05 What is a brand? Answers from Courier Live…

Last Friday, we headed to London to join the movers and shakers of modern business and start-up culture at Courier Magazine’s first ever full-day conference – Courier Live.

The event boasted an impressive programme of talks and panels from the UK’s most exciting young entrepreneurs and brands, as well as a venue filled with stands providing the opportunity to meet the founders of new businesses and test out their products.

The first panel we attended was ‘How to brand your start-up’, featuring advice from: Lee Rolston, strategy director of JKR; Hugh Thomas, co-founder of Ugly Drinks; and Ryan Kohn, co-founder of Propercorn. Before sharing their tips with the overflowing audience, the panel was asked the most important question – What is a brand?

Lee explained that a brand is a product of 1,000 little gestures. It’s what you believe in as a company, how you hold yourself, and the experience you offer. Only after this comes the identity. Hugh echoed this sentiment, adding that Ugly Drinks is firmly rooted in its brand values; a carbonated drinks range that offers consumers a healthy but great-tasting alternative. Rather than choose an obvious name, Hugh was keen for the name to reflect the disruptive nature of the brand, deciding on Ugly Drinks.

Later in the day we joined an interview with Amit Gudka, co-founder of alternative energy company Bulb which provides consumers with renewable energy tariffs that are competitively priced and offer a great customer experience – full of Positive Energy.

The company has grown 8 times over the last 12 months – taking it from 100,000 to 800,000 members – with a rapidity that Amit admitted was “quite scary”. He believes that Bulb’s success is not only due to its unique offering, but also the team behind the brand.

Despite growing so quickly, Bulb has worked hard to retain its start-up culture. Collaboration is hugely important within the team, and it’s reflected in the way they interact with their customers. In fact, they don’t call them their customers – they’re members. Amit discussed his opinion of the language used in ‘corporate speak’, describing it as ridiculous. Bulb’s tone of voice – crafted as part of a powerful brand identity by Ragged Edge – aims to simplify complex information, and “reduce the froth”.

Taking us back to Lee’s description of what a brand is, Amit explained that Bulb’s brand is more than just a visual identity and tone of voice, it’s about the substance and integrity of the service. When it came to their decision behind naming of the company, Amit left the interview on a lighter note; Bulb is one of the few words that doesn’t rhyme with anything!

The event gave us great insight into the many challenges faced by even the most successful start-ups and how they have overcome these through strategic thinking and powerful branding. We’re looking forward to attending the event next year, and meeting the companies that might not even exist yet…



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