Alder Strategy | Are you a Commodity or Brand?

Imagine your business in the assemblage of global brands; reputed for innovation, integrity and excellence. It’s become a great place to work; a case study for competitors and start-ups. Then imagine where your business is today – fighting for survival: constantly convincing clients to pay what your products/services are worth; commoditised by competing providers and fighting endless price wars.

You have tried every method in every strategy book to escape the commodity trap. You’ve even tried branding and design because you’ve heard it can differentiate your business. Perhaps it’s time to stop, take stock of your methods and revisit some brand fundamentals.

A basic feature to note about business is that it has two definitions. The first definition is descriptive and functional while the other is conceptual and brand based. The second definition is what separates branded businesses from commodities. It is known as conceptual definition. So powerful is conceptual definition that it drives product innovation, HR, culture and vision. It is the very essence of your business, its philosophical underpinning and corporate building block.

Here are some examples of conceptual definitions and their business implications:

Functional Definition

Travel, entertainment, financial services and consumer products group

Conceptual Definition

Rebellion against the establishment and provision of cheaper and qualitative alternatives

Business Implications

Drives product innovation – Introduction of quality air travel at cheaper rates

Drives marketing – Use of cheeky, risqué advertising

Drives culture: Informal ‘no-ties’ work environment

Sample Virgin Atlantic Advert


Functional Definition

Integrated financial services group

Conceptual Definition

The world’s local bank

Business Implications

Drives recruitment: The bank engages locals with deep knowledge of the market in each country it operates in

Drives marketing – Use of community icons and traditional lore


Functional Definition

Global discount supermarket chain

Conceptual Definition

We save people money so they can live better

Business Implications

Drives supplier negotiations – A focus on getting the best prices possible from suppliers so the cost savings are passed on to consumers

Drives HR policies – family members are allowed to work in the same store, as it’s believed this increases the standard of living for the whole family

Functional Definition

Consumer electronics manufacturer

Conceptual Definition


Business Implication

Drives product design and customer segmentation – A poetic approach to manufacturing, raises the standard of design and appeals to consumers with an appreciation for abstract art

Sample Bang & Olufsen Product

Conceptual definition is the formula for brand differentiation. Once you uncover it, ensure you dimension your business and brand expressions with it in mind; from visual identity to the kind of staff you recruit to product design.

The consumer electronics behemoth, Sony suffered a sharp decline when the corporation deviated from its core conceptual definition which was: “Pioneering Spirit”. Competing brands like Samsung and Apple now dominate the product innovation space

[Lesson: A business without a unique conceptual focus will become commoditised and will be left with no other option but to compete on price]

The concept of your business is the reference point that allows you to move in a logical sequence as you develop your brand. It saves you from what is technically referred to as ‘failure cost’- the aggregate cost of not doing things right from inception. It enables you to use your resources judiciously to reinforce who your organisation is and what it stands for, thereby achieving message uniformity.

More importantly, it helps you develop a brand essence that’s tied to your heart and guts if you’re an entrepreneur; something you strongly believes in and that represents you. That way you are not trying to be what you are not. Instead you manifest who you are and project what you most care about. Your business becomes an “essential” offering that goes beyond the profit motive. It becomes something consumers buy into and are passionate about. (cf. Apple)

So, take the time to write down the concept of your business. What is it all about beyond making money? What wakes you up each morning beyond survival?  What can you do for customers that will bring you immense joy? You will be doing yourself a world of good when you finally articulate your conceptual definition. So, start now.

Alder Strategy is a blog on brand strategy for businesses and brand practitioners

Copyright Alder Consulting 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Read More

Alder University | Taking Branding a Step Further Through Process Design

The 21st century has witnessed significant metamorphoses in the branding space vis-a-vis design thinking. Formerly reserved for the end of a branding process – an expressive capstone of sorts – companies like Apple have now placed design front and centre, integrating it with every aspect of the branding process. In simpler terms, design (particularly product design) is now a Designer to Engineer dynamic and not the way round.

In a service company, the constant yearning to valuable intangibles raises design stakes. Process or service design becomes a competitive tool that addresses the following issues: How do we evolve user-friendly processes that create efficiency for customers? How do we reduce customer waiting time? How do we make something as mundane as filling forms a delight (or at least not a chore)?

One of the world’s most successful design consultancies, IDEO recently helped Oxfam redesign the process of donating goods to its charity shop. Instead of a donor filling in cumbersome tax forms when dropping off items, IDEO introduced “Tag your bag” in which donors register just once and are given tags so that they can make subsequent donations without any stress. This process design by IDEO produced an additional £2.8m a year of revenue for Oxfam. Another example is IBM’s advanced analysis of the factors that make up traffic flow in New Zealand, Singapore, Sweden and Bucheon, a Korean city. The company introduced IBM Traffic Prediction Tool using historical and real-time traffic data to anticipate future trends for planners, traffic controllers and responders. This helped traffic controllers anticipate congestion and institute better control methods.

At Alder Consulting, our Brand Experience practice adopts the same model. For example, advising Union Bank to eliminate glass barriers and cubicles was focused on better customer interaction and relationships. Mapping service delivery at GTBank branches led to innovative customer segmentation and enhanced service delivery to tackle clogged banking halls during month-end salary payment periods.

Today, the demands of branding go beyond simple design aesthetics to process based solutions that integrate the back end of companies. Another name for it would be customer-focused service innovation. It goes beyond business re-engineering in the following ways: Rather than a clinical overhaul of process, process design is driven by the brand personality of the organisation and a realistic assessment of employees’ capacity to innovate and take risks. It involves on-the-ground consumer research, idea collaboration and detailed execution that courts buy-in from service providers to eliminate bottlenecks and simplify services.

Although the revolution of process design may be slowly evolving, process based thinking in branding has an incredible capacity to help individuals & institutions break down complexities for the benefit of customers. It also improves the response time for corporate approvals for marketing initiatives. Case in point is Oreo’s viral social media stunt tagged “YOU CAN STILL DUNK IN THE DARK” released during the Super Bowl XVII black-out.


As with all innovations around the world, public sector bodies are also slowly embracing process design. Adoption by public agencies will transform service delivery of public utilities, thus affecting the day-to-day lives of citizens.

AlderU is inspired by a monthly interactive session where Alder employees discuss insights on branding and life. 


Copyright Alder Consulting 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Read More

Banwo & Ighodalo (B&I) Case Study: Brand Strategy and New Identity Development

When Banwo & Ighodalo (a leading Nigerian law firm) needed to develop brand strategy and redesign their identity, they called on Alder Consulting. The programme comprised several modules including research, strategy development, visual identity design, brand launch announcement and employee acculturation.


  • Corporate Brand Strategy Development
  • Visual Identity Design
  • Brand Launch Communication Materials
  • Employee Acculturation

Corporate Brand Strategy Development

The branding programme began with a survey of internal and external audiences. Results were used during the strategy development process. Key findings from the survey included the need to redesign the logo and craft a comprehensive brand strategy.

[Lesson: Never assume. Seek objective insight about your brand from internal and external publics.]

A strategy session held with the founding partners and management team. At the session, the corporate brand fundamentals were defined including the vision, mission, values, personality and brand essence, tagged, Grey Matter. Grey Matter describes B&I’s ability to comprehend complex ideas, reason intelligently, solve difficult problems and learn quickly from experience. It implies the firm is highly intellectual possessing extensive legal knowledge, experience and networks.

[Lesson: Brand essence definition is essential to brand strategy. Brand essence provides direction and influences visual expression.]

Following the strategy session, brand policy documents were developed including a strategy session report, FAD analysis report (which analysed brand eroders) and a comprehensive public relations strategy report.

[Lesson: Always document the brand development process for the brand custodians and future implementation contractors.]

Visual Identity Design

Branding implementation commenced with the design of a new logo as well as primary, secondary and tertiary corporate function materials and stationery. A visual identity manual detailing design specifications and brand rules was also developed.

The Old Logo

B&I old logo

The New Logo

B&I new logo

The new B&I logo signifies shining rays of knowledge and competence emerging from the African continent. The rays connote reach – a vision of continuous expansion. It graphically represents Banwo & Ighodalo’s expanding scope and size, as well as services to other continents.

[Lesson: Create a compelling story for a new identity; one your publics can buy into. Ensure relational integrity and consistency across all visual identity elements.]

Corporate Function Materials

Business cards

business card

Block pads

block pad

ID cards

id card





Continuation sheets

continuation sheet

Plastic Folder

plastic folder

Wall Signage




Folder card

folder card

Folder box

folder box

Compliment slips

with compliments

Brand Launch Communication Materials

A public announcement print advert was designed and a corporate brochure to announce the new brand direction. Alder designed and produced the materials.

[Lesson: Develop a strategy (and materials) to communicate a new brand to external publics.]

Corporate brochure cover

brochure cover

Corporate brochure inside page

B&I-Cover-inner page

Public announcements




Screenshot BI 2

Employee Acculturation

To ensure B&I employees imbibed the brand personality, Alder developed an employee brand manual which explained the corporate brand fundamentals of the firm. A training session also held for employees.

[Lesson: Carry along employees and foster buy-in for a new identity.]

Brand manual cover

B&I-Brand Manual

Brand Manual inside page

B&I-Brand Manual-inner page

Alder Case presents branding case studies and applications for businesses & brand practitioners

Copyright Alder Consulting 2013. All Rights Reserved.

Read More