Richard Branson: The Poster Boy Of Personal Branding
Contributed by Swati Joshi July 10, 2017
If I asked you about what you thought of Richard Branson, your answer will most likely mirror that of other people around us. A remarkable phenomenon, considering most of us have never met him in person, yet we all feel like we know him well.
Richard Branson, the billionaire business magnate, is also the poster of modern personal branding. He is a shining example of what a well-nurtured personal brand can do for your professional fortunes. He is neither highly educated (a school dropout at the age of 16) nor comes from a wealthy lineage. He did badly in school and nobody knew what to make of him. His success has all boiled down to his resourcefulness, dare-devil spirit, and understanding of personal branding.
What Is ‘Brand Richard Branson’ And How Does He Stay True To It?
1. His personality is infectious – fun, adventurous, and personable. These traits have percolated into all his brands, talks, seminars, and tours. His spirit of adventure is hard to miss, and this also reflects in his business deals.
2. He is seen as a champion for innovation and disruption. He started companies that were meant to challenge the age-old way of large behemoths who were far removed from the frustrations and realities of the people.
Virgin Airlines started when Branson was stuck in Puerto Rico trying to get to British Virgin Islands. There weren’t enough people booked for the flight, so the airline cancelled the flight. Branson called a private charter company and almost as a joke, went around the airport with a blackboard saying: “Virgin Airways, $39 one-way to British Virgin Islands”. All the passengers who were waiting to get there took up this offer, and the plane was full. That was the birth of Virgin Airways – a signature story that is an important cog in Richard Branson’s branding wheel as it shows that he is ready to take on the mighty complacent businesses with his daredevil attitude.
Another incident which highlights his ability to disrupt is the story about how he started his first business. He sold music by mail-order using an underground importation system that avoided tax. This proved to be a huge advantage compared to his competitors, and he was able to drive them out of business with his tactics. This, later on, went to on to become Virgin records.
3. He is known to encourage entrepreneurs and youngsters. He is involved in a variety of startup events, and also funds many of them. He is widely known as a mentor, philanthropist, and a champion of youth.
The Branson Centre for Entrepreneurship is another example of how he is living his brand. He is considered one of the world’s finest entrepreneurs, and it is only fitting that he has taken on the mantle to mentor and network with them.
4. Richard Branson is a master at creating content that connects with people. Whether it is writing books, creating videos, or writing blog posts on LinkedIn, he has done it all. He documents his professional life very well and shares it with his audience who love his openness.
How Has His Personal Brand Benefitted Him?
Branson runs about 400 companies including mobiles, airlines, financial services, music, and more. If you removed Richard Branson’s association with these businesses, they would seem identical to other lesser-known businesses doing the same thing. But Branson has taken them to a different level, all because of his personal brand.
On social media, Richard Branson is a top draw. More people follow him on LinkedIn (more than 10.9 million) than anybody else on that platform. He has about 3 million followers on Facebook, and another 10.4 million on Twitter. His reach and charm are phenomenal.
Cameras and TV shows love to have him – sometimes even when he is not an expert in that field. He is a top draw at conferences and seminars, if you can book him. His brand is strong and inspires millions of people to achieve more in life while having fun.
What Can You Learn From Richard Branson When It Comes To Personal Branding?
- Identify the values that are important to you, and what you want to portray to the world. These should be authentic values that you really believe in and can impact the world in a positive way. Branson believes in fun, adventure, and a dare-devil attitude.
- Identify the kind of people who would most resonate with you. Depending on what you do and which industry you are in, it could be entrepreneurs, government officials, sports lovers, music aficionados, runners, corporate employees, bankers, consultants, artists, etc. Find out what kind of magazines they read, which websites they like, which groups and associations they are a part of. Reaching out to them not only builds your brand but also introduces you to like-minded people who share your interests.
- Think about how you can inculcate those values in everything you do. Especially when posting to digital media or making public appearances, make sure to infuse it with your values. Branson’s posts and social media images always portray him in a fun setting, either with adventurous backdrops or in the company of people having a great time, smiling, laughing, or dancing.
- Be ready to open up a part of your life to the public. Many people struggle with questions of privacy and do not want to show any part of themselves to the world. However, when you find your sweet spot in terms of what you are comfortable sharing, you find your community of staunch supporters and discover what kinds of content help in building your brand, it will become easier.
- Run your business with your values in mind. If you have chosen your values wisely and they are authentically yours, then this will be no issue. If your values are about service and caring, make sure this is reflected in your work. If your values are about being spiritual, make it integral to your business. These values will set you apart from your competitors. Branson runs a diverse set of companies including mobiles, airlines, financial services, music, etc. – in themselves, they are not unique nor different from their competitors. But when Richard Branson’s name is associated with them, they take on a different personality and aura – setting them distinctly apart from their competitors.