Think of a brand. Any brand.
The obvious images that probably come to mind would be a logo, product or service that have hit the right public vein. Maybe even a last advert that raised a few eyebrows for whatever reason.
At what stage does one equate any such sporadic brand recall to its creator, aka, the doting visionary who persistently toiled to breathe life into the brand? While most shy away and prefer to cash in behind the scenes, there are a few iconic personalities that front all publicity efforts while the brand rides on their coattails. Spontaneous and flamboyant, they revel in the limelight, making it appear a tad effortless, camera flashes exploding and all.
Case in point — Richard Branson. He is to media what the Virgin megabrand is to media; the comparison a conundrum as to which entity dominates the headlines. Branson currently enjoys a celebrity status and is as real as his last outrageous antic.
Renowned as the guru of personal branding, his every device skyrockets the Virgin brand to a higher ground — with cash registers ringing and keeping critics guessing all the while.
Here, however, is a dilemma. Does Branson deliver a testimony to what most brands would consider, without utter scepticism, a philosophy that could be controversially viable at best, or aggressively narcissistic at worst?
The concept of personal branding isn’t a very popular one, especially in the Middle East. Most businesses fail to understand that a brand is a living, breathing entity strangled by the noose of commonness, overrated terminologies and rigid formulas that mean absolutely nothing to its end-user.
To effectively reach out, a brand must not only fulfil some apparent tangible need, but also plug any emotional void while influencing and resonating with existing dogmas. An effective way to do this would be to embody its philosophies in a brand ambassador, who alongside evangelising the desired messages can be the personification of everything the brand stands for.
An even more effective tack would be to link it to its founder, whose intimacy with the brand could be seen as a bolster to curry public favour and a personal endorsement of its promise.
The list of advocates for this ideology is an illustrious list of names — Oprah Winfrey, Michael Jordan, Donald Trump and Bill Gates, each of whom successfully incarnated very commendable personal characteristics into their brand offerings. This is also the very reason for their unabated success in the first place.
The world churns out a miserly handful of those who manage to break the monotonous mould and make headlines so often for brand-favourable reasons.
The raising of an entrepreneurial generation that embraces Branson-like philosophies of business and life could possibly be what the doctor ordered to remedy a market gone awry with commonness — a much-needed shift to an iconoclastic mindset.
Especially here in the UAE, a nation that endorses a vibrant culture of creativity and entrepreneurial freedom, brands can benefit by tweaking their public image to instil traits — very human ones — that reach out and connect with the local population on a socially endearing level.
Behind every great brand is a great visionary; one who boldly personifies aspirations that reverberate on the frequencies of contemporary desire and lust, inspiring transcendental thinking that surpasses everyday limits. Embedded deep in the core of our being, it is our desire to live purpose-driven lives that are somehow suppressed or denied due to a need to conform, or fear of the unknown.
A great brand is a testament to the gospel of success that every great endeavour out there started out with a mission statement to make the world a little less drab, touching lives in the process.
The entrepreneur is no longer a faceless suit, but an individual with aspirations and goals, wants and needs, hopes and dreams. With the brand as their loudspeaker, the world is all ears.
So while his critics call Sir Richard Branson a tycoon, he’d rather go skydiving. Because you just can’t knock the hustle. It’s really a round-the-clock kind of thing.
— The writer is CEO of Venture Communications.