Tony Lewis, founder and managing director of strategic market research consultancy Vision One and author of forthcoming book The Momentum Factory,  explains how understanding Brand Momentum can help a company thrive for longer.

Small businesses account for three-quarters of all UK businesses, but according to statistics, the average age of all UK companies is falling and is currently under nine years. More than 25,000 company insolvencies were registered in 2023, the highest number in 30 years (since 1993). This is further exacerbated by claims that around 45% of new businesses fail within five years as firms struggle with rising costs and interest rates.

I’ve run a small business for the past 25 years, and I know how hard it can be to keep things going. However, my line of work is unusual because I help brands grow through market research and customer insights. Ultimately, I see our role as assisting businesses to grow and prolong their lifespan. Once you get to 10 years of trading, the chances are that you will have developed the know-how and a business model that will help you continue growing. 

Most business experts will tell you what’s important in driving your success, but I believe they often omit the most important aspect: how you cultivate and present your brand image. Many experts will tell you to be adaptable, to learn and innovate, to build strong relationships, to apply financial prudence, to embrace technology, to cultivate a strong team, and above all, to persevere. These are all great, but if you’re not affecting consumers and what they think and feel, then you’re wasting your time. Why? Because brands are concepts in the customer’s mind, and no one really cares about any of the above except you. So, you must put the customer at the heart of your business and start thinking about what they want from you, and how you are going to deliver it. In short, you should make your customers care about you.

‘Brand Momentum’ is the perception of a brand that is growing (rather than declining) and has a strong link to actual growth and increasing the number of new buyers. However, it’s also a powerful measure of success, as brands that are seen to be static or declining are often seen as weak or failures by consumers. Conveying confidence and success are therefore important factors for customers choosing products and services, and any proof you can provide of this will be essential. Unfortunately, people will rarely tell you what they think of your brand to your face, and many companies don’t know which questions to ask, even when face-to-face with their potential customers.

In my research, we have revealed many factors that drive momentum. These can affect consumers in different ways and ultimately affect their behaviours and brand choices. Let’s look at just a few:

1. User-imagery: As marketers, we tend to think of our target market and assume the consumer sees it the same way. This is rarely the case! It’s important to get this right because the picture you portray in consumers’ minds about who buys and uses your product will directly affect their levels of interest and attachment to your brand. However, it can also reveal another message to consumers about whether or not you are fit and growing.

2. Social proof: Prospective buyers always seek evidence that a brand or business is thriving. After all, people are social creatures and our thoughts and beliefs about what other people do affect us profoundly. This is why reviews, word-of-mouth reputation, and awards all help create a strong impression on us.

3. Brand purpose: It’s important to do some good and have a purpose that supports a community or group, to show that you are caring and outwardly focused or that your product is helping people and improving their lives. Most people are cynical about business owners and believe they are focused purely on money and profits. It’s difficult to break this bias, which makes it hard for customers to empathise with small business owners. Small things like supporting a charity or fundraisers can all help to show a benevolent spirit.

Focusing on growth and having a growth mindset starts with marketing and innovation to stay fresh and relevant. The good news is that small businesses can thrive with the right know-how and attitude. In today’s world of AI and cheaper marketing solutions, reaching as many customers as possible doesn’t cost the earth. Finding a partner who can navigate you through this and the technology available is probably one of the best decisions you could make.

For more information about Brand Momentum, visit