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Irish man looking in binoculars one side shows sunny Europe other gloomy Britain

Smarter brands survive Brexit

It’s almost a year since the UK delivered the historic vote to leave the EU. Since then the narrative has only changed slightly as the shock has subsided and a better understanding of the possible scenarios has emerged. Helping to shape our perspective, the likes of PWC and Deloitte have analysed at length and commented on the likely impact for Irish business. The headline details are still quite negative though, outlining the obstacles and negative implications for Ireland’s economy. There’s no doubt it’s a ‘big, bad Brexit’, but much like the story of the Three Little Pigs, the truth is; the better-prepared businesses are – regardless of size – the more prepared for the huff and puff of Brexit the business will be.

A recent PWC survey (1) highlighted that 66% of Irish CEOs were developing a Brexit plan. Rather than adopting a ‘wait and see’ approach, businesses are responding now. So how are they determining their new path to navigate the countless Brexit obstacles? One solution is to change perspective. Rather than viewing them as negatives, there is an opportunity to regard these obstacles as a reason for change, development, and growth.

Stepping out of our neighbour’s shadow

There is no doubting the relationship between Ireland and the UK. Regardless of the history, both countries have something of a symbiotic relationship, though our dependency on the UK as a trading partner has changed. Ireland’s imports from the UK are less than half what they were in 1975 and our exports to the UK have reduced from 18% to 14% over the last decade (2). Our resilience through the last recession proves we have the financial and business acumen to succeed in the face of adversity. So it would seem Irish businesses are more than capable of determining their own future, rather than depending on the consideration of others.

Most of our home-grown initiatives, such as those developed by Enterprise Ireland, are now seeking to connect SME businesses with Europe Direct, as well as, or instead of, the UK. In fact, this would seem to be where the greatest opportunities lie, by doing business with our European neighbours. In some instances, businesses have the chance to go further again and become global. Where the businesses model and service/product has the appeal, there is no reason to limit your focus to Ireland or be held back by the UK. Much like Brendan the Navigator or Robert Halpin, we have an adventurous spirit that can help us to achieve more.

Preparing your brand for growth

Whatever your plan, there is a need to ensure your business is connecting with the right customer, has a clear point of difference, is continuously relevant for the market and communicates this effectively. This is equally important if you’re focussing on the domestic market, pursuing a path to the UK or venturing further abroad – the homework is critical. Consider it a business/brand health-check, to ensure it’s fit enough to compete for its share of the market.

The following areas of analysis are just some of those completed in such a health-check:

A market review will analyse the industry sector, at both a local and international level. It seeks to outline the historical context, where the market is today and what trends, challenges and opportunities lie ahead. Regardless of whether the market is local, across the water or further afield, it’s constantly changing and will continue to do so. It is vital to be informed.

A competitor analysis evaluates how your primary and secondary (and – depending on your business strategy – perhaps tertiary) competitors present themselves and their service/product to the market. It determines what makes them different and who they engage with. Whether you’re a small SME or large enterprise, you can be sure your competitors are learning, analysing and adapting to stay ahead too.

An in-depth brand audit will determine if your business is differentiated, relevant, valued and connected with your customers. It provides a snapshot of where your business is today. It then gives you the starting point for how you want to position and grow your business for tomorrow. Additionally, it’s important to look at how you communicate with your customers, especially if you plan to develop your business beyond Ireland or the UK. Cultural and geographic differences can impact greatly on levels of success (and failure).

Design-led businesses perform best

Making sure you have the right brand for the job might seem more of an after-thought than a business necessity, but – by means of illustrating the point – design-led businesses have outperformed the S&P by 228% over the last decade (3). Aligning a strong and healthy brand with the well-evidenced Irish entrepreneurial spirit and good business sense could prove to be the formula for future growth. It will surely kickstart the process of pointing your business in the right direction. Harking back to my ‘Little Pigs’ analogy, rather than build on straw or sticks, it’s best to build a brick-solid brand instead!

Preparing your business and brand for a European market is likely the best way forward, for businesses that have the opportunity to do so. But whether this is the direction you take, or if it’s best for your business to remain indigenous or export to the UK, the first positive step is adapting your business perspective, preparing for new competition and developing your brand to grow your share of the market. Get in touch to find out how you can begin your brand health-check today.

1 PWC. Brexit – the implications for Irish businesses. 2016
2 Deloitte. Brexit. Taking the next step. 2016
3 DMI. Design Management Institute. USA.

Update: 12.06.17

While we wait for the voter’s dust to settle and for the UK’s new government to emerge, the continuing uncertainty underlines the need for clear decisions to be made. As the objective is to garner business security and growth, the path of least resistance still happens to be Europe. It’s true this path requires a greater investment of time and resources. It will be hard work. But the EU offers greater stability, a larger target audience and the opportunity to adapt, secure and grow Irish businesses into the future.

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