The ‘Family’ Brand
2nd July 2019
In our bid to secure the best deal, we are all too happy to go online and buy mass produced things from companies or people we barely know, forgoing things like customer service and the personal touch. So does that mean family businesses and the qualities people often associate with them - craftsmanship, customer care, accountability and attention – carry no currency these days?
Not at all. When we studied the attitudes of over 500 consumers, there was clearly real value to be had from a company marketing itself as a family business. Just 4% across all age ranges said they feel family firms are an outdated notion.
Indeed as our Family Business Brand Report shows, such companies carry so many clear and positive associations that when comparing like-for-like businesses, only 3% are less likely to buy from a family business and 46% are more likely to buy from one. Yes, that’s right, the notion of a company being family-owned or run attracts far more customers than it deters.
The family brand carries some definitive connotations. Our research found that consumers expect family businesses to be ‘long established’ (51%), ‘providing value for money’ (51%) and in service terms ‘good’ (69%), ‘personal’ (75%) and ‘trustworthy’ (62%). In today’s ephemeral online environment, where businesses come and go and where e-tailers rely on algorithms and cookies to second guess our interests and preferences, it seems that ‘long-established’ ‘trustworthy’ and ‘personal’ are powerful qualities.
Things to consider…
However, this doesn’t mean that all businesses should suddenly start talking about themselves as family-owned or run, as our research suggests there are some downsides which need to be factored into any marketing strategy.
Size and reach
Firstly, many consumers associate family firms with being ‘small’ (69%) and ‘local’ (66%). So larger companies, or those with national or international capabilities need to make sure their marketing counters these potential misconceptions. Furthermore, well-known, bigger companies may have much to gain from playing up their family credentials; our research shows such firms doing this will attract 15 people for every one person they alienate. However, large, lesser-known companies need to tread with care; 23% of consumers say a family connection makes an already unfamiliar larger business sound worse. That’s not to say that a large company that’s not marketed itself a lot in the past can’t suddenly start talking about its family connections, it’s just it needs to do this in parallel with amplifying its size and scope.
Be sector aware
Some sectors appear to naturally lend themselves to family firms more than others. For instance, irrespective of size, 45% believe that manufacturers of products associated with the family, such as toys and baby equipment gain from being a family business. The same is true of retail businesses, restaurants, pubs and hotels.
However only 6% of people associate family firms with ‘high tech production’ and only 3% with ‘mass production’. If a business wants to be known for its large scale, advanced operation and also wants to market itself as a family business, it should also ‘dial up’ its production credentials.
The Employer Brand
The competition for good talent is fierce these days. That’s why it’s important to also consider the ramifications the ‘family business’ tag has on the employer brand. Our study found that 44% of people across all ages are more likely to want to work for a business if they know it’s a family enterprise; seeing such firms as more caring and attentive to the work/life balance.
However, perceptions around nepotism, poorer pay and job security may need to be corrected. For instance, almost two-thirds of people believe that top jobs will be reserved for family members and 35% feel that non-family members of staff will have fewer opportunities to shine. Furthermore, 32% perceive that job security is less assured in family businesses. In reality, evidence is to the contrary, with many family businesses employees working in the same family firm for as long as 20, 30 or 40 years. So make sure you take special care with the ‘join us’ section of your website to promote the career progression within your business.
Responsibilities & Risks
Lastly, the term ‘family business’ cannot simply be stuck on to a company’s marketing like a label. To be meaningful it needs to be evident in the way an organisation behaves. This is because people expect family businesses to live up to certain standards, to do more in the community (44%) and embrace a clear set of values (49%) which drive the way the business operates.
There’s a lot to gain by being loud and proud about your family business, but as our research shows, there’s a lot to think about too.
About Energy PR
These are just some of the many things we help family businesses think about when planning their communications strategy. We also help companies work through other considerations such as timings, how crises involving family members will be handled and the semantics – ‘family owned’, ‘family run’ – which may sound incredibly similar but can have a profound difference.
If you’d like to discuss how to develop your ‘family brand’ you can speak to Louise on 01993 823011. Or get your free copy of the ‘Family Business’ Brand Report