Branding is everyone’s responsibilitybranding

When I am talking about branding with smaller company (SMB) leaders, I often find the interest level in their own brand to be, at best, primitive. I hear statements such as:

Branding is not relevant for my size of business;
I have too many other things to do;
or I already do enough marketing.

First, branding is not marketing. Marketing is part of branding, but not the other way around. Every member and department of the company is contributing to branding. Marketing is there to help provide the material. {Please tweet ♺} And, more importantly, I am convinced that branding is essential for any size of business.

Significant enterprise

For an enterprise — from startup all the way up to conglomerate — to create significance may seem anywhere from abstract and trite up to obvious and sine qua non. Inevitably, this tone is set by the CEO and the Board. There are some sectors where it is distinctly easier to find purpose and meaningfulness. Take the food industry that is so obviously vital to our sustenance. Yet, the food industry is littered (literally) with companies that are hardwired to drive revenues and churn out shareholder profits at the expense of health. Fortunately, things are beginning to change, but there are still plenty of laggards, if not recalcitrants.

Significant bakeries

Within the food industry, I thought I might zero in on a very simple niche: the bakery. It’s amazing to me that for such a simple and basic product the span of business propositions that are out there. That span goes from pure commerce up to missionary ambitions, passing through irreverence (e.g. at the Bold Bakery)! Where Whole Foods was borne out of a higher purpose to provide safer food, bigger grocers (that have an embedded bakery) are now adopting a healthier approach, but it is more like appendage (aka an aisle) as opposed to a corporate-wide philosophy. Walmart’s online bakery section has a ticky-tacky banner on top that writes: Go green, save green with the Nest Learning Thermostat!

significant enterprise

Embedding significance

In order to qualify as a significant enterprise, the purpose of the business must be initialized in such a way that all major decisions — including hirings and firings — are check-marked against the purpose.

significant enterprise

Looking at the smaller companies, it is at the same time easier and harder to have a purpose. It’s easier because the boss is usually the founder and the number of employees is limited. It’s harder because it can seem so abstract and unrelated to getting money in the till at the end of each day. And yet, I insist in believing that even the SMB has a legitimate business need to establish a significant enterprise.

I did a scan of a number of bakers — that are typically smaller businesses — to see how they might characterize themselves and their mission. For some, despite only residing in one small community, they aspire to greatness. Not that I am here to qualify or judge their execution, but I thought I would capture some of the missions that caught my fancy.

Significant enterprises at the smaller level

“The Baker’s” (Vermont, USA) mission is Restoring the art of traditional bread-baking to its former glory.

significant enterprise

Silver Hills Bakery (BC, Canada): Our purpose as a company is to inspire healthier living through healthier choices.

Sweet Deeds (CA, USA) is “a bakery on a mission to bake a difference in the lives of thousands of children with cancer.

WallFlour Bakery (NC, USA) is “a certified Gluten Free, Vegan, Organic Bakery on a mission to bring everyone and every body a lil [sic] baked goodness love!”

Naga Bakehouse (Vermatzah) (VT, USA) is born of a successful kickstarter campaign: “We are a small family owned micro-farm and bakery on a mission to rediscover local heirloom grains in Vermont by baking products that highlight the unique flavor of these disappearing varieties.”

Expanding significance… at scale

Where the small enterprise is run by impassioned and militant, ascribing purpose to a business can be (literally) a piece of cake. If the small business is successful and starts to expand, the challenge can be to keep the purpose tight and meaningful. Here are some statements from a few larger bakers, that have more or less successfully crafted a sense of purpose.

Le Pain Quotidien: Sitting together around the idea of pleasure. (There are now 200 Pain Quotidiens)

The Great Harvest is a national chain (200+ bakeries) with a rather elaborate (read: corporate) mission statement. Its last line, however, reads: “And, Give Generously to Others.” What counts here, of course, is what, how and to whom.

Premiere Moisson, a chain that I used to frequent when I lived in Montreal has also opted for a rather “stodgy” mission statement. Albeit filled with good intention, it’s not a statement that inspires me with deeper sense of meaning. In the second sentence of their statement, they write that their mission is “To strive for excellence in all circumstances, in in [sic] a spirit of love, sharing and respect for the wellbeing of people and place.”

Finding distinction in variety

Having taken a look at scores of baker’s sites and their missions (when they exist), what I marvelled at was the variety of statements. Even with bakeries, one can certainly find a breadth of different ways to bring significance to the craft of making bread. If bakeries are (hopefully) artisanal by nature and have an important role in the community (much like a hairdresser might have), the ability to articulate and bring to life a mission — that is calibrated for one’s size and ambition — is no easy feat, even for a baker. That said, I believe it is important for all businesses to find their own brand and purpose. {}

Any food for thought?

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