Posted by: rolfsky | April 9, 2008

is your brand keeping you back?

Are you controlling your brand, or is it controlling you? If you haven’t examined your mission statement recently, you are probably missing out on opportunity.

Many moons ago, each in their separate time, two mega-brands were born: McDonalds and the Virgin group.

One stood for cheap burgers and fries, and one stood for an irreverent take on the music industry. Without digging into financials, it is pretty easy to say that while both generate tremendous annual revenue, only one of the two is widely viewed as innovative, friendly, vibrant and positive.

It would be easy to say that Virgin Group Ltd. is merely the outgrowth of the gregarious and spirited Richard Branson, but in doing so you would miss an interesting choice:

at some point, buried in their histories, McDonalds and Virgin chose separate paths. If leaders of McDonalds had chosen differently, why shouldn’t we expect McHotels, McLube, and McCinema?

We bristle at the idea of McHotels because who would want to sleep in a hotel staffed by burger flippers? But does it make any more sense to fly trans-atlantic with record salesmen?

A McHotel strikes us as so funny because McDonalds chose to build their brand around one business, one industry. In doing so, they necessarily locked themselves into one market, and dependent on one source of revenue.

McDonalds brand promise is painfully apparent when we attempt to imagine this McHotel in our head. Their brand simply isn’t broad enough for us to imagine paying them for anything other than thoroughly standard food.

Virgin on the other hand, chose to diversify, attacking any business where Branson thought there might be a challenge. It seemed, the bigger the challenge, the more he was driven to advance.

In doing so, Branson necessarily built a brand image which stretched to deliver on any business he might imagine. Regardless of the industry, the Virgin brand stands for something a bit more cheeky, stylish, and modern. In other words, Virgin is the brand of youth and the young at heart.

Now, if you take a look at your business, does your brand stretch across multiple industries? If you put your name in front of a hotel, would you laugh out loud, cry, smile?

If you can’t see your company in any other industry, or if the results of your mental business Frankenstein are terrifying, it’s probably time for you to re-imagine your value proposition.

If you can’t see your company standing for anything more than just cheap burgers and fries, then I can guarantee your customer can’t either.



  1. It makes me think of what a school named after me would stand for. Demanding, high achieving, colorful, a little edgy, innovative and passionate.

    I like your nudging thoughts.

  2. […] pointed me to a blog post he wrote earlier this month titled “is your brand keeping you back?“. Although the post isn’t about eBay specifically it does give us an idea of what Rolf […]

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