What Companies Can Learn from Billionaire Branding

A few weeks ago, Richard Branson Tweeted…

Branson decided to honor a bet he lost to Malaysian airline tycoon Tony Fernandes by playing the role of a flight attendant, and even went so far as to shaving his legs, wearing lipstick, and slipping on a red skirt.

Strange to some, this isn’t new behavior from Branson—in fact, it’s a message he consistently seeks to reinforce throughout his career.

Conventional wisdom says a brand can’t survive without boundaries. It says that you risk watering down the message or losing your company’s focus altogether. Branson begs to differ.

A decade after opening Virgin Records in the early 1970s, Branson, a high school dropout, decided to start an airline, then a phone company, then a railroad line, and even a space tourism company. According to Branson, he loves setting up “huge, apparently unachievable challenges and trying to rise above them.”

Sounds like advice a lot of flagging companies should listen to.

How Your Company Could Benefit from a Rebel Brand

What can the average company without billions in the coffers learn from Branson’s branding techniques? Well, for one, don’t assume Richard Branson’s branding techniques are actually that far off from the conventional wisdom—he’s actually very consistent in his approach.

Here are a few ways being a bit of a rebel can translate into sound business practice…

  • Be a Good Problem Solver: Even though Branson likes to jump headlong into new projects in wildly different industries, over the course of 40 years he has managed to create a brand that’s quick on its feet and adaptable to new conditions. In fact, one of the most recognizable facets of the Virgin brand is its ability to contend in any market, no matter the circumstances.
  • Taking Risks Seems Risky…but if you do it frequently, then conventional wisdom like playing it safe and sticking to what you know actually sends a conflicting message about your brand. Risk leads to innovation, so if your company prides itself on getting there first—wherever there is– then risk (and the fearlessness that goes with it) is actually something you’ll want to cultivate and highlight as synonymous with your brand.
  • Always in Motion: This old proverb seems fitting, “A rolling stone gathers no moss.” Especially when you consider that Branson signed the Rolling Stones to Virgin Records, and their success helped propel Branson’s label and career. Put simply, the brand that keeps moving is the brand that survives, and even if your company is small, so is a snowball when it’s at the top of a mountain.

Reflect on Branson’s oh-so-wise Tweet: “Disruptive innovation is not a tactic. It’s a mindset.” What can you do to cultivate a recognizable, Virgin-like brand? By bucking the trends, going where conventional wisdom says you shouldn’t, and innovating along the way, you can achieve a new status with your business.

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