Friday, October 9, 2009

Is entrepreneurism the key to brand success?

Why is consensus so valued in business life? What makes a consensus decision better than a unilateral one? Despite having no natural resources, other than a best-practice geographic location, Singapore thrived under benevolent dictatorship (putting aside various human rights arguments for the moment).

Strategy meetings are only a gathering of varying opinions and perspectives around the table. Apart from views expressed by the lunatic fringe, most ideas from professional people have some merit based on a sequence of logic. But what meetings achieve is one of two things a) a compromised outcome which, by definition, means proceeding with a lack of organisational conviction based on 100% buy-in or b) dominance of strategy presented by the most forceful presence, or person with the highest rank, in the room. The latter can be very positive or negative depending on the quality of the idea.

Outcome (b) is more likely in entrepreneural and/or owner-operated environments. Richard Branson has built the global Virgin brand on the force of his own personality. Analysts might not like the way Virgin operates, or how its finances have teetered from time to time, but at least the company has some clear conviction about what it stands for. Consumers love it or hate it. Enough love it to make it successful. They don't care about those who hate it because they don't have to. Their brand engenders tribal loyalty.

Of course, outcome (a) is generally the province of the corporate world, where executives have become so obsessed with political correctness, analyts' day-to-day doodlings about short-term performance etc. that they spend far too long securing buy-in and not enough time leading. I propose that this model tends to stifle brand conviction and, therefore, success in an era of high-speed communication, hyper velocity of money around the globe and so on.

Consumers have taken control of brand positioning and corporate reputation because, in the absence of clear brand definition and corporate conviction, they are free to disseminate their own ideas on brand positioning to friends, rellies and.... well, anyone with access to their blog or favourite chatroom. But they are merely filling the vacuum that brands with a clear identity should fill.

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