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The founder’s effect: how much should your brand look like you?

In recent years I have had the good fortune to work with several quite young companies, where the founder is still active and decisive in the choices. In many cases, the company is born and grows even before developing a real brand. It is in these cases that what I call “the founder’s effect” occurs.

Elon Musk, Tesla founder

I refer to the effect that the human, character and ideological characteristics of the founder are transmitted almost automatically to the company he leads. An ambitious founder creates an ambitious company. An aesthetic founder creates an aesthetic company. It could not be otherwise. But what happens when the company decides to take care of its branding, i.e. to define its values and the image it wants to convey to the outside world by default?

In short: is it obvious that a brand should reflect the nature of the founder?

The answer, as often happens, is blurred. Certainly – and I say this from direct experience – the profile of the founder is a necessary and essential starting point, especially if the company has already registered “natural” successes before making real communication. In this case, in fact, we already know that customers and partners have recognized something positive and attractive in the founder’s attitude. An instinctive component that should not be overlooked, but rather cultivated.

Think about how much Richard Branson‘s profile matches Virgin‘s. Or how Steve Jobs identified with Apple and vice versa. This is all the more true if the founder also acts as a spokesman for the brand.

Having said that, however, brands are infinitely less complex than people and much more consistent.

A person can have contradictory traits in themselves. A brand can’t, because it would confuse the public. Not only: if a person can get stuck on his or her own way of being, a brand must be able to evolve according to needs and take into account external expectations.

For this reason, an honest branding process must be able to go beyond the founder’s imprinting, working according to these guidelines:

  • CONSOLIDATING THE WINNING TRAITS which characteristics of the founder determined the success of the company in the first place?
  • MINIMIZE IRRELEVANT TRAITS which founder characteristics could damage the brand?
  • ANALYZE THE CONTEXT what does the public expect and how far can the brand be “bent” without making it a fake?
  • EVALUATE THE EVOLUTION where does the brand want to go, so as not to stand still at the moment of foundation?

founder vision

It is not an easy process: often the founder of a company has invested not only money but passion, hope and pride. Separating the brand from his “I” becomes, at that point, like letting a child go. Hard, but necessary.

That’s why I always recommend using analytical methods, which help to see beyond the most instinctive emotions and to strategically focus what we really want from our brand.

Matteo Sublimio Founder & Creative Director
AUTHOR:

Matteo Modica
Founder & Creative Director

A tireless purveyor of quality, Matteo manages every branding and communication project down to the details, leading creative teams to always express their best.

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