Role Models




Recently, while we were having breakfast, a friend asked me why I had such an earnest look on my face while eating my yogurt, almost as if I were engaged in a highly intellectual task. Caught by surprise, I could not come up with a good retort. Though possibly that’s because I seldom look in the mirror when I’m eating yogurt. Several days later, and caught up in something completely different, an image of my Dad popped into my mind. Suddenly, I remembered how, as a child, I would sit opposite him at the table and not dare ask him something, because whenever he ate a yogurt, he would look as if he were meditating on the meaning of life. I had to laugh: isn't it funny how every now and then we are confronted with how we resemble our parents? Sometimes we don't particularly appreciate the thought and dismiss it, at other moments we have to smile in acceptance. Especially when we come face to face with those little quirks that we took on at some point without our even noticing them.

Certain traits may even be passed on through several generations, perhaps in the form of a skewed nose, a gift for natural sciences, premature hair loss or in the ideal case ‒ values. In this respect, family-owned businesses have a clear advantage with regard to branding, because in the ideal case their brand values are already personified. Hence, less theory and less training are required to convey the brand's core values to the employees since they experience them on a daily basis in their interaction with the proprietors. Brands incorporate the people who created the brands themselves. This may involve a boss of the old school with his rough edges, or the founder’s descendants, who continue to uphold the brand’s values on a daily basis, engendering empathy among the employees and making the brand come alive, because it is specific, real and tangible. This is in stark contrast to publicly owned businesses, where the CEO, more often than not, changes every three to four years and whose image frequently doesn't match the brand image at all.

Yet how can a culture that characterizes a specific brand be handed down from generation to generation? Sometimes the progeny subconsciously attempt to imitate their successful parents, but lose authenticity in the process. Provocation was at the very core of Vivienne Westwood's creations. And, her son went on to declare provocation as the essential branding ingredient when promoting the "Agent Provocateur" program. Yet, the question remains whether he will be able walk in the footsteps of his larger-than-life mother? At the other end of the spectrum is the younger generation that strives for the exact opposite of what the previous one achieved. But isn't that human nature? To rebel against one’s natural birthright? Examples of success stories exemplifying the opposite abound: Sprüngli, Schubiger, Swatch. Yet, it is rarely that simple.

In branding, as in real life, values can only be handed down if they are truly lived up to. And this requires strong personalities, plus a "value-related" team - both with regard to parents and at the corporate management level.


This article appeared in PUNKTMagazin. The Swiss magazine combines economics, investment and lifestyle and is published every two months. Branders CEO René Allemann writes a column for the publication. You'll find more information here:

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René Allemann

René Allemann

Born in Zurich, René Allemann founded the consulting firm Branders in 2005. With 20 employees, the branding agency creates, maintains and manages brands. The Brander journal is published by the Branders Group.

The Brander is a publication of the Branders Group