Years ago, when someone sought help with branding, it required a sizzling hot iron and a couple of cowpokes to hold down the cow.

Today, branding is still hot and well-branded products sizzle, but the concept has been taken over by business experts helping companies and products garner attention in our overcrowded markets, both virtual and brick-and-mortar, and in the marketplace of ideas.

Among the Philadelphia 100 list of fastest-growing privately held companies this year, there are a number of experts in branding and its offshoots. The Inquirer asked a few to share some tips, so maybe next year your company will be in the Philly 100.

Brandon Rost, president and CEO of beMarketing in Blue Bell, said his strategy is to focus on a “strong culture.”

“Your clients and employees both must understand this,” Rost said. “And it’s the value behind the brand that drives the culture.”

Rost added that “consistency and discipline are extremely important for the marketing to work.” The company reported $2,047,444 in income for 2018 and is looking toward a 25% growth this year. Income in 2016 was $1,031,749.

“At beMarketing,” Rost said, “our core value is speed of delivery. Our efficiency and effectiveness in getting it done quickly is a differentiator for us.”

He also stressed the importance of MPPT (methodology, process, people, technology). “As we built our business and our brand, our MPPT has allowed us to grow as rapidly as we have.”

Let’s Be Direct, based in Wynnewood, was started by Ilyse Shapiro to help smaller businesses compete with the big whales.

Shapiro’s company has grown revenues from $1,994,788 in 2016 to $3,321,277 last year. She outlined Let’s Be Direct’s best business-building practices:

  • Determine your brand’s target audience: Create a brand identity that clients can understand and relate to.
  • Establish a brand mission statement: This will help you define what value your business provides.
  • Research brands within your community: Differentiate from your competition.
  • Outline your key qualities/benefits: Focus on what makes your firm unique.
  • Create a brand logo and tagline: This will appear on everything that relates to your business.
  • Build a brand message and/or elevator speech: Within one to two seconds, this should tell consumers who you are, what you offer, and why they should care.

Clutch, in Ambler, doesn’t really consider itself a branding company, according to CEO Ned Moore. Its goal is to use data to help its customers create more loyal customers.

In today’s “cloud” covered society, in which individuals can program their own music playlists, watch TV at their convenience, and have gourmet restaurant meals delivered to their homes, consumers want exactly what they want and they want it immediately.

Research shows that 78% of these modern consumers want a personalized experience, Moore said, “but only 16% of companies can deliver one.”

Moore said that one of the biggest changes in business-to-consumer marketing since the internet made a million products available at the touch of a key is that the competition is now over experience rather than inventory. “The supply chain used to be an advantage,” he said. “Not anymore.”

Experience is often even more important than price, except on commodity purchases. “People want cheap gas,” Moore said. “It doesn’t matter what the experience is.”

Clutch revenues increased from $7.2 million in 2016 to $14.2 million last year. One market segment where Moore said there’s tremendous opportunity for data-driven growth is in grocery shopping. Thanks to price coding and membership card scanning, the typical supermarket knows exactly what products each customer is purchasing and how often the purchase is being made. You may not want your local supermarket to know how much toilet paper you’re using, but it does. The problem is, it’s not helping the company: It’s failing badly at personalization.

“Think about it like this,” Moore said. “There are 34,000 items in an average grocery store. The average family buys 190 products on a weekly basis. And we all get the exact same circular on Saturday.

“There’s a huge opportunity for a grocer to say, ‘Hey, Ned, I know you’re vegan, so I’m not going to send you the meat specials this week. I’m going to tailor a message to you because we understand you as a customer.

“In some cases, these might be discounts, but they also might be experience-related — on Saturday, they’re going to have a new vegan product, and they’re going to have a tasting on it and they’d like to invite you to that. That creates a more loyal connection to their store as opposed to someone else’s store.”

Shopping choices today, Moore said, “are not going to be about the more I spend, the more I get. Brands are competing on the experience they can create and customers are willing to give them their data. But they’re also expecting the businesses to use that data to create a better experience for them.”

“Loyalty,” he continued, “has a lot of prongs on it besides, ‘Give me a discount,’ which is actually the least strong connection. The other connections are: ‘Make me feel smart,’ ‘Give me information I don’t have access to,’ ‘Recognize me as a customer,’ ‘Save me time,’ ‘Figure out how to make it easier to buy from you.’ Those are the things people will pay premiums for.”