Making more by having a single ‘group’ brand instead of twenty separate ones

An interview with Hayley Miller,
Head of Marketing, CH&CO

Creating a combined group brand following the acquisition, merger and restructure of over twenty entrepreneurial disrupter brands is challenging but possible.

Key points
  • Rebranding for greater clarity and focus is a gradual process for this catering and hospitality business with revenue of £300 million and 6,450 people in 780 locations.
  • The new and distinct values of ‘inquisitive, inclusive and uplifting’ act as framework of expectations for employees, clients or customers to measure a business against.
  • The values are communicated internally through platforms such as Yammer. “Everyone is on it. “Chefs post a picture of lunch they’ve made and the chief executive will comment on it.

A rebranding exercise is challenging enough when there’s only one brand to think about but when it comes about after mergers and corporate restructuring, ‘complexity’ only begins to describe the process.

Hayley Miller, head of marketing at the catering and hospitality business CH&CO, had the job of heading up the “huge” rebranding that followed the arrival of the Brookwood Partnership, Harbour & Jones and the Concerto Group. Each of the newcomers brought with them their own operating brands, so Miller found there were twenty-two brands in total to consider.

“It was important to recognise the mutual values of the companies that had come together,” she says, “and for that to happen we needed to create something that everybody could get behind and feel that they were all part of the same organisation and culture.”

That involved thinking about what the combined group wanted to be known for and what values it wanted to portray, and here Miller makes the point that she perceives brand values as a “framework of expectations” for employees and clients and customers to measure a business against. “In some organisations, what happens in practice is different from the brand values.

We were determined that ours would reflect our behaviours and a commitment to do the right thing.” The resulting values for CH&CO were ‘inquisitive, inclusive, and uplifting’. Miller explains ‘inquisitive’ as always finding out what customers want and coming up with new food offers which will “excite” them. “It also means we challenge ourselves and each other,” she says. What about ‘inclusive’? “That reflects the feeling that we are a family of companies that were brought into one organisation which is welcoming and diverse.”

“As for ‘uplifting’ she explains: “In the hospitality industry, it’s easy to forget that you are part of people’s day-to-day lives. We could be the first person they speak to in the morning as we pour their coffee. If you do the right thing, it makes the customer feel good.”

What is essential, maintains Miller, is that the brand has a narrative about the environment. “We have to be seen to be addressing issues such as plant-based diets and the need to reduce food waste, which reflects the growing concern of people about their impact on the environment.” It’s a growing consideration for the group’s business clients who want to make sure that their caterers and other suppliers are aligned with their values, she says. At CH&CO, the values are communicated internally through platforms such as Yammer. “Everyone is on it,” explains Miller.

Chefs can post a picture of the lunch that they’ve made and our chief executive will comment on it. Recruitment is based on the values and the combined group, which employs more than 6450 people, has a turnover of over £300million and operates at more than 780 locations across the UK and Ireland. But Miller doesn’t believe that its size compromises nimbleness and creativity. “People assume the most innovative companies are small, but most of those who create the biggest change in the way we live are actually the Apples, the Googles, the Facebooks. Underpinned by our brand values, our growth has certainly enabled us to stay ahead of the game in terms of market trends.”

The challenge though is ongoing, she says. “Regardless of size, in any commercial environment there has to be an element of challenging how things are done, or there is a danger that the organisation becomes set in its ways and difficult to manoeuvre. What has helped to prevent any stagnation has been that the people running the businesses we merged with were all entrepreneurial disruptors; they had all worked for bigger concerns but wanted to do things differently and better. They are still chomping at the bit to make changes and push the boundaries, and that is encouraged by our brand values.”

“Miller maintains that a rebrand by its very name means that it has to take place while work is in progress - in other words, a company doesn’t always have the luxury of starting with a blank sheet of paper. “So,” she says, “it has to be a gradual process because it’s all happening in real time.” And although the business is focused on keeping its values at the heart of what it does, those values need to be able to evolve to reflect where it wants to be in the future – as well as now.”

“Some brands can be so resolute that they don’t allow for evolution,” Miller comments. “Values need to continually reflect where you are and what you want to be. The world changes, and if you hold onto a value because that’s how you expressed it three years ago, that becomes a problem. Brand values shouldn’t simply be written down and never reviewed. They are living and breathing.”

Researched and written by Decision Magazine as part of a special report commissioned by Greenfisher, called ‘Business As Unusual - Secure the Future of your Brand’.

What do you want to achieve?

 Get in touch, share your goal and we’ll help make it happen.

Chat online or call +44 (0)118 933 8558