By Richard Branson
There are so many important decisions to make when starting out in business – where to base your company, whom to hire, and very importantly how to brand your product or service. Wanting to give entrepreneurs a leg up, not just in financing, but also to help make these decisions easier, we launched Virgin StartUp in England and Scotland in 2013.
Believing that every successful business leader should give back, and that business doesn’t have to be a game where some win and others lose, I like to drop in on our mentoring sessions from time to time. Which is exactly what I did, when Virgin StartUp recently ran a masterclass about how to build a knock-out brand. Watch the video below to see what happened when I made a surprise visit to talk with some of our promising entrepreneurs.
Coming up with a good name is the first curial step in creating a knock-out brand. In my experience, there are four important things to consider when deciding on a name. One: Know your audience – there’s no point in naming your business something that doesn’t appeal to the type of people you want to attract. Two: Keep it simple – Virgin wasn’t self-explanatory, but it was strikingly simple, so much so that the word has become synonymous with the brand. Three: Make sure it has legs – if you hope to grow your business into other industries then it’s important to come up with a name that can be used far and wide. Four: Have fun – by naming our brand Virgin we challenged the status quo and had a hell of a lot of fun doing it… and wow, did it serve us well for generating publicity!
The ability to create a stir is what sets highly successful brands apart from the rest. To get your brand out there, you need to present your business differently than your competition does. My mentor – Sir Freddie Laker, the owner of Laker Airways – gave me this advice in Virgin’s early days, and it eventually defined our marketing strategy, helping to make Virgin internationally famous. When we launched Virgin Atlantic, we were entering an industry rife with big players. “Make sure you appear on the front page and not the back pages,” Sir Freddie told me. “You are going to have to get out there and sell yourself. Make a fool of yourself — whatever it takes. Otherwise you won’t survive.” We’ve been doing incredibly outlandish things over the years and gone places other companies would never dream to venture. And it’s served us well; writing our unique but encompassing story, which people feel part of.
As well as storytelling, another great way to create a brand that resonates is to make sure your business truly makes a difference, and benefits others. Being purpose driven will align your brand better with your customers, and give you a competitive edge that knocks out the competition.
In a nutshell, my three fundamental tips for creating a knockout brand are to: focus on you business name, tell great stories that help people associate to your brand values, and make purpose part of your plan from the very beginning.