How to create a family brand the 'primal' way
In this day and age, content is king. Brands have more cultural and social capital than ever before. With the rise of influencer marketing and the proliferation of social media platforms, branding has become an ever more important aspect of business. 'Primal branding' offers family businesses with a guide on how to get started.

By Francois Botha
Published on Simple October 19, 2020

In this day and age, content is king. Brands have more cultural and social capital than ever before. With the rise of influencer marketing and the proliferation of social media platforms, branding has become an ever more important aspect of business. Consumers are less interested in what companies have to say about their products and services, and more about what other people are saying about them.

Today there is a deeper understanding of what it means to be a brand. Brands are no longer simply a function of push-marketing and sales of commercial products, with the communication flow moving one-way and the messaging purely instructional. Brands now serve a unique function of building identity and community amongst its users and consumers. Crafting an authentic and compelling story is fundamental to this process.

“Telling stories is not easy. The difficulty lies not in telling the story, but in convincing everyone else to believe it. How does one convince millions of people to believe particular stories about gods, or nations, or limited liability companies?”

Yuval Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind

One approach to building strong personal brands is Primal Branding. A robust methodology created by Patrick Hanlon – founder of Primalbranding.co and thought-leader within the branding space – primal branding is all about building communities and belief systems.

In this day and age, content is king. Brands have more cultural and social capital than ever before. With the rise of influencer marketing and the proliferation of social media platforms, branding has become an ever more important aspect of business. Consumers are less interested in what companies have to say about their products and services, and more about what other people are saying about them.

Today there is a deeper understanding of what it means to be a brand. Brands are no longer simply a function of push-marketing and sales of commercial products, with the communication flow moving one-way and the messaging purely instructional. Brands now serve a unique function of building identity and community amongst its users and consumers. Crafting an authentic and compelling story is fundamental to this process.

“Telling stories is not easy. The difficulty lies not in telling the story, but in convincing everyone else to believe it. How does one convince millions of people to believe particular stories about gods, or nations, or limited liability companies?”

Yuval Harari, Sapiens: A Brief History of Mankind

One approach to building strong personal brands is Primal Branding. A robust methodology created by Patrick Hanlon – founder of Primalbranding.co and thought-leader within the branding space – primal branding is all about building communities and belief systems.

It is systematic, predictive, and plays on our most human of senses. Understanding brands as belief systems allows us to demystify the processes behind some of the biggest and most successful names in the business – Microsoft, Coca-Cola, and Nike to name a few.

Primal branding deconstructs a brand into seven pieces of ‘Primal Code’, and provides a tried-and-tested methodology for creating an emotive connection between consumer and brand. The core premise behind primal branding is that today any business, no matter their size, should feel comfortable telling their story to their target audience. Storytelling today has moved beyond the confines of advertising agencies. Family businesses have a natural focus on identity by virtue of their shared origins. Following the ‘primal code’ allows family offices to translate this identity into a brand that has a meaning and purpose that resonates deeply with a target audience. The intangible nature of a brand becomes vivid, identifiable, palpable, and manageable.

“Success is not a mix of the great product plus great advertising plus great price point plus great distribution. It’s something else.”

Patrick Hanlon, Primal Branding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company and Your Future

Biomimicry for Business. Just like many areas of modern business, we could look to nature and natural history to build frameworks.

The Seven Pieces Of Primal Code

Family business and offices are uniquely placed to follow these building blocks of primal code. The original community is of course a family, the oldest and most innate way of organizing humans.

“Primal is the root code for human beings. We are hard-wired to collect in groups. From the time we are born, we are told that we are a brother, a sister, a son, or daughter. We are told that this is a home, this is our neighborhood, these are our people.
Without family, we are lost.”
Patrick Hanlon

This fundamental human need for belonging and identity is reflected in the seven pieces of the Primal Code. Organizations build communities to grow. People join communities to connect. How can primal code meet both interests?

1. The Creation Story

The question “Where are we from?” is especially relevant to the majority of successful families who value heritage and are keen to build an identity based on their historic roots. When applied to Brands, ‘The Creation Story’ is an effective way to articulate and leverage this heritage and familial pride in a way that resonates both internally and with a Brand audience. The creation story is the foundation of the brand narrative. It’s the how not the why. Where did the idea for your organization come from? This is most commonly based on the founder’s personal experience.

2. Creed

Once your audience knows what you’re from, tell them what you’re all about. What are our values and what do we stand for? What do we believe in and why do we exist? These questions are a natural part of any family’s ethos, but it is precisely these questions that can become an increasingly significant factor in brand building. Creed is a way for family offices and businesses to position themselves as serving a greater purpose. An articulated business purpose -that transcends products and services – has the power to align teams and communities both internally and externally.

3. Icons

Icons are the quick concentrations of meaning that signal who you and what you’re about. Consider all senses – sight, sound, smell, taste, touch – and develop an iconic feature that becomes synonymous with your family. By answering ‘what are our unique identifiers?’ family offices and businesses can add further substance to their brand, triggering senses and targeting into the core of their target audience. Icons could range from vineyards to galleries, to family crests, and an effective way to create a powerful association with your brand.

4. Rituals

Whilst iconography is part of the story, it’s also important to decide how your brand will meet the world. The next step is to ask yourself ‘how do we translate our belief system into action? Rituals are your brand in motion and bring the members of your community together. They relate to regular prioritized activities that both internal (annual family meetings, family lunches, family portraits) and external (philanthropic activities, support of sports teams and art galleries, networking events). If brands are belief systems, rituals are how you make your belief system visible to the world.

5. Lexicon

Every brand community creates a set of words that identify those that are in the community – and those who aren’t. If you want to be a part of a community, you have to know the words. ‘iPhone’ for example, is now a concept in and of itself, where people don’t feel the word to reference Apple any longer. What are the ‘sacred words’ in your brand vocabulary? As language evolves uniquely and naturally within a family space, translate that into a brand vocabulary that sets you apart from the rest.

6. Non-believers

Every brand community has a counter-community of people who don’t share your beliefs. They believe in something else. Understanding what we don’t want to be, helps us understand who we do want to be. Alongside asking ‘who are we, and what do we stand for?’, ask yourself the reverse: ‘who are we not, and what don’t we want to stand for?’. With an increasing amount of activity in the family office space, it’s crucial to understand this and outline which directions you do not want to take.

7. The Fearless Leader

Steve Jobs, Oprah, Warren Buffet. These are the people that set out against all odds to the world at large, in order to create the world according to their rules. For family offices and businesses, this is where the family head comes in who has already been established either through founding the business or through succession. Is there an opportunity to create a powerful ‘persona’ at the helm of your family brand?

Companies aren’t born with an identity and soul – you have to create it. When the seven parts of the Primal Code are in place, a strategic brand narrative is created transforming the brand from being meaningless to meaningful. We not only believe, but we also belong – a desire at the core of every human. In turn, we gain a deeper understanding of what it means to be a brand and gain a definitive and predictive process for creating an army of zealots.

 

 

About the Authors

Francois Botha

Simple Founder. Strategy Advisor

Francois believes that the next generation of family leaders need new, simple tools and trusted experts with a fresh outlook.

Connect with Francois Botha View Francois Botha Profile

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