I was a guest blogger on the Enterprise Nation website earlier this month – you can read the full article here

Enterprise Nation member and designer Jess Sands knows a thing or two about branding and looks at what we can learn from a branding perspective in the latest episode of Dragons’ Den.

Last Sunday’s Dragons’ Den saw a Texas-born entrepreneur hoping to dazzle the Dragons with the quality of her condiments, a pair of Lancashire lads tempt the Den’s resident petrolheads with a business that offers big prizes, a heritage jewellery brand that’s confused, and an entrepreneur who thinks he has got the magic ingredient in his range of vegan-friendly drinks and chocolates.

The Sweet Beet

First up was the very likeable Lizzie Hodcroft, a trained chef who’d created a range of jams, jellyies and condiments all with a Texan twist. She was after £20,000 for 20% of her company, The Sweet Beet.

First impressions were encouraging. The condiments have a strong brand and the product designs are impressive. Just take a look at the website and you will see how very ontrend this line is. The consistency between the style of the product and the story behind it are on par and Lizzie has ensured that the story behind each product shines through.

This is also true of Lizzie herself. The five dragons all seemed to agree that they’d love to work with Lizzie. They loved her passion, her individual story and her personal branding. They were interested in the back story of both entrepreneur and product and were excited to hear what she had to say.

Sadly the consensus was that Lizzie herself far outshone the product. They just didn’t get excited about it.

Peter Jones looks for two things when investing; the entrepreneur themselves and the business potential. He was in no doubt that Lizzie will be a success but was just not convinced about the condiments.

Deborah Meaden wished that Lizzie could stand beside every jar to tell everyone the story behind the product. All five dragons failed to invest.

Elite Competitions

Next up were James Heaton and Alex Beckett, with their online competition company Elite Competitions.

Touker Suleyman was keen to find out about their backgrounds and how exactly the competitions run. Alex explained that they were working towards the popular subscription model with entry costs starting around £7.50 and moving upwards towards £30 a ticket for the larger prizes. They became a little unstuck at this point and lost two dragons. Both Deborah and Peter opted out.

The Dragons felt that their own personal brand and ethics just didn’t align with this kind of company. They felt a responsibility towards those with gambling issues and that the price of the tickets was too high a stake.

In this case these two Dragons were thinking on their own brand, rather than buying into the brand of another. They knew the importance of their own personal brand and how it just didn’t fit with them.

In the end though, James and Alex were successful in their £50,000 pitch for 25% of their company and secured two dragons, Touker Suleyman and Taj Lalvani who split the investment.

Katie Mullally Jewellery

Katie Mullally Jewellery is ‘British Made Jewellery with Irish Charm’, and Katie produces some beautiful pieces with an Irish heritage twist. Each of her designs are well produced, and with a big emphasis on hallmarking, she has quite literally branded all her pieces!

Katie was looking for £70,000 for 10% of her business but the Dragons didn’t quite agree.

Four of the five dragons were lost early, mostly to confusion.

Although Katie’s designs were well executed it was her brand story that let her down. The Dragons couldn’t clearly find the USP of her products and her brand messaging of the Irish heritage and being British made were lost. She struggled to make a brand statement.

Jenny Campbell focused in on the brand being so closely linked to Katie, but felt that there was no sparkle there, and it was all a bit flat.

It was eventually Deborah who made Katie an offer for all the money but for 40% of the business, a large move away from the initial 10%, but I think Katie made a good decision to go for her. Her products are lovely, she just needs that bit of direction around marketing the Irish heritage to the US market and to take advantage of her own brand story.

Besos Food and Drinks

Last on the show was Peter Smith, founder of Besos, a Spanish influenced product company that creates a liquor, a chocolate range and milk range using a tuba called the tiger nut. He was looking for £100,000 for 15% of his business.

Peter invented his liquor in Spain and has brought it to market here in the UK, expanding into milk and chocolate focusing on vegans and those looking to lower their cholesterol.

The Dragons agreed that although they loved the liquor, they were confused as to why he was expanding into the very competitive milk and chocolate industries.

Deborah picked up that although the milk is a great idea the ingredients and the addition of E numbers would put off the target market. If you are going to brand your product as wholesome and vegan, you need to commit to it.

Tej also struggled with the branding. Each product is designed differently, and there was no consistency throughout the product ranges. Without this consistency their ideal clients would be confused and there would be no brand recognition.

Besos’s hero product is the liquor and is selling well and all Dragons agreed that he should be streamline and focus solely on that product.

Peter Smith also made the fatal mistake of playing his hand too early stating that “I only want to do business with Peter Jones” and the rest of the dragons fell like dominos.

Food and drinks are always popular with the Dragons but today just wasn’t the day. Peter Jones just didn’t find the product exciting enough and Peter Smith left with no dragons.

Branding business lessons

It’s really interesting to see how brand can be so important in a pitch to investors.

Take Lizzie, who has grown her business through brand story and her own personal brand. The Dragons loved her, and were keen to work with her. Proof that branding is vital to a company.

Or Katie, who struggled to get consistent clarity on her own brand story and lost four Dragons in quick succession.

Peter Smith fell short of brand consistency and the ingredients being just as wholesome as they say on the front.

Lastly the Dragons themselves who are probably the most experienced in their own personal brands and weren’t comfortable with aligning themselves to a competitive gambling company.

Get more branding tips by connecting with Jess on the Enterprise Nation platform.