Brands have been a large part of our everyday lives for a while now, but every increasingly having a personal brand and even a family office brand are becoming part of this space. Think about social media celebrities, Youtubers, world leaders, activists and even modern-day philosophers. No longer are we associating brands simply with commercial products. As we open up to these new-breed brands, we also need to ask ourselves what could we consider about our own personal branding. Is this something that could be managed better?
One approach to building a strong personal brand is Primal Branding. A robust methodology created by Patrick Hanlon, founder of Thinktopia and thought-leader within the branding space. By treating brands as belief systems that inspire consumers to ‘belong,’ Hanlon has developed an innovative approach to building an authentic emotive connection between consumer communities and Brands.
Hanlon’s deconstruction of a brand’s essence into seven pieces of Primal Code provides a useful platform for family businesses to translate their natural focus on identity into the creation of family brands that have meaning, substance and greater purpose and that resonate deeply with a target audience.
In Hanlon’s article “What is Primal Branding“, he explains that “Once you script how something started, define its reason for being, how to identify it, how it’s used, give it a name and language that describes it, then define what it’s not and never wants to become and, finally, tells you who’s leading it all, then you not only have seven unique points of differentiation, but a storyline that appeals to the rational and emotional parts of our brains that cause things to make sense. Suddenly, the intangibles of your Brand become vivid, identifiable, palpable and manageable.”
The Seven Pieces Of Primal Code in family office and personal brand building
In an interview with Hanlon, he shares the concept of Primal Code and its relevance to family businesses and family offices: “Primal is the root code for human beings. We are hard-wired to collect in groups, and the seven pieces of primal code are the triggers for that engagement. When you think about families, they are the fundamental unit for us as human beings. From the time we are born, we are told that we are a brother, a sister, a son or daughter, a cousin, grandchild and we are told that this is a home, this is our neighborhood, these are our people.””The fundamental human need for belonging and identity are reflected in the seven pieces of the Primal Code:
1. The Creation Story
The question “Where are we from?” is especially relevant to the majority of successful families who value heritage and acknowledge their roots. When applied to Brands, The Creation Story is an effective way to articulate and express this heritage and pride-in-being in a way that resonates internally and with a Brand audience.
What are we about? What are our values and what do we stand for? Just as these questions are naturally relevant to any family ethos, Creed is becoming an increasingly significant factor in personal brand building, as consumers look for Brands that deliver more than functional use and traditional extrinsic benefits. Successful Brands position themselves as serving a greater purpose- that of changing people’s lives. In a previous article “Can You Use Soft Factors Like Purpose And Agility To Enable Success?” we explore in more detail the importance of an articulated business purpose that transcends products and services and is more significant than just money.
What are our unique identifiers? Consider all senses- sight, sound, smell, taste, touch and develop an iconic feature that becomes synonymous with your family and adds substance to your family brand, basic examples including wine farms, galleries, family crests, etc. Icons can be a very effective way to create conversation and powerful association around your family Brand.
How do we translate our belief system into action? Rituals relate to regular prioritized activities that are both internal, eg. Annual family meetings, family lunches, family portraits, etc. and also visible to the public, eg. Involvement in philanthropic activities, supporting arts, sports, etc. Rituals also refer to the positive ritualistic engagement between consumer and Brand. A philosophy underpins primal Branding that Brands are belief systems, so this is how you can make your belief system visible and attract others who share your beliefs and relate to your efforts.
This refers to the special vocabulary or ‘sacred words’ that become uniquely associated with a company or Brand, e.g. ‘iPhone’. Language can evolve uniquely and naturally within a family space, so translate that into building and communicating your family Brand vocabulary.
There will always be people who never want to be part of ‘us.’ There’s great power in figuring out who these people or communities are, and understanding what you don’t want to be, as this can help you decide where you want to head.
7. The Fearless Leader
This is the person that sets out against all odds to recreate the world in their own way, eg. Oprah, Steve Jobs, etc. This is where the family head comes in, already established whether through starting the business or through succession. Is there an opportunity to create a powerful ‘persona’ at the helm of your family brand?
The desire to belong is at the core of every human being, but before you belong, you must believe. By considering the seven pieces of Primal code, families will be able to build Brands that resonate deeply with consumer communities who seek systems of belief that they relate to and that they want to belong to.