Building A Brand: All You Need Is A Kamikaze Attitude And Bad Hair

September 25, 2007

One thing really stands out in the branding of the World’s most successful companies. It’s not the company logo, the USP, or the fantastic product. It’s the person behind that business.

One of the main reasons for this is that people identify with people , not faceless corporations. And this type of branding is important if you want to build multiple streams of income.

Look at Virgin, for example. Richard Branson is the face of the company. Customers love him because he is fun, a risk taker and sticks two fingers up at convention. And that is how they see his company and his products too. And he is a branding pro.


According to this article by Glenn Rifkin, Branson devotes a whopping 25% of his time to PR activities.And many of his kamkikaze like stunts seem to involve heights. Do you remember the time when he was hoisted in Times square almost nude, to promote Virgin mobile?

I personally wonder if I’m too much of a wimp to build a brand the Branson way. After all, I’m a bit scared of heights, and I’ve postphoned submitting a press release this week, because my roots need tinting, and I’m tired of all my photos looking awful in the press.

It’s silly really, bad hair days don’t stop Donald Trump from getting heaps of publicity. In fact, he is such an expert at personal branding that the media have dubbed him “the logo”. It works and he isn’t shy about admitting it by claiming that any real estate development with his name on it will sell for heaps more, because of his name. And any golf course he opens can charge multiple times more than other courses charge for membership.

So, do we mere mortals have to be outrageous daredevils, or don a bad toupee to create a successful personal brand? Well, it would help, but there are other things you can do to.

For example, you can be like Walt Disney and have the imagination and courage to create new and different things. Nobody can think of the Walt Disney Company without thinking about the man behind the magic. When people visit Walt Disney World most don’t see a faceless profit oriented fun fair. They see the work of a man who had a vision to create a wonderful place where children and adults could have fun together. The company was originally called the Disney Company, but it was Roy Disney’s idea to change the name, and it paid off.

Or if you’re smart, you could be like Warren Buffett. When people invest in Berkshire Hathaway stocks, they don’t invest in a faceless company, they invest in Warren Buffett, “The Sage of Omaha” and the financial genius behind the company.

Of course, in addition to having the above attributes, you have to work on building your own confidence too. If you want to be like Branson, you really haven’t got to give a toss what people think of you. And you can’t afford to worry about making a total idiot of yourself, or getting it wrong sometimes.

And if you want to be like Trump, you’ve got to think big, and have an ego even bigger than your buildings. When Forbes Magazine asked him what his favourite book was, he chose The Art of the Deal, written by himself.

If you want to be like Walt Disney, you’ve got to have the courage to forge ahead with an idea when everyone around you is saying it sucks. For more Walt Disney attributes you may also want to check out Six Things you Can Learn From The Man Who Had No Shoes.

To be like Warren Buffett you’ve got to become an expert on the market, or whatever market you go into. Being frugal would also help, as would buying an insurance company, or any other type of company that would allow you to use other people’s cash.

Would you build a personal brand? If so, who’s style would you prefer to adopt? Please share your views by adding a comment below.

Personally, I would go for a mixture of Richard Branson and Walt Disney - without the heights.


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12 Responses to “Building A Brand: All You Need Is A Kamikaze Attitude And Bad Hair”

  1. Ian on September 26th, 2007 5:36 am

    I must admit that that’s very encouraging!

    We’re about to do something publicity-wise way outside of our comfort zone when we have our business hat on.

    But it does reflect who we are as people, and I must admit a few people have said what we’re doing sucks.

    So we are building a personal brand, but not based around one individual. We are all doing some stunts which are directly related to our business, but outrageous.

  2. Opal Tribble on September 26th, 2007 8:28 am

    This is a great article not sure who I’m following I do regularly stick my neck out I did that in the corporate world. I remember they referred to a few reports that I would send out on a weekly &monthly as “The Tribble Reports” I guess you could say my “brand” was all over it.
    Regarding my business the areas I was weak on I learned more about them. The b learned the beauty is there is so much out there that I’ll never get bored and can expand as I gain more expertise on another aspect.

  3. Asako on September 26th, 2007 2:39 pm

    Trump referring his own book as his favorite, funny. Honestly, I sometimes wonder how much of these personal branding is real and how much is an act.

    I do think your look does influence on what personal branding is easily done. I used to have a ultra long hair to my hip. In my ex-employer, I was invited everywhere, and was branded more as a bit crazy minded, opinionated, and fun person. One time, I thought it is important to be a bit neater, so I had my hair cut. I kind of lost my edge. And my opinion and idea became a bit of hazards.

    So I am growing my hair again. I am finding it is easy to come up with my personal brand based on my real personality and emphasizing unique aspects with unique looks.

  4. Barbara on September 26th, 2007 6:39 pm

    Wow Catherine,

    You are making us all think. I like that.

    Personally, I like Trump-comb over and all. He may have a big ego, but based on his past, his journey, his failures (which he always learns from), and his reputation, he has made a great name for himself, and…a great product.

    Trump is another one of those who we all know by “one” name, along with Oprah and Cher. That’s is a great accomplishment, and one that can be attributed to hard work and determination.

    Our business is mostly “Trump like”. We work hard, and smart, and…learn from our mistakes. We have stuck with what we know, and do it well. Our business is my husband’s passion, and I work behind the scenes, (and also, blog).

    Ironically, part of our “brand” is our dog, whom my husband named “Dog”. She is on our job sites on almost a daily basis, and when she’s home with me, the customers first question is, “Where’s Dog?”

    Rather than “creating” a brand, with some businesses, it’s something that evolves over time.

    I think some businesses can also be compared to the turtle and the hare. You can either try to jump to the fore front, and possibly gain overnight success, only to have your reign end fast. Or, be like the hare, strategically plan your course of action, work hard and smart, and create a business that has staying power.

    So, it’s back to that hair (or hare) issue. :)

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  6. Mike Goad on October 2nd, 2007 4:21 pm

    “Nobody can think of the Walt Disney Company without thinking about the man behind the magic.”

    That may have been true once, but he’s been gone long enough that a lot of people don’t remember much about him, let alone think of him when considering Disney. Unfortunately, a great many people alive today, even in America, don’t have a clue about who he was.

    With that, if I were to have a brand based on a face or personality, which is not likely, I’d prefer one like Walt Disney. But then, I grew up watching Disney on Sunday evenings - and Walt was there every week.

    The Donald phenomena didn’t come until much later.

  7. cathlawson on October 3rd, 2007 10:26 am
    Hey Mike - I suppose I exaggerated a bit. I’m a huge Disney fan - so I like to think that everyone thinks this way.

    In truth I think Walt would be shocked at the extortionate prices WDW charge now. After all - he wanted to keep everything reasonably priced. But it’s not.

    Even with the UK getting more dollars for the pound now - it’s still an expensive vacation.

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