Whether it’s a great story, having fun, making a difference or simply being relevant, up-and-coming brands can still be successful in today’s competitive market. That was the key message from top speakers - from Innocent, Ella’s Kitchen, Fever Tree, Tesco, Asda and Tyrrell’s Crisps among others - at The Grocer’s How to Build a Brand conference in London on Tuesday.

PoS consultant Tessa Stuart urged fledgling brands to establish a connection by building associations and rituals with prospective customers.

Social media was making that easier, argued Asda brand director Ade McKeon, as shoppers’ views and opinions could be embedded in the DNA of a brand by channelling the power of “collective creativity”.

Earlier this year, Asda created the hashtag #chosenbyme, and used in-store PoS to display the tweets of shoppers who recommended products using the hashtag, said McKeon. “It’s one of the most influential things we’ve done in the last six months. If you involve your shoppers in what you do, you get them engaged.”

Innocent did this from day one, when Adam Balon (pictured, below) and co-founders Richard Reed and Jon Wright asked consumers at a music festival to decide whether they should leave their jobs in favour of producing smoothies.

How to Build a Brand conference 2013

Innocent’s Adam Balon (centre), with brand expert Claire Nuttall (r) and investment guru Paul Herman

By donating 10% of its profits to charity each year, Innocent also demonstrated its wider contribution to society - a theme picked up by Ella’s Kitchen founder, Paul Lindley. “The brands that win in the future will be those that have a purpose, not just a profit,” he predicted. His ‘purpose’ was the Ella’s Kitchen Foundation, but also the possibility of helping to tackle childhood obesity.

Such high ideals are right for some brands, but for others, it’s simply about having a bit of fun, as Jim Cregan, founder of Jimmy’s Iced Coffee proved. He gained a Tesco listing by dressing up as a giant milk carton and approaching a buyer. He entertained delegates at the sellout conference by repeating the exercise. “If you catch the eye of the buyer, you’re going to catch the eye of the consumer,” added Steven Esom, former MD of Waitrose and M&S.

Will Chase, who created and sold his Tyrrell’s crisps brand before building an award-winning premium spirits business, said the “magic” of a brand was in its personality.

“If you meet a really interesting person, the more you talk, the more you want to be with them. A brand has to be like that from the start. You put it in the market, find out what works, and discover the magic.”

Quoting Michael Eisner, CEO of Disney 1984-2005, McKeon added: “A brand is a living entity and is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.”

Or in the words of Balon: “I’m not saying we always took the right decisions, but if we’d taken them in another way, we’d have ended up with a very different business.”