Lesson 1 - Coke and Ratners
We business analysts often talk about establishing and consolidating our personal brand. As AssistKD’s Lawrence Darvill puts it:
"you need to be aware of, and constantly reinforce, your personal branding. Your ‘brand’ will include the values you work to and the personal qualities and attitudes you demonstrate".
To understand how a personal brand can be developed we must understand branding in a corporate sense and the factors that make brands successful or unsuccessful. Essentially branding is a set of marketing and communication methods that help differentiate a company or products from competitors and which aim to create a lasting impression in the minds of customers.. The practical application of branding goes all the way back to the Egyptians who marked their cattle for these very reasons.
In the modern world, no business is more ‘branded’ than Coca-Cola. It has built a robust portfolio of instantly recognisable assets - including the colour red, the shape of the Coke bottle and its logo —and it manages them with constant attention and careful deliberation. Coca-Cola’s management team understand that It takes time and repetition to forge a lasting imprint in a customer’s consciousness - and they are uncannily deft at knowing when to tweak their presentation.
However, the key to the success of the brand is having a product which consumers like and will ask for by name. Consequently, at this very moment, in millions of bars and shops across the planet, people are asking for a Coke or a Coca-Cola and not for a Cola drink.
However, even the most successful brands can be undermined and even destroyed very quickly. Many of us will remember Ratners. Although regarded by many as being ‘tacky’, Ratners shops and products were popular with the public. That was until their Chief Executive, Gerald Ratner, made his infamous 1991 speech to the Institute of Directors, during which he described a Ratners’ sherry decanter as ‘total crap’ and claimed that their earrings were ‘cheaper than an M&S prawn sandwich but probably wouldn’t last as long’.
After the speech, the value of the Ratner group plummeted by around £500 million, which very nearly resulted in the firm's collapse. Eventually the group was forced to change its name to Signet Group in an attempt to permanently disassociate itself from the Ratner name.
For business analysts attempting to establish their personal brand there are important messages here. The Coke example should resonate with all of us, as words like ‘rigour’, ‘attention’, ‘deliberation’ and ‘presentation’ should all be firmly ensconced in the analyst’s lexicon. The Ratners example, on the other hand, warns us how easily your brand can be undermined or even destroyed.
If you understand why the Coke brand is so successful, you too could become the analyst who is asked for by name rather than being an anonymous analyst waiting for a call. But like Coke, once you’ve reached that trusted brand level you must continue to present yourself in a considered, consistent and relevant manner. The Ratners example shows us how acting in an ill-advised or inappropriate way – even briefly - can have disastrous consequences for a brand.
Anyone who has ever seriously transgressed in an office environment will tell you how long it takes colleagues to forget - and how difficult it is to re-establish credibility. A timely reminder for all of us as we prepare for the office party season!