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Brands get personal
Many of the world’s biggest brands are helmed by charismatic and high-profile leaders. But why are regional examples so thin on the ground?
February 28, 2010 5:00 by Rania Habib
What do Virgin, The One furniture store, Apple, EasyJet and Dubai have in common? Well, aside from being major brands, they have, respectively, Richard Branson (pictured, above), Thomas Lundgren, Steve Jobs, Stelios Haji-Ioannou and Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. Those are five very different people but they have one thing in common: They are the personalities behind the brands.
“Every brand needs to be championed by actual people; individuals who can be held accountable for the actions of the brand,” says Aubrey Ghose, founder and managing director of AIS Brandlab. “The best CEOs out there understand that their role is actually to be the brand, live its values, and project its personality. It’s not an easy task, and a rather daunting one for some.”
It might not be easy, but using personalities to back or to drive brands can be an effective business. It could be especially useful in a region like the Middle East, where brands are young and embryonic.
But who are the personalities behind brands in the region? Sheikh Mohammed aside, it’s slim pickings out there according to some. And despite his enthusiasm for brand champions, Ghose actually thinks it’s better this way. “The average term of an expat CEO in the Middle East is 18 months,” he says. “That’s really not enough time to set a long-term strategic goal for a brand that wishes to build a lifetime loyalty in the mind of the consumer.”
“People here are very conscious about not becoming prima donnas,” says Gaurav Sinha, managing director of Insignia, a Dubai-based branding agency. “They come across as humble, they want to be faceless and build organizations bigger than the person. Are personalities here as mature as they can be in other markets? I challenge that; they’ve gone out of their way to be behind the scenes here.”