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Nicky Jepson

Marketing Director


Any organisation that engages both trade and retail audiences will be familiar with the odd ‘identity crisis’ when it comes to defining and communicating their brand. Naturally, your original roots can often skew your thinking into unconsciously favouring one over the other, however, in an effort to have the broad appeal you need, you will probably have taken one of two routes.

Brand school will teach you to prize uniformity and conformity, so you take the one size fits all approach and squeeze and cajole your existing brand assets to try to appeal across the piece. If you’ve done it, you’ll know that the reality is a scenario where you probably end up compromising resonance with both audiences, with neither taking you seriously, or having any meaningful connection to the brand.


The second route is to deep dive into each market and dedicate separate teams, resources and marketing budgets to really drive them forwards. In all, not a bad move necessarily, but when those resources develop autonomy and individuality, you end up with a fragmented, confused brand that potentially forgets its core values.


The road to no-one’s brand

We see both of these situations arise frequently in the Built Environment and Commercial Interiors sectors. Let’s take a flooring brand for example. This organisation with a particularly strong reputation in retail sales, either DIY or DIFM, naturally has an opportunity to stretch legitimately into the larger and lucrative commercial projects such as restaurants, hospitals or high rise buildings, usually driven by architects, specifiers and contractors. They’ll probably encounter the following problems:


  • The success of their retail reputation will likely be to the detriment of their commercial reputation. There is a (perhaps unfair) assumption that retail products wouldn’t necessarily cut the mustard for commercial projects. There may also be a degree of commercial snobbery here too!


  • Commercial specification is reassuringly entombed in rigourous, well… specification. Where beyond the aesthetic appeal, there are also a number of building regs, safeguarding, legislation, sustainability, performance, durability and budgetary hoops to jump through. This is a whole different ball game.


  • Their brand and comms footprint is geared towards their consumer stronghold, where inspiration and practical advice are king and shine through. In the thick of a project, specifiers don’t have time nor the inclination to wade through home trend inspiration boards and how to’s to find a technical specification document or case studies.


So the temptation is to take one of the aforementioned routes. However, the key to success actually involves a delicate balance of the two and the ability to confidently toggle between the twin peaks of Purpose and Relevance. If you have a helicopter, it will probably prove quite useful at this point…



This is the bird’s eye view of your brand. Take the opportunity to fly high over your brand estate to determine the fundamentals of who you are, what you do and more importantly ‘why does it matter?’. Your purpose should have your differentiation built into it. Emphasis on the ‘why does it matter?’ bit. But be authentic, it’s important.


This is where you ring-fence your territory, the value that you can own and defend. Whether it lies in sustainability, innovation, breadth of choice or aesthetics, you should be clear about this, every one of your employees should be clear about this, your supply chain and importantly your audiences. This is the bit that you shouldn’t compromise and it should transcend all of your audiences. If you find it doesn’t quite fit, either your purpose needs refining, the audience isn’t right for you or you need to separate the brand.



Back in the helicopter, this is where you swoop right down onto the front line and get to know each of your audiences intimately so you are clear on what they each specifically need from you. If you’ve got it right, your purpose should already resonate but now you need to start mapping out the individual customer journeys required to convince and convert them.  Figure out what each relationship is based on and work back from that. For example, a commercial specifier is likely looking for trust in the performance and durability of your product, whereas a DIY consumer wants reassurance on their design choices. You must address these directly and translate your Purpose accordingly.


Be under no illusion, this will have a direct impact on all of your channels, from social to digital to promotional campaigns and in some cases your tone of voice. We know ourselves as humans, we adjust our behaviour according to situations. We have dress down days, we have formal interviews, we go out with friends, we have a work ‘mask’, yet we still have the same core values. Dress your brand appropriately for the situation at hand. Don’t go to an interview in your slouchy pants!


So as you can see, it’s a tricky navigation and you should also be prepared to alter other things outside of your marketing strategy such as product spec, packaging, customer services and operations to cater to each of your audiences accordingly. Additionally, don’t assume your trade/B2B audience are not driven emotionally and are purely looking for spec. The lines between consumer and business audiences are more blurred than they’ve ever been so don’t forget to look for the commonalities too.


Closing Notes – Be prepared to get it wrong

The rules, theories and laws surrounding brand, positioning and its architecture literally fill libraries and the chances are you’ll probably end up breaking a few of them to get to where you need to be. Branding should be a living, breathing thing that is sensitive to its surroundings and is agile enough to adapt accordingly. 


Marginal inconsistencies and slight detours are actually okay as long as you don’t abandon your defining attributes. More than ever brands have to push boundaries to breakthrough and that sometimes requires taking un-chartered adventures, a touch of bravery and heaps of creativity. 


Your security blanket comes from knowing your audiences better than anyone else. Do your research, try them and test them, get to the bottom of what really matters to them and interpret your brand’s purpose to be relevant.

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