Brand ‘Stretch’ and Brand ‘You’ …no but seriously, who the hell are you?!

What a fortifying experience. I left a recent business conference with a whole new impression of myself, courtesy of the intriguing session on ‘Entrepreneurial Brand Stretch’, a vital component for your business and personal survival.

Lead by a stellar cast of industry specialists, the session flexed the traditional view of ‘brand’ and forced me into the realm of suspended belief, exploring new and exciting possibilities; our ‘core brand’ today, our ‘core brand’ tomorrow, the extension of our ‘core’ and then the radical extension of our ‘core’. Phew… I’m exhausted already! …but wait, I thought, what if I applied this thinking to myself?

Great brands all begin with passion and personality.

Think of a brand. What is its passion? Its personality? What are its values? ‘Who’ is it? Do you know? Do you audit? Getting right under the skin to fully understand it, is not easy, but taking a good hard look is an absolute ‘must’ if a brand is to stay relevant and then stretch to the next level. Answering these questions is a business and personal imperative.

What is the brand made from? That’s to say, what are its assets, its structure? I ask because assets and structure often confuse brand identity. Why? Because assets and structure are easily imported. Assets are bought, they are things, structures are built, but this experience is all about what we bring to the brand, the passion, the personality. We can buy or build another product or get another ‘thing’ to broaden a brands range, we can acquire another skill, but we cannot buy passion and personality, these we have to bring from deep inside ourselves. That’s what identifies the brand. That’s where brand success thrives and this is where the work begins.

A brand that’s all personality with no capability to back it up is unlikely to succeed. Similarly a brand that’s all capability with no personality behind it is just as weak. Brands that thrive, cherish both components at a ratio that maximises who they are. Those brands are influencers, they are entrepreneurs. Their reach not only stretches beyond business longevity but well into the ‘quality of life’ of every product and every person that lives within it.

Think of Apple, its personality, its capabilities, its leadership, its cult-like following from consumers, its cult-like following from employees. This brand stretches far beyond the product and runs deep into the realm of personality backed up by its capability.

Same idea, think of Virgin, how it started by selling records, then radically stretching over the years. No-one could have predicted Virgin Galactic suborbital space travel but here we are, stretching alongside it, waiting for our chance to go on holiday to the moon.

Think of Amazon, how it started by selling books, then adopting a linear stretch into other online products but no one could have predicted its rise in broadband hosting and entertainment, yet it seems perfectly normal to us. That’s because the entrepreneurial personality of this brand endured, just like the others.

When well-intended brands are hurriedly built on the back of ‘fear’…the fear of missing out on the latest trends, with no real focus, passion or business purpose, it only creates a melting pot of mismanaged expectations. The consequences of which can lead to drops in loyalty, engagement, revenues and creativity. Remember, if you are going to stretch a brand, the end goal should always be to enhance it, you should always end up in a different place. Otherwise, why do it? Stretching comes with a degree of risk. You cannot ‘stretch’ just to stay in the same place. Stretching should consolidate your model and take your business reach into a whole new arena. So unpicking your brand with the full consideration it deserves must involve a clear purpose, innovation and of course, human emotion to be successful.

It also involves an honest review on the impact to your bottom line. If the focus of stretching your brand is to drive revenue, which in business is often the case …then it’s worth noting that a ‘creative’ brand stretch (such as new logos, marketing material or name) in isolation, while positive, may not always be revenue generating, opportunity generating …or salary generating for that matter!

Ask yourself …do I want my brand to participate in my industry or do I want my brand to disrupt and lead it? Do I want to disrupt my current core brand and become future thinking? Does my current brand capture the new experiences and new models of my business or are they invisible? What does my brand truly focus on?

Now consider for a moment ‘Brand You’. These very same rules apply. Pause and consider your specific environment. Did you know that the top five people closest to you, those five who surround you every day, are those who truly inform you? Did you know that their influence creates the framework and rule book in which ‘Brand You’ operates? If you are not satisfied with ‘Brand You’, then break out and stretch it. You have the power to recreate the conditions for your own success. You can tear up the rule book and stretch your band by networking, moving around and trying new things. Try approaching your brand from a completely new angle. Think of your passions and apply them to your brand. Think of all ‘the strings to your bow’ and really identify your primary passions. Consider the broader impact on business brands when passion and personality are lost. Now think of ‘Brand You’. Think of your brand’s core and ways to flex and stretch that core. Can it port to new frontiers? How well does it travel on your behalf?

Like every good conference session, I left disrupted …and heavily branded.

Who are you?
I don’t know!

“It is not the strongest of the species who survives, nor the most intelligent. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”.  Origin of Species.

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