Since launch of The Chemistry Works, Gill Heppell our chief strategist has been developing brand strategies for a diverse range of clients, from wealth management companies to roof manufacturers. Often, clients approach The Chemistry Works asking for a logo, and leave with a completely new level understanding of their brand and their business, and their market.

Here, Gill explains the benefit of going back to basics and drilling down into the essence of what your brand truly stands for. While a brand workshop may seem like an indulgence to a company with very little marketing experience or budget, it can actually be essential to the long-term health and future development of the business.

What has most surprised you most about the Tri-Mid® process?

I developed the Tri-Mid when working at a brand and strategy consultancy. As part of any project brief, we would tend to first run a data trawl using both internal and external information and research. I developed the Tri-Mid originally to give this information a home – and the Tri-Mid proved to be the best way to distil the volumes of information down to what really matters, and from which true insights could then be identified. That was over 20 years ago now – and it has never let me down. The structure has remained intact throughout all these years and has been used across multiple businesses from FTSE 100s to start-ups as well across a huge variety of markets from FMCG, to services and even branding individuals. Its application remains truly inspiring. And even some of my earliest clients still have Tri-Mids on their desks!

How do you persuade a client who just wants a logo, for example, that they need to flesh out exactly what their brand stands for first?  

Simply speaking, brand logos are the most basic form of brand communication – and yet perhaps the most significant. It is this basic consumer recognition for the brand that gives the brand life and distinguishes it from its competitors. The brand logo becomes the immediate shorthand that sticks in the minds of consumers and it needs to portray how you (the brand) want to be seen and heard.

How do clients who don’t have marketing experience react to the brand workshop? Are they cynical at first and, if so, how do you combat that?

They may be cynical but they never show it – intrigued is perhaps a better phrase. We start every workshop with a very powerful exercise called ‘my favourite brand’. This enables all attendees to understand for themselves how they personally resonate with brands. Once they appreciate this on a personal level it does not take much to apply the same insight onto the brands they are managing within their own businesses. 

Have there been situations where you’ve met the client before the workshop and thought it’s going to go one way, and actually, it’s completely 360 degrees in terms of where their brand ends up after the session?

For every workshop I try to stay a good ‘arm’s length’ away from the brand/business in question. Having the right mix of people attending the workshop is of value as this exposes those who are very close to the brand – managing it at an operational level – and those who really don’t know much about it at all. Often it can feel that I’m asking ‘really stupid’ questions but for anyone who has attended these workshops it soon becomes clear that having a distant ‘outsider’ with little knowledge of their particular brand, business or market, forces them to re-assess what they do. It helps them to find the vocabulary to get to what really matters and expose what they may have taken for granted. And interestingly, nothing is right or wrong – just because a business can do something doesn’t necessarily mean they should. It’s this kind of thing we work on and I use the Tri-Mid to direct us through the vigorous thinking process. It has been described as forensic in style – no bad thing if you truly want to know what you stand for.

Have clients been able to see tangible results?

Of course – once the Tri-Mid has been developed and agreed, it becomes the foundation from which all decisions can be made. It defines what you should do – it allows everybody across the whole organisation to identify their own particular role in delivering the brand. Take an example of an airline business we did some work for – with the brand truly distilled down to what really matters, every department became aware of how their own behaviours might influence the brand’s success – from ramp staff, ground staff, cabin crew through to the managing board. Essentially everyone is singing off the same hymn sheet.

Has the process changed over the last 5-10 year because now you’re now thinking about so many more marketing channels?

No, it hasn’t had to – yes there are more consumer touchpoints which need to be considered – but how you communicate and connect with consumers, what you say and how you say it, has to come from the core of your brand. Defining the brand’s core will then dictate your tone of voice, where and how you best connect with your consumers, and how you interact with them.