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No More Heroes: Brand Building Without A Brand Leader

Can you build a big brand without a big personality at the top?

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Can you build a big brand without a big personality at the top?

Opinions

No More Heroes: Brand Building Without A Brand Leader

Can you build a big brand without a big personality at the top?

Share this article

Big brands and big personalities – do the two necessarily need to go hand-in-hand to drive success in today’s entrepreneur-led business world?

Virgin, Amazon and Tesla are among the many examples of companies with charismatic leaders who personify their brand. When consumers think of those businesses, they think of Branson, Bezos and Musk, whose voices are intertwined with the voice of the brand itself.

The reality is that the vast majority of businesses are not established in this way. Without a figurehead to personify the brand, such businesses are left having to define their voice and answer the question of how they are going to articulate their offering so it stands out in often fiercely competitive markets.

This can seem a daunting task – how can I turn my great idea into an identity that millions prospective consumers will love? – but it need not be. Indeed, if it is done right, it can be an advantage.

Spanish low-budget airliner Vueling’s co-founders Carlos Muñoz and Lázaro Ros are an example of how it can be done right. They wanted to challenge the status quo that low-cost means low-standard at a time when budget airlines were in their infancy. At Saffron, we were fortunate to be brought onto this project before the idea even had a name.

It was apparent there were clear opportunities available to the founders of the business to articulate their idea by building Vueling’s brand through an experience that was holistic across multiple channels, whether that be the flight itself or the digital sales process.

For example, the ethos that low-budget does not mean lower standard was considered across all aspects of the experience. Rather, the brand idea embraced simplicity and straightforwardness, as well as quirky and down-to-earth, something represented by the term ‘Espiritu Vueling’.

The approach led the business to take off (excuse the pun) and within eighteen months brand awareness rose 70%.

A large part in Vueling’s success has been that, while the business did not have a famous eponymous founder - a Wedgewood or a Ford or a Branson - it understood the need to fill that gap.

Encapsulating the essence of a brand without the backing of an individual can be a daunting task, but it’s one that business owners cannot shy away from.

Without establishing a clear, independent brand identity and purpose it is much more difficult to successfully navigate change, harder to engender the internal engagement needed for growth, and impossible to consistently meet customer expectations across multiple touchpoints.

Successfully creating a brand with both personality and purpose requires a whole range of processes and skills that are often unfamiliar to business owners, from developing a compelling brand narrative and set of values to creating experience principles and a coherent tone of voice.

The key is in recognising that brand is always ‘being done’; it is an ongoing process. The mistake many brands make is only seeking to address issues once a crisis hits or when relevance wanes rather than planning ahead and actively managing their brand in order to avert a potential crisis altogether.

For many businesses in their infancy and without a visionary in the CEO hot seat, stepping outside their silo and seeking external help can be an option.

A brand consultancy can, for example, help articulate business ideas and transform them into realities using insight from beyond the walls of the brainstorm. At its essence, this is what branding is, the creation of a clear, distinct and 'own-able' personality that encourages people inside the business to believe and people outside the business to buy.

A personality is an accessible shortcut to understanding a brand - who it is and what it stands for - while adding an extra layer to make it more than ‘just’ a brand. This is a benefit that applies equally to those within the company’s walls, helping employees understand what to say, what to do, how to do it and how to ‘be’ it, enthusing their role in the company’s journey.

The fact remains that the vast majority of companies are not driven by the cult of the individual. John Lewis, which sits very comfortably inside the top 10 of the UK’s Superbrands index, might be named after an individual but it is a company primarily associated with fair pricing, great service, unique pay structure, quality products - and Christmas ads.

Ironically, John Lewis only became known for those things once its eponymous founder and notorious autocrat extraordinaire (a common trait among entrepreneurs) relinquished the reins to what is now the John Lewis Group.

The success of such companies rests squarely upon having established strong brands with clear values that are flexible, agile and compelling - simultaneously able to adapt to change while also being consistent and reliable over time.

By David Parry, COO at Saffron Consultants.

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No More Heroes: Brand Building Without A Brand Leader

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