How to build a stand out, disruptive brand

In this exclusive feature for Business Leader, Founder and CEO of sports nutrition firm Grenade, Alan Barratt, gives his tips for how to build a stand-out, disruptive brand.

Over the last 10 years, we’ve gone from being a £500 startup with myself and my wife trading from our spare bedroom at home to a business worth hundreds of millions, employing nearly a hundred people globally and having one of the best-selling chocolate bars in the UK.

Here are some top tips on how to build a stand-out, disruptive brand.

1. Use impactful messaging to connect with customers

We have a very limited amount of customer attention nowadays because consumers are getting bombarded from all angles. We’re seeing tens of thousands of adverts a day. So, it’s really important for a brand to connect with consumers every chance you get, whether it’s online or on a supermarket shelf.

If consumers see you, you’ve got a split second to grab their attention and actually convey all of your brand messaging as they glance across those shelves. That’s your opportunity to make that difference and make a statement that consumers will remember.

2. Make your product stand out

If I had a product and I wanted to put it on a shelf, I would go to the section of the store where my product would be, or where I would like it to be. I’d look at everything else on there and I’d experiment with putting my product in between everyone else’s. I’d check for contrasting colours, contrasting designs, or maybe a different shape of bottle, for instance, to really make that product stand out.

The worst thing you can do is make your product look like everybody else’s because they’ll just go for the brand that they know and yours will just blend into insignificance.

3. Identify what makes your brand unique

It’s really important that a brand identifies quickly what makes them ‘them.’ What do they have that competitors don’t have? What’s going to make a consumer come to them?

In our case, we try to make consumers smile. If you can do something that actually makes them smile and just invoke that reaction, that’s probably quite a good reaction – we all need to smile more.

4. Find inspiration outside your niche

Alan Barratt, CEO and Founder of Grenade

“Alan is working with BT on its Skills for Tomorrow programme, sharing his top tips for building a disruptive business. BT Skills for Tomorrow is designed to help everyone – including small businesses – make the most of life in the digital world, equipping them with the digital skills they need to succeed.”

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting inspiration from other brands – but what you don’t want to do is just end up becoming them. So, I’ve always tried to take inspiration from brands that I look up to who are outside of the health and fitness industry.

One of my favourite brands I look up to is Ben and Jerry’s, so we get inspiration from there as well. It’s also worth remembering that things that have worked in other industries may well work in yours.

5. Make your products meaningful

In the early part of any brand or new company, you have to find a group of people that you can become meaningful to. It can be a very small group, but it’s got to be probably a scalable group – and in our case, it was the military. We made products specifically for military personnel.

If you’re not meaningful to someone, you can end up being meaningless to everyone. Build something people want to be a part of.

6. Find the things only you can do

People become quite hung up on the fact that everyone has to love their brand. People don’t have to love your brand – they just have to have an opinion on your brand. It’s better if people love it, don’t get me wrong, but if 50% love it and 50% hate it, fine, focus on the 50% that love it. That’s still a lot of people!

At some point, you have to stop listening to people that perhaps don’t like your product and actually focus on the people that do. If you can’t find anyone that likes your product, you’ve got a problem. The worst thing you can have is a product, brand, or service that people have no opinion on because then, who cares?

In our case, we’ve just focused on stuff that we’ve enjoyed doing and that we want to do, and we don’t necessarily have a tangible return on investment around it.

I think it’s really important for a brand to have their own identity, figure out what works for them, what they can get away with, and what other brands can’t.