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SME Branding


Branding attracts the right customers, encourages loyalty and determines with the reputation of a brand


By Segun and Aderonke Abiona

Within the last decade, it’s no news that the customer’s voice is the ultimate voice and the digital communications revolution has completely transformed this balance of control.

The consumer’s voice has become louder. Consumers control their experience of a brand and compare it with that of other brands.

The ability of a brand to respond to these voices can have a profound effect on the way they are perceived. This, in turn, affects the level of success attained.

Brands are critical business assets that, if managed well, drive customer choice, price premium, loyalty and advocacy. Building strong brands in a fast-paced world requires that brand managers continuously evolve in their understanding of how to optimize their brand’s economic value and ROI.

Brand and Branding

The terms brand and branding are thrown around carelessly by many in different contexts and with different meanings in mind, so it may help to start by asking: what exactly is a brand?

In simple terms, a brand is the“gut feeling” that a person (or group of people) have about a company, product, service, individual or organization.

Branding is an attempt to exploit, generate, influence and control these feelings, help the business perform and respond better. While absolute control over a brand is not possible due to external influences, intelligent use of the design thinking process, marketing, service proposition, corporate culture and so on can help to generate associations in people’s minds that will benefit the organization. In different industry sectors, the audiences, competitors, delivery and service aspects of branding may differ but the basic principle of being clear about what you stand for will always a priority. From inception, we at N&G were intentional about our target market and we knew their expectations so defining our brand was easier.

Why do you need a brand?

Branding can help you stand out from your competition, add value to your offer and engage with your customers.

–       Differentiation

Branding is a way of clearly highlighting what makes your offer different and more desirable than anyone else’s. When done efficiently, it uplifts and clearly expresses your messages, promises and intentions uniquely. It will create an emotional connection in the mind of customers who choose your products and services using both emotional and pragmatic judgements.

–       Connection

Creating a connection with people is absolutely vital for all businesses and a brand can embody attributes which consumers will feel drawn to.

N&G launch of the seed collection (which included our Ties, Pocket squares, Bow Ties etc.), for example, catapulted the company from a sock niched business to a strategic affordable luxury brand, with this collection drawing heavily on people’s emotional relationship with their outlook. By moving into other accessories and expanding our offering, N&G redefined luxury in the fashion accessories industry and shifted its brand association to an image that connects with a larger spectrum of people outside just socks but a more creative community. We continued this shift with the introduction of the Trunks/Boxers, Cufflinks bringing extra-ordinary creativity to an already known line of products into mainstream consumer culture. In effect, the brand has become more entwined in the lives of consumers making us incredibly powerful.

The Key Ingredients of Any Brand

Thinking about how to brand or rebrand your business, its products or services, or if you want to assess where your brand stands at present, there are a few key aspects you should consider:

  • The big idea – what lies at the heart of your company?
  • Vision – where are you going?
  • Values – what do you believe in?
  • Personality – how do you want to come across?

If you can start to answer these questions with clarity and consistency, then you have the basis for developing a strong brand.

Nicole & Giovanni: On the Big Idea

This perhaps is a catch-all for your company or service. It should summarize what makes you different, what you offer, why you’re in it and how you’re going to present it. The other ingredients are slightly more direct, but they should all feed on the big idea.

We are a great example of a company with a big idea. Our brand is based around the notion that good design is for everyone, not just design snobs.

“Our branding plays on this central idea of distinguishing of designs. In the last few years, we have created unique products that have demonstrated our commitment to providing a bespoke design for everyone who cares about the tiniest detail”

Online and in few strategic stores, our products are given indigenous names and our sophisticated customers can easily identify without the need of a specialist by downloading our catalogue from the webstore on their mobile phones or gadgets with privileged knowledge to go all out and shop a great product with high a taste in design.


Generating a vision is equal to thinking about the future, where you want to be, looking at ways to challenge the status quo. A vision may be grand, but we subscribe to it being simple in a completely new way, or even changing the emphasis of your business from one core area to another.

The N&G Vision – “To be Africa’s leading accessories brand with a reputation of exceptional value creation”

Vision and mission statements can often appear to be little more than a hollow dictum from top management, a well-considered vision can help you clarify practical issues before putting a development strategy into action. If you’re clear on what you’re aiming for, it’s obviously easier to put the structures in place to get there.

The N&G mission – “To deliver exceptional brand value by leveraging on customer advocacy, service excellence and technology”


It’s what you stand for and it can be communicated either explicitly or implicitly in what you do. But inspiring your company’s brand with a set of values can be ingenious and tricky so it has to be done with absolute care. See ours below;

The N&G Values – Advocacy, Innovation, Service Excellence and Integrity

The N&G Promise – “To continually innovate and stay strong on our brand message to our customers.”

Once you have established your ‘big idea’, vision, mission, values and promises, they can be communicated to consumers through a range of channels. N&G have chosen digital channels to execute ours. The way you decide to present this communication – the tone, language and design, for example – can be said to be the personality of your company.

As companies grow, their personality and values are reflected more in internal culture and behaviour than through the characteristics of the founders. This personality then defines how the companies express their offer in the market.

Brand Management Strategy

Once your brand promise is in place, you need to consider how you will communicate it and then how you will manage and develop it over time.

When it comes to communicating your brand to the public, there are a few techniques and issues that are worth considering: consider these two below;

–       Storytelling

At N&G, it’s our core. An established strategy in branding a business is to tell its true story through communication elements such as corporate identity, social media, packaging, stationery, marketing materials and even to the fonts.

–       Engaging with customers

This is our way, and through all our channels, the message is the same. It’s our technique of creating differentiation and engagement. If you stand out of the crowd for positive reasons and your tone of voice and communications are credible, customers will look at what you’ve got to say.

Branding as a Start-Up

For anyone launching a new business, you’re in a unique position to operate as what is often called a ‘challenger brand’. This literally means you can view the market sector from the outside, compare all the players, opportunities or gaps in the market and then launch your product with a brand that challenges and shakes up the conventions of the sector (We call it disruptive behaviour). It’s a difficult move to achieve when you are an established brand as there’s more to lose, so think carefully about how brave and ‘rule’-breaking’ your product or service can be if you’re about to launch to market.

Another advantage you can have as a start-up is that the business can be small and therefore responsive and adaptable, with no particularly existing processes that have to be changed to create a new brand. In short: you’ve got one shot to do something exciting, relatively cheaply, so GO FOR IT!

Whilst most companies are providing a service of one type or another, for some businesses, services are the dominant part of the offer. For these companies in particular attention needs to be paid to how the brand (the big idea and all its components) are reflected in the way the services are provided and the way staff interact with customers. (This concretizes our magic word, Advocacy).

It’s a new world order and an ever-changing trend. You either follow or you lose out even before the idea comes as a spark in your head.


Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in The Spark Magazine. Find the magazine here to read other articles.


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