As a family business it may be hard to decide whether to incorporate the 'family' component of your organization into your brand and marketing strategies. There are a number of considerations and different market approaches on the table, but understanding which one is most suitable for your business can be tricky.
Market research and a thorough understanding of your target audience is an important influencer in any decision regarding brand and marketing. It is essential that your organization has a strong grasp on the consumer or audience profile, as it can facilitate a richer understanding of what should be done when it comes to establishing a clearly differentiated offering that can maintain significant competitive advantage.
Understanding the audience or consumer’s perception and associations with the term ‘family’ in relation to business is a good starting point. To some, family has connotations of stability, quality, and a strong sense of value. As a result, communicating the family component of the business can formulate feelings of trust, affinity, and loyalty among customers. In contrast to this, some consumers may associate little to no value with the family involvement in the business, and may be more interested in the functional or self-expressive benefits of the services or products offered by the organisation. It is only through keen observation and research into the audience that one is able to identify these key insights.
The degree to which the family is involved in the business appears to have an impact of the use of ‘family’ in marketing communications and brand building activities. Leon Gettler, in an article written for the Business Spectator, notes:
"Research out of the University of Bern in Switzerland found that partly publicly-held family businesses were less likely to promote their family background than those that were fully privately-owned. This suggests that the less influence a family exerts on the company, or is able to exert, the less likely they are to promote the family being in that business."
David Aaker, a well-known marketing expert and author of a number of brand-strategy related books, suggests that brands need to be authentic in their communication to their audience. In order to hold the credibility of ‘family’ in communication, it is important that the family do still play a strong or integral role in the business.
Notions of heritage can add a depth and texture to your communications and brand. A number of brands create fictitious stories and histories to add character to the identity of the organisation. Family businesses, especially those that have successfully transitioned from one generation to the next, have a legitimate claim to a strong and meaningful heritage. This can serve as a differentiating asset in the fight to cut through the clutter and gain market share from competitors. In addition, highlighting the family’s ability to sustain the business through the years creates associations of value, integrity, and a commitment to quality. This can boost the equity of your brand, and improve the overall image held in the mind of your customer.
Differentiation is key to achieving competitive advantage. In order to determine whether 'family' may be your business’ key differentiator, one needs to look to competitors within the market (alongside your analysis of your target audience perceptions). Family businesses are unique in the construction and traits, and this may be to the benefit of the brand. If your competitors are largely non-family businesses, the marketing of the 'family' component may assist in distinguishing your organization. If you operate within a family-firm dominated arena, the use of family may be a necessary point of parity.
There is no right or wrong approach when it comes to the inclusion of 'family' in marketing and brand strategies. It is completely business dependent, and largely influenced by key factors such as target audience, competitors, and the degree to which family is involved in the running of the business. By understanding these components, and assessing whether ‘family’ adds a meaningful layer of value to your product or service, you will be able to distinguish the best approach for your family business.
For further information, read: Marketing the family connection.