Over the last two decades or so, the image of business owners has become more significant. It has always been important for people to know who is really running the business they are part of as employees or customers, but it has not been such a critical factor as it is now. Perhaps we could say that the start-up world has ushered in this approach. However, many would argue that the rise of superhero movies and video games, and of course talent shows, which have an impact on younger generations, have caused the boost of the start-up image. After all, children could go from being little ants to world-conquering giants overnight. In the end, whatever the catalyst, the key to success – or failure – in 2021 is the owner’s image.
Not everyone has to like me
Of course, most people think that the owner has to be a figure that everyone likes. Nobody should think badly of them or use negative words when talking about them, because that would destroy the company’s image. This is far from the case! This is precisely what many people do not understand, even those who are image or branding experts. After all, the image environment has changed drastically. Whereas 30 or 40 years ago, celebrities were trying to be likeable characters, today this is no longer the goal at all. In fact, smart celebrity-owners are fully aware of the target group they really need to appeal to, the people who will bring them revenue, the people who need to see them as role models, and so they focus on that audience. They are also aware that if they choose a particular target group and try to meet its expectations perfectly, they will not be likeable figures for many other target groups. In fact, they become absolutely negative figures in the eyes of groups operating with mechanisms that are completely at odds with their own target group. The really clever owners also know that their own target group – especially if they represent a very high level of intelligence and solvency – will not be able to give them constant feedback on the direction they are taking, whether they are doing well in their role, or whether they have lost their way. In other words, they know exactly that the real “opposite camp’s” opinion needs to be sought. It is human nature to prefer to voice negative opinions. I am not generalising, of course, but this is my own experience. However, if we go through the world’s most dominant “faces of companies”, we can see exactly what qualities their own target group adores them for, and they also have their haters for exactly the same qualities. And this is how things should be.
The death of mediocrity
This is precisely the tragedy of the older generation of prominent figures. They are usually still trying to impose the idea of “everyone must love me”, and they are increasingly “going out of fashion”. It is the same in business, music, or even film. There are always “great comebackers” in Hollywood who are reborn and embraced by the younger generation. And we have seen many great figures simply disappear into the abyss. Have you noticed that these “great comebackers” were not very liked by their own generation and age? For some reason, have they not just become cooler and more successful than ever before? Just look at the list of Oscar nominees and winners! Likewise, in business, we do not have to go far for “hate-figures” either. Just before writing this article, a colleague of mine said that it does not matter that company results are in theory influenced by an image when you have Elon Musk, for example, who is the perfect counterexample. I immediately replied that Tesla’s founding father is the perfect example of everything I am writing here. Is he loved by everyone? No! Is he successful? Absolutely! He is looked up to as an idol by young businesspeople. Those who look up to him do not only see him as an idol, but sometimes much more than that. Does he care at all about what the general public thinks? I am not sure, but it does not seem so.