Neil Perrott By Neil Perrott • December 21, 2017

 Brand building lessons from five SMEs that are smashing it

Brand building lessons from 5 SMEs that are smashing it

Great brands make a big impact in terms of winning business, retaining customers, attracting talent and more. There’s no shortage of examples of blue chip businesses that are doing a great job but brilliant brand building isn’t just the preserve of the big companies so let’s see what we can learn from SMEs that you’ve probably never heard of.


There’s lots to love about the architects, interior designers and self-proclaimed ‘Designers in hard hats’ that are Thirdway.

The starting point for everything that is good comes from a clear sense of purpose that drives their commitment to offer clients something different to the same old, same old. Of course, the name itself drives this home but ‘The Thirdway Difference’ is prominent throughout.

As well as very slick execution, the web experience and content reinforce the proposition and positively position Thirdway as aspirational, authoritative and passionate; the messaging very clearly registers with Thirdway’s team as well: Thirdway were voted second in the Sunday Times Best 100 Small Companies to Work For in 2017.


Bullhorn provide cloud-based CRM and operations solutions for the recruitment industry. If you’re wondering about the provenance of the name (I did), a bullhorn is an American term for what we in the UK call a megaphone.

Again, there’s much to admire about Bullhorn’s brand but what I really admire is their relentless focus on people; Bullhorn consistently display a clear understanding of their audiences and their needs which is reflected in the content they offer, clear user journeys for different types of buyer and relevant proof points. All this adds up to a brand with no bull...except in the name of course. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.


As a sports freak, I need a quick fix of talkSPORT in the morning and if you’ve ever tuned in, you may well have come across the ads for Vanarama. So what can we learn from Vanarama?

OK, so their product isn’t particularly complex but they do a great job of keeping things simple and ensuring that the benefits are always front and centre. The result is that the Vanarama brand answers many buyers’ questions before they are asked, providing assurance on price, service, availability and more.

This is a brand that clearly understands its buyers and what they want; by building a product to match and layering benefit-led messaging, Vanarama cement a clear positioning and reputation as ‘The UK’s no. 1 new van supplier’.  


Digital Engineers Softwire have built a distinctive brand with a strong personality. They’ve done a brilliant job of balancing technical credentials with human qualities which is reflected in a conversational tone-of-voice and consistent use of plain English. This is a really engaging approach which clearly communicates that Softwire understand common problems and pain points, and can help.

Quite simply, this makes it straightforward for customers and prospects to buy-in to Softwire as a people-centric partner that is founded on experts who are easy to deal with. Softwire’s brand package is completed with a bold visual identity that complements their voice and injects both credibility and confidence. Nice work.


A Katapult client (Give me some credit for only including one in this list), Altius provide software, services and consultancy to improve supply chain performance, ultimately making supply chains safer and more reliable.

To make things a little more complicated, Altius work with suppliers and clients and so their proposition has to stretch to both. Altius make this list for their clear, benefit-led proposition and for how it is delivered to different audiences. For what can be a complex subject area, Altius keep things simple and make good use of compelling content (e.g. their Modern Day Slavery Survey) to evidence their expertise. As with other examples in this list, their proposition reflects a clear understanding of their buyers’ problems, pain points and processes.  


There’s some common themes in these examples of SMEs who are smashing it in the brand department: a clear sense of purpose, a coherent proposition, a focus on people (external and internal), a great product and a strong personality.

These elements are the building blocks of brands that make a positive contribution to driving growth and increasing value. If these things are important to you, do you have the minimum viable brand to help you achieve them?

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