Most entrepreneurs start off being empowered by one of two very good reasons; sometimes both: A passion for what they (are about to) do, and the urge for the profits they foresee being generated by the new venture. That being said, we mostly see brands talk about the passion that drives the founders and employees. It’s hard not to catch any brand doing it; from most massive food brands such as Chipotle to the few true passion brands like TOMS.
At times you come across a very honest, true-to-yourself, reason that goes beyond your passion or drive for financial success. It is so simple, it’s scary. And when done right, it is so radical that most steer away from it out of fear to upset and turn away potential customers. Herein lies the genius of a founder personality. Not brand personality, but a founder’s personality being infused so heavily into the venture that the brand becomes the person and (s)he calls shots in the public that most CMO’s would get fired for.
An amazing example I came across recently, while spending quality time with my folks in Austria, is that of shoe-maker GEA. The company produces in-house (on-site), hand-made, long lasting and easy-to-repair traditional Austrian footwear. GEA’s social and environmental record is beyond outstanding. So far so great, but now add the underlying layer of true founder personality: The shoe company publishes a political newspaper called Brennstoff (translated: ‘fuel’), in which the owner, Heini Staudinger (a great wiki read for those of you who can read german) boldly voices his opinion and pushes the envelope on a very clear and steady social course; one that many don’t appreciate, one that upsets corporations, investors, banks and the government, and one that the ones who do appreciate, truly love.
And that’s what makes a true founder personality: unafraid to exclude the many, extremely powerful to the few.
The for-profit company, which is named after the goddess of earth, condemns consumerism and capitalism (even releasing their own currency called ‘Waldviertler,’ which is accepted by 200 regional businesses) and yet attracts so much investment money (through crowdfunding) that they are looking past their 41 stores to unconventional ways of expanding their operations, such as founding an academy. Heini Staudinger’s GEA is living proof that going against the grain and staying true to your personal beliefs, even if they are based on extreme political opinions (or religious beliefs), can be a powerful branding tool that deserves consideration when crafting your new brand’s personality. It may turn out to be your own, undiluted and uncensored, personality that will turn into your brand personality. How about that for ‘radical’ brand thinking? Don’t think at all, just ‘follow your longing and go!’