During the last few weeks, I have blogged on the importance of sales and marketing skills. We’ve also begun to discuss the importance of building, nurturing, and sustaining a brand. I’ve tried to show you that behind the sales campaigns, promotions, and advertising you see on TV and in newspapers is a highly complex business tool which you must appreciate and master if you want to develop a profitable business.
This series has been one of the most successful ever, with reach sometimes topping 8m per post, according to statistics from Facebook. I have totally enjoyed the amazing comments. Africa is on its way to developing some incredible businesses out there. I feel it in my spirit!
There’s a lot written about brands, and people much more qualified than I spend their careers studying and teaching about brands. You would do well to read and follow some of these experts.
One thing I’ve tried to instill is the important of "brand integrity." This is because, in the final analysis, a brand tends to take on the persona of its founders, and those who manage the business on a day-to-day basis.
You must do your best, and try very hard, to instill in your brand a culture of integrity. This is not easy, particularly as the business gets bigger, and you’ve moved away from the center of day-to-day action.
In my 30 years running a business (remember I started in 1986), I’ve met and known some highly gifted entrepreneurs who looked ready to set the whole world ablaze, but after a few years, some of them failed spectacularly. Whenever I looked back on what had happened… more often than not, it was an issue of integrity.
The other day, someone brought me an article from an African Internet newspaper (I won't mention the name because I don't want to judge them, only to advise). The newspaper is run by young entrepreneurs who follow this platform. In the edition brought to my attention, they had an article in which they purported to have interviewed me, on the phone, whilst I was "in Denmark.” The interview was a total fabrication, and whilst I have heard that Denmark is a beautiful country, I’ve not yet had an opportunity to visit in my entire life.
This saddened me deeply because of the harm they did to themselves, and the integrity of their brand.
A newspaper, even one on the Internet, is a business. It’s a business whose brand must be based on integrity, because people come to it to be informed about what’s happening. The moment you start writing stories out of your imagination, and print them as true, you’re on your way to practicing the ideology of Joseph Goebbels (Hitler's minister of propaganda).
Last week I also commented on the practice of setting up fake websites on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other other social websites, pretending to be someone else. In the beginning, it seems to be a bit of harmless fun. This is how most drug addicts began -- a "little joint" became heroin…
It’s the same in entrepreneurship: The fake website can lead you to fake credit card identity, and fraud, and fake drugs that kill others… and maybe a very long prison sentence. It's a slippery slope.
Africa has some of the most gifted musicians and actors in the world. Most of them go unrecognized, and live in poverty. They could be making millions, and standing on the world stage just like the most famous European and American artists. The problem is simple -- "pirating" of their material, supported by some of their own fans who happily buy the fake products! This is blatant theft.
__Let's do our best, every single day, to try and build brand integrity.
We don't need fake newspaper stories any more than we need fake drugs, fake credit cards, fake DVDs, and fake websites.
The original is always the best, and it has brand integrity.