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.
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.
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 founding father also acts as a spokesman for the brand.
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.
How to grow a brand beyond its founder
For this reason, an honest branding process must be able to go beyond the founding father’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?
It is not an easy process: often the founding father 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 on what we really want from our brand.
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