Deciding who should represent your brand to customers and consumers is one of the biggest decisions you can make when it comes to branding.
No one can deny the power that social media and influencer-based content creators have for brands, but what about the founder's story and why the brand was started in the first place or the company mission? Think Sara Blakely and Spanx or Elon Musk and Tesla (while technically not the founder, he acquired Tesla, and is now synonymous with the Tesla brand). Their stories give their brands life, a voice, something we can identify them by.
So the question is: Can you be both a founder led brand and leverage influencer marketing at the same time? Or should you choose? How many voices can you have at one time for the brand without compromising a consistent message?
With the right strategic plan, you can do a combination of both which amplifies your message and can also buffer you from unexpected bumps in the branding road (i.e. Martha Stewart brand or John Schnatter with Papa Johns). Decide first if having a founder's message is compelling to your target audience. Does the founder have a compelling story that attracts your target audience? Do they have the time and commitment to be a continual face of the brand?
Blending Founder & Influencer Voices: Gymshark
While the most popular fitness-influencers partner with Gymshark, a billion-dollar fitness wear company, possibly the most recognizable influencer for them is their founder Ben Francis. Francis started the company at 19 and is still in his late 20s, which is very close to his target demographic. He continues to be the leading face of the company through his Instagram and YouTube channels showing insider information on the growth of the company.
By also investing in fitness-influencers, Gymshark has not only created a new stream of advertising content but pioneered and fostered an online community of devoted followers willing to endorse and promote the brand. It’s this sense of personal belonging, authenticity, and relevancy that allows influencer partnerships to grow companies.
What's interesting is the criteria that Gymshark uses to choose its athletes. According to their website, "we don't really have set criteria when we choose our athletes, as all our athletes are so unique. More simply - it's not just about the athlete – it’s about how you can positively influence others.” This greatly speaks to their values of inclusivity and proactivity, which appeals to a younger target audience focused on body conditioning.
While many companies, like Gymshark, start with founder-led stories, over time they transition their brand personality to be company-led. This allows them to expand their audience size, making them well-positioned for growth with their large customer base and their partnerships with names bigger than their founder.
While partnering with content creators who have similar values to your company can extend your brand to new audiences and build credibility, it's critical to establish a brand personality and tone of voice principles to ensure consistency in how the organization communicates. Otherwise, there's a risk of diluting messaging and causing confusion among your target audience.
Finding the right partnership- founder, influencer or both that works for you, can credential your brand, expand your audience, and overall grow your bottom line. But don't forget, be mindful of the size of your business, and the number of creators you partner with. Brand influencers should reinforce your brand and its personality, not subtract from it.
The Brand Evaluator is a joint venture of independent brand builders – Michelle Thompson, BrandSpark, and Christine Sech, Brave Oak Brand Building. We work with emerging businesses to clearly and meaningfully convey an organization’s value through brand building strategy, design and content that drives results.