it gives?
  • Does your brand add value to people’s lives?

Let’s take a look at these questions in more detail.

Does your brand have a meaningful purpose and is this served in all that it does?

One of the first steps in starting a business is to create a business plan, and within this, a mission statement: a concise summary of your business’ reason for existing, its goals and the philosophies and values that determine these. Essentially this can be seen as your brand’s purpose. In order for it to be considered meaningful, your brand’s purpose should be aligned with ethical business practices and focus on adding value to your customers’ lives, rather than merely existing to turn a profit. This is no longer just a noble ideal; it is a standard that consumers have come to expect from their brands. 

As a brand custodian, you must believe in your brand purpose and live by it, making sure that this drives every business decision you make. Staying true to this will guide the brand in the right direction, helping to maintain a desirable level of brand health. 

Does your brand have a unique meaning and identity?

This follows on quite logically from the first question, as your brand’s identity and meaning will largely be defined by its purpose. However, whilst your brand purpose encompasses its core values and business practices, the identity and meaning speaks more to who or what your brand is, what it looks like and the meaning behind this. It’s important to define your brand and create a rich persona that people can identify with, as such; it needs to be unique, sincere and memorable.

Although the identity of a brand is often seen as simply the visual elements such as the logo, brand colours, fonts and other design elements, when coupled with the brand meaning; this takes on a deeper dimension. The brand identity then encompasses everything about the brand that is shown to the public, whilst the meaning attempts to explain the conceptual thinking behind this.

Creating a unique, honest meaning and identity is one of the best ways for your brand to connect with your customers on a personal level. It helps to humanise your brand and people find this easier to relate to. Getting this right is a very important part of building and maintaining a healthy brand!

Is your brand an engaging, effective and coherent communicator?

Communication is a vital part of any business and generally encompasses two main dimensions: internal and external. In order to embody the healthy brand ideal, it’s important for your business to be proficient in both forms. 

Internal communication is essential in ensuring that all those who represent your brand, from your top-level management to sales floor staff and delivery people understand what your brand stands for and act in accordance with its purpose, values and standards. The importance of having a unified brand that speaks with one voice cannot be understated. Effective, engaging and coherent internal communication will help to ensure that all of your employees understand your brand on a personal level and appreciate their role as a representative of it, in turn increasing their employee satisfaction and brand resonance. It is essential to get it right internally before one goes external; staff may be patient and forgiving, customers less so.

External communication, therefore, is even more important. Essentially, your brand is being judged by every single message that leaves your business, especially those that are sent out unintentionally. It can be a treacherous landscape, but the best way to navigate it is to be honest and sincere in all communications and ensure that the internal workings of your brand would hold up to external scrutiny. It is also very important to define the voice of your brand and stick to this, making sure that every message sent out speaks in this unified brand voice. Doing this will strengthen your brand identity and increase customer loyalty as they begin to trust your brand and familiarise themselves with the way it communicates. 

Is profit a consequence rather than a main driver of your brand’s activities?

This question may seem strange at first, as many people assume that the primary goal of doing business is to turn a profit. However, it is important to understand that we’re not suggesting that profit is a bad thing, or undesirable result. Profit is an essential aspect of every business’ survival and its importance should not be downplayed. Rather, the question is whether your brand exists to do more than simply turn a profit. If your brand looks to create real value in people’s lives and provide products and services that can address a real, meaningful need, then profit will be an inevitable consequence. It is about existing for a greater purpose than making money by any means, and customers appreciate and reward this with their support and loyalty. 

Building your brand to see profit as a consequence and not the sole driver of your activities will more likely result in ethical behavior and healthy practices, whilst still turning a profit, ensuring sustainable success and creating enduring relationships with your customers.

Does your brand build sustainable relationships by never taking more than you give? 

The modern consumer is a complex, multifaceted individual. They not only expect brands to provide the highest quality products and services, they want to see their brands doing business in a way that is non-harmful, sustainable and ethical.  Ticking all the right boxes can be very difficult for some brands, especially if they’ve been established on principles that aren’t in line with these standards.

An inherent part of doing business is to take certain inputs and then use these in a meaningful way. This can include materials, ingredients, labour and many other resources both tangible and intangible.  Brands are expected to ‘take’ in this way but it is essential to look at what the brand ‘gives back’ and this is the core concept of a sustainable relationship; never taking more than one gives. Your brand can do this by sourcing your ingredients from ethical, sustainable suppliers, empowering your local communities by hiring local workers, implementing environmentally-friendly production processes and more. 

Creating sustainable relationships with all those individuals and entities that engage with your brand will help to ensure the prosperity and enduring nature of those relationships, ultimately leading to success for your brand and strengthening your position as a healthy brand.

Does your brand add value to people’s lives?

Perhaps the most important question of all, this one ties together all of the previous questions and really speaks to the core of what it means to be a healthy brand. 

Adding real value to people’s lives is what drives a healthy brand and forms the essence of why your brand exists. This value extends beyond just offering useful products and services and encompasses the relationships your brand builds, the social initiatives you create, the role you play in improving the environment in which you operate and much more.

The modern customer expects 360-degree value from the best brands and failing to deliver on this can see your brand lose out to your competitors. If your brand can provide real, holistic value it is well on the way to becoming a truly healthy brand and enjoying all of the numerous benefits thereof!