Ninety percent of American businesses are family-owned and operated, and many utilize their founders as the cornerstone of their brand. Even large, well-known brands like Harpo and Bloomberg are synonymous with their founders, making separating the founder from the business almost impossible.
The trouble with tying your company’s brand to one person is you live and die by that person.
Img via kfc.com
Sometimes even after, too.
If you’re lucky you have a long time with a charismatic corporate spokesperson before they pass on, like in the case of Dave Thomas of Wendy’s. Other times there will be self-inflicted wounds, like a prison sentence for Martha Stewart or bitter separations from the company like in the case of Men’s Wearhouse founder George Zimmer.
Founders are among the best people to talk about a business, but it can afford greater flexibility long term to not have your business’ reputation tied up all in one person. If your business is considering how to grow beyond a founder’s personal brand, here’s what you should consider.
Organize your messaging around a central principle or idea
To quote Victor Hugo: “Nothing is more powerful than an idea whose time has come.”
Your business exists for a reason. It fills a need or purpose in the world. Identify what your value proposition is. What makes your business different from every other business that is out there?
Companies with strong branding have a sense of who they are and what they have to offer.
Clearly identifying this principle will help guide you in outlining your messaging, delivery and tactics. Your founder is a good source to look to, as they can discuss what vision they had for beginning the company. Organizing in this way will open up opportunities to be creative by giving you a structure to work off of.
Diversify your voices while retaining your core messaging
What makes a founder spokesperson a successful branding tactic is in part their ability to authentically talk about the founding principle of a business. That doesn’t mean they are the only person who can discuss this, though.
Showcasing other experts in your business is not only a great way to demonstrate the talent in your organization, but allows you to diversify the ways you can talk about your business. This can be a serious extension of your core business objectives, such as having a CTO hosting a webinar discussing the latest technology trends within your industry.
Or it could a fun way to engage your employees at large, similar to how Johnsonville had its employees pitch what their next commercials should be.
Shining a light on your experts allows you to avoid putting too many eggs in one basket while also avoiding just being another faceless corporation.
Don’t abandon – grow!
Radically moving your messaging away from your founder is a recipe for hurt feelings and potentially lost customers. Continuing to utilize them in your messaging is important for brand continuity, but introducing new elements over time will help shape perception of your brand to be more than one individual.
For example, Steve Jobs will always be associated with Apple, but over time they have incorporated a wide variety of visual styles and themes, making it one of the most successful companies in the world.
Coming back to your value proposition is the most important way to consistently get your message out there, regardless of who is in front of the camera.