When Can a Strong Personal Brand Become a Limitation?
Believe it or not there are a number of situations where having a strong brand can adversely impact an individual or an organization. I was reminded of such a situation recently while enjoying a conversation over dinner with friends of mine. One of the friends (let’s call her Julie) is a partner in a very successful retail business that has built a reputation as the sought-after place for custom framing of very expensive art. The topic of our conversation focused on how she and her partner could capitalize on their hard-earned success. The dialogue quickly turned to the obvious options for increasing revenue. As their business volume was almost busting at the seams, it was clear that demand was strong and not a problem. So a simple solution is to raise prices, knowing that their reputation and referral-based clientele would most likely protect them from losing much, if any, volume. Presto chango, more revenue, no more effort, little risk. This strategy however presented only incremental growth opportunities. Another option we discussed was opening another store. A new store could increase their volume significantly, making this strategic option more enticing. That’s when the conversation became interesting. It was obvious that a new store would deliver new volume and with a stable of reliable vendors the extra projects could be handled easily.
What about the risks? The risk associated with the extra capital required to build out a new store didn’t seem to concern my friend. In her mind hiring new employees was the bigger risk and maybe the showstopper to the whole idea. Certainly the pool of qualified employees was sufficient. So what was her specific concern about staffing up another store? Our conversation quickly reminded her that the success of the business was tied closely to her personal brand and her partner’s personal brand. She is convinced that the relationship equity of the business was tied to two personal brands and that may be a double-edged sword. Simply stated, customers identified with her and her partner and not the store brand, so to speak. Even to the extent it was likely customers would refer their friends to go to “Julie’s store” as opposed to using the actual store name. She (and her partner) had become the brand where the customer loyalty resided. The inherent risk wasn’t just one of brand awareness or association, that is a straightforward problem to solve. Would customers’ confidence be rattled without the presence of these two important brands? My friend and her partner make sure every part of their service is just right, the reason their brands have become so respected by customers. Their sense of aesthetic and attention to detail are a part of their hard-earned talent. Their talent was at the core of their personal brand equity. Because the talent was not extended to other employees or defined through process, the organizational brand never materialized in form or substance. The strong personal brands created their initial success and the opportunity to grow their business. But the lack of an established store brand was limiting their options to grow quickly. Balancing the role of all three forms of brand loyalty (product, company, personal) is a challenge facing many businesses, from the smallest retailers to the largest professional services providers. For more insights on how to proactively manage a portfolio of three brands check out this article.
Building a strong brand, whether it’s a personal, company or product brand, creates opportunities and advantages to grow even more. Julie and her partner’s business success, driven by their personal brands, has earned them the opportunity for even more success in the future. Making the effort to transfer some of their personal brand equity to their store brand will provide them more options to take advantage of future opportunities with less risk and greater chances of success.