Insight: Branding Nerd studies Happy Helpers®: a social enterprise brand with a clear and consistent brand personality

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MANILA, PHILIPPINES — Today, Branding Nerd takes a deep dive into the social enterprise brand, Happy Helpers.


In our previous blog that covered leading casual dining brand in the Philippines Mary Grace®, we discussed the concept of ‘brand personality’. We learned how its consistent and cohesive brand personality enabled it to grow and become one of the most successful casual dining restaurant chains in the Philippines.

I always teach my students in our ‘The Brand Architecture’ webinar that this concept of ‘brand personality’ plays a critical role in ‘brand identity’ which is phase two in building the architecture.

In our previous blog on LEGO®, we talked about the ideal sequence in developing the brand architecture which involves four critical phases. For easy reference, I’m sharing the four phases again here:

  1. Phase 0: Find and choose an open hole to occupy in the market.
  2. Phase 1: Define Brand Strategy (brand positioning + unique selling proposition + supporting evidence)
  3. Phase 2: Develop Brand Identity (brand name + visual hammer or logo + brand personality
  4. Phase 3: Develop Brand Marketing or the 6 P’s of the Marketing Mix

I have observed that there are times when marketers and advertising agencies don’t give the proper weight and consideration on brand personality which have led to some compromising and even costly situations for the brand. A recent case just last month of both the brand and its agency having to pull the plug and publicly apologize for an ill-conceived advertisement that received a fierce backlash on social media is a clear example of this.

But in the end, in my view, the buck stops with the brand owner.

Creative agencies exist and earn their keep by pushing the envelope on creative concepts and are very adept in churning out cutting-edge ideas to help communicate the brand strategy and brand identity. It is the responsibility of the brand owner to ensure that these ideas and concepts do not go beyond the boundaries of its brand personality, otherwise, the brand runs the risk of weakening its overall architecture, and in some cases irreversibly.

The brand personality helps determine what a brand should and should not do.

I always find it helpful to highlight the example of the brand personality of Starbucks® wherein they even go to the extent of defining both the ‘externalization’ and the ‘internalization’ of its brand personality.

In the above chart, it becomes clear that the brand personality of Starbucks® dictates that all its ‘partners’ who work in each of its coffee shops must be friendly and deliver ‘personalization’ and ‘high quality’ in each cup of coffee served. These are borne out of its mission statement: “…one person, one cup at time.” You will never find an unfriendly barista in Starbucks® because it is simply not the personality of the brand to be such. In fact, it is not unusual to find workers in Starbucks® who would even go the extra mile because their personality also includes ‘focus on human relationships.’

In this blog, we cover the brand personality of a very young social enterprise founded in the Philippines only six years ago, back in 2015, by two unlikely social entrepreneurs.

I am referring to social enterprise brand Happy Helpers®.

“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?'”
Martin Luther King, 1929-1968

Its brand name alone already provides a clear idea on its brand personality: happy and focused on helping others.

The brand was initially established out of the basic need of its founders Maan Sicam and friend Jo Bernardo Endaya to have a company that could service the cleaning needs of their households.

In an interview with BusinessWorld back in 2017, Maan shared that upon their family’s return to the Philippines in 2014 after being expatriated for six years, initially in London, then in Brazil : “I thought maybe there’s a company in the Philippines where (just like in Brazil) I could have someone come over twice a week (to help in cleaning their home), but I couldn’t find anyone offering the service,” she said, adding that that was when she got the idea of putting up her own company.

Her friend Jo, who returned to the Philippines from Canada also in 2014, initially wanted to focus on her yoga practice and caring for her newborn. Like Maan, she also no longer wanted to go back to the corporate world. Therefore, Maan did not encounter much difficulty in convincing Jo to help her set up the business since she’s “the only friend who I knew had time and loved cleaning as much as I did,” shared Maan.

While the two found an ‘open hole’ in the market, because they both had no experience in setting up a business, they didn’t know where to start.

The Start of a Social Enterprise

In their search for part-time cleaners to start their fledgling home-cleaning company, they were led to GKnomics. According to its website, “GKonomics is a social enterprise development platform that facilitates social impact investments for the marginalized, bringing together social entrepreneurs, skilled volunteers, corporations, and the academe to work with underprivileged communities to create sustainable livelihood and build global Filipino brands that do not leave the poor behind.” It is an organization that started as a way to create livelihood opportunities for Gawad Kalinga communities and has developed into a platform for social enterprises. It was social entrepreneur Memey Mendoza, a co-pioneer of social enterprise Rags2Riches who led them to GKnomics.

“Memey transformed the way we do our business,” says Maan. “We started officially in 2015, just posting on Facebook.”

The Happy Helper Brand Personality

Like most brilliant brands, Happy Helpers® has executed its brand personality very consistently and cohesively across its entire business model and brand architecture.

The home page of its website provides a concise glimpse of that personality: Trusted & reliable professional home services. A social enterprise with heart. Cleaning you can count on.

“Our team of Happy Helpers are Reliable, Efficient, Service-oriented and Trustworthy so you can rest easy and have the peace of mind knowing that they will provide the best service possible. Professionally trained to be professionals, our Happy Helpers have their own transportation, bring with them all the tools and equipment required to do the job, and possess the proper skillset, mindset and heartset to satisfy our clients’ needs.”

Happy Helpers® website

Skillset, Mindset, Heartset

The core of any brand personality rests on the very people who bring the brand to life.

In the case of Happy Helpers®, these are the women, and now also men, who ‘invade’ private and corporate spaces and leave them spick-and-span and smelling like new.

In the above description of the team of Happy Helpers®, we note three key pillars of the people who work with the brand, namely: “proper (1) skillset, (2) mindset, and (3) heartset”.

For skillset, the brand provides extensive on-boarding training regarding all its cleaning services which includes deep cleaning, upholstery cleaning, disinfection, post-construction cleaning, and more. “We teach the fundamentals of standardizing and professionalizing cleaning: setting the standard, using the right materials, having an efficient system per room,” which is the Happy Helpers® way, says its website.

For mindset, the brand also conducts monthly seminars where speakers are invited to share about a wide variety of topics – from proper hygiene to conduct. They also employ a merit system where every good deed or achievement by a helper earns for themselves a star. Just by earning three stars the helper can redeem a kilo of rice. “We encourage them to dream. Because, why not? Declare your dreams then do what you need to do to achieve those dreams,” said Maan to BusinessWorld.

For heartset, the brand’s partnership with Gawad Kalinga provides that special foundation of values formation which gives clients that peace of mind that their private spaces are safe in the hands of the helpers.

Happy Customers

The natural result of having happy workers is usually having happy customers. As British author and inspirational speaker Simon Sinek says: “Happy employees ensure happy customers. And happy customers ensure happy shareholders – in that order.” In its website, Happy Helpers have over one hundred testimonials from very satisfied customers.

A Happy Growth

In her interview with Business in 2017, Maan shared that from their initial workforce of only five women in 2015, they were actively recruiting more Happy Helpers. The company aims to recruit 1,000 women by around 2022-2023 and they were engaged with local government units to help identify the communities within the LGUs from where they can screen and source prospective employees. She said they welcome women at any age as they have people in their late twenties to those well in their fifties.

Just last year in October 2020, Happy Helper® was featured by European Union-funded Social Innovation Academy as one of the “8 Inspiring examples of Social Innovation in the Philippines”.

This brilliant brand leaves us with some key lessons on brand personality:

  1. First, brand personality helps provide the necessary cohesion across the architecture of a brand.
  2. Second, brand personality provides clarity on the priorities of the brand with respect to training and development of the people who are directly involved in bringing the brand to life.
  3. And third, brand personality helps provide a competitive edge and point of differentiation that enables the brand to stand out from its competitors.

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