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Opinions Wed, 4 Jul 2018

GROWING AFRICAN BRAND SERIES: Your brand and you

In the 1980 Olympics, the United States of America produced one of the greatest upsets in sports history; it presented a hockey team assembled from different colleges and universities and had never played together as a team, neither had they played at the professional level.

Their coach, Herb Brooks probably had his worst nightmare when his team was drawn against the Soviet Union (a team of professional hockey players who had played together many times for many years) at the medal stage of the competition.

It is said that, Brook trained his team so hard that his assistants feared for the health of the young players; the assistant coaches at some point urged Brooks to tone down on the intensity of the training, but Brooks couldn’t be bothered. Until he got them to the level he needed them to be, he wasn’t quitting. Brook will always ask his team, “who do you play for?”, and these young proud students of their schools will mention the name of their schools. Brook knew exactly what answer he wanted, but he didn’t want to influence them, he wanted them to go down within themselves and give him what he wanted, he knew they had it in them.

Towards the end of one training session (still preparing for the game against the Soviet Union), Brooks asked once again, “WHO DO YOU PLAY FOR”, one of his students responded “I PLAY FOR THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA”. That response was the turning point for the team, the players now had the realization that they represented one purpose and it was only that interest they all had to serve, not their respective schools.

To cut a long story short, the underdog American team went on to win gold in the tournament.

I have written previously in this series (Building African Brands) that business owners who are seeking to grow their brands must understand that they are not their brands, thus, they must separate their personality from the brands’ personality. The brand personality should be what everyone, irrespective of position, role or affiliation must seek to satisfy.

The individuals on the history-making American hockey team had to come together to serve a single interest rather than serving the pride of their schools; this calls for defining what your brand personality is (we shall discuss that later). Until you separate your brand personality from yourself, you risk stressing yourself and subjecting your business to an inconsistent promise delivery (in simple terms, if your business runs on your personality, your clients get poor service on days you are not in a good mood). If you are caught in the web of separating your business/brand from yourself, always ask yourself the magic question: WHO/WHAT AM I WORKING FOR? Until your answer is “the brand”, consider losing the gold medal – A greater purpose yields greater success!

Africa has seen a rise in entrepreneurship among millennials over the past decade, this is very commendable and provides hope for a better economic future for Africa. Unfortunately, many of the support systems initiated by governments and international organizations do not make conscious efforts to teach these young people how to build brands, instead, they are busy teaching how to manage a business.

This, in my assessment is driven by the eagerness to see an almost instant results of the efforts, especially in the case of political intervention programs. Having a “business only” mentality is not enough to build brands, as a matter of fact, a “business only” mentality doesn’t contribute in any way to the brand building process. If we do not take steps to avert this phenomenon, we will only live to talk about this current entrepreneurial wave as a mere point in our economic history that had very little or no significant contribution to our economic future.

A brand is the only currency for purchasing both current and future markets, business (selling of a service or product to make monitory profit) purchases only the current market and leaves the future market in despair.

Let me categorically say at this point that businesses can never be successful without a brand; in other words, businesses will fissile out, but a vibrant brand lives forever. If Africa will benefit from the current entrepreneurial drive, we need to intentionally and purposefully build brands. Brands take a lot of effort, time and resources to build, however, the fruit of these commitments are enormously rewarding.

Separating your personality from your brand’s personality demands a great deal of emotional intelligence and self-discipline. Having said that, I now provide you with some practical steps to separate yourself from your brand:

1. See your brand as a person, tangible enough to be a boss who can fire you if you erred. If possible, give the brand a humanlike nickname and hold yourself accountable to him/her.

2. You need to be patriotic and passionate about the brand, seeing yourself as a fortunate figure who has been employed by a global brand.

3. Build a strong brand identity and maintain consistency

4. Make a conscious effort to always remind yourself that you are an employee; the earlier you do away with the “I am my own boss” cliché the better.

5. Outsource your brand management to an expert and allow him to work, even if it means answering to her queries.

6. Adhere strictly to your brand’s corporate values and other internal processes/procedures.

7. Have a laid down policy and procedure on subjects/matters that relate to your interaction with both internal and external audiences. You need an understanding of your brand to be able to define these audiences more specifically.

The American hockey team understood that they played for a bigger purpose than that of their schools, they realized the need to put their individual pride aside and identify as one team serving a bigger master (The nation of America).

If business owners will get to the point of realizing that they are not their brands, and quit satisfying their pride of being business owners by subjecting their brand to their personal traits, and subject themselves to the values, principles, processes etc. of their brand, they will begin to see the possibility of greater fulfillment.

Building a brand goes beyond making money from the business, it is buying the future and taking control of the destiny of the brand for the benefit of generations unborn. Apple is still a huge market player because Steve Jobs bought the future market even before the market was ready for him.

Columnist: Kojo Botsio