I used to burnout a lot. I would work almost every waking hour for months at a stretch. In fact, I expected to flame out around June every year. I would start hating everything and everyone – my work, my clients, and my life. Then I would be basically incapacitated for a month and then bounce back. I completely disrespected my personal rhythms.
Interest and Energy are cyclical…Alternating periods of activity and rest is necessary to survive, let alone thrive. Capacity, interest, and mental endurance all wax and wane. Plan accordingly.
– Tim Ferris (The 4 hour work week)
Hard work and hustle are important. You do have to push hard. Like Bruce Mau’s incomplete manifesto for growth says –
Stay up late. Strange things happen when you’ve gone too far, been up too long, worked too hard, and you’re separated from the rest of the world.
But you also need to unplug. You need to allow yourself to recover. Which can be very hard if you are a type A personality. Or you are obsessed. I have found myself lost for hours longer than I intended working. And after a long stretch of days with my nose to the grindstone, I find that a little rest wont cut it. I need unplug completely. So I take some days off, hang with friends, and do nothing, read, catch up on all my favourite shows and then I get back to it.
Everyone’s rhythm is different. Some people can work months non-stop without needing a break. I max out after 3-4 days of intense work, then I need at least one day of light work or rest. Every couple weeks or so of this, I would need at least 3-5 days to do a full reset. I find that if I respect this rhythm I can stay very productive over a longer stretch of times. Goodbye to those burn outs that would wipe out for a month at a time.
But beyond banishing burnout, unplugging periodically allows you to gain perspective. Working long and hard keeps you firmly in the thick of the forest, hacking and slashing away. Hitting that reset button allows you to step back and see the forest for the trees. You rise up to the big picture view, analyse your actions and results and recalibrate your efforts when you get back in the game. It also helps you reconnect to your ‘why’. Some times you need to remind yourself why you do what you do to avoid becoming jaded.
Being in that calm space, observing and listening opens you up to receiving answers to problems that have been plaguing you. It is the incubation space that allows all subconscious to work out the kinks and issues you have been wrestling with in the hustle. Unplugging creates the conditions for the famous flash of inspiration that jolts into our mind when we are least expecting it. Suddenly the answer appears, the smart-cut and months of wasted effort are shaved off your journey.
Working hard is necessary, but remember to rest. An unsharpened saw no matter how productive will get blunt over time from overuse.
Allow events to change you. You have to be willing to grow. Growth is different from something that happens to you. You produce it. You live it. The prerequisites for growth: the openness to experience events and the willingness to be changed by them.
– Bruce Mau (An incomplete manifesto for growth)
When you choose a life of growth, you have clearly decided that there is a point to get to, a place you desire to reach and a person you want to be.
You get what you are. Your life, your situation is a reflection of your abilities, your actions, your initiatives, your ideas and your execution within the overall mesh of everyone else’s actions. If you want a new experiences or success, you are going to have to do different things, uncomfortable things, things that will stretch you. These things will change you. As you face new challenges, you will learn new things about yourself, you will learn new things about this journey you are on. Things that interested you before will fade into the background. This thing will gradually become the only thing you’ll think about; from the minute you wake up until the moment you fall asleep.
You will want new things now; you will actually crave exercise and good food for the extra energy it give you. You will want to spend less time with certain people because well, things are different now. It will start a feedback loop that if you feed properly, can grow into an incredible force pushing you forward to heights and places you never imagined.
You will have to embrace this change. In fact, lean into it. You want certain things; you have to become the person who takes the action that gets you those things. You have to earn what you desire. The process of changing into this person is long, and full of twists and turns, but it is one heck of an adventure. And that is the most incredible part of this journey…becoming the person.
If a brand wants to grow, it has a number of options at its disposal, line extensions, brand extensions, concept extensions, and co-branding. The brand could also purchase other brands and manage within its portfolio or endorse other products with its brand. According to Klopper and North (2011:231), a brand extension strategy is based on the premise that consumers place a value on a brand name, and this value can be used by organisations.
Apple has had an incredible run, staging one of the greatest comebacks in history, rising from the brink of death to a technology behemoth. It was recently valued at R800m, making it the most valuable company in the world and it is likely to be the first trillion dollar company in the world. It does this with a limited range of products that include MacBooks, iMacs, iPods, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and Apple TV. With consistent innovation, they have managed to stay at the head of the pack creating objects of desire. Sometimes it feels like they know what we want before we know it.
This hasn’t been the case lately however. Since the passing of Apple’s founder Steve Jobs, the company has not made any real innovations, releasing only one new product category – the Apple Watch. So far, reception and sales have been ‘meh’ by Apple Standards. It is not the game changer that the iPhone was.
What will take the Apple Company over the trillion-dollar edge? Incremental growth by simply rolling out new iPhones and MacBooks (line extensions) or will it take something more radical to do the trick? Apple has already added to its portfolio by buying the Beats by Dre brand (multi-brand strategy). I believe it will take more radical forays into emerging technologies to take Apple to the next level.
Apple’s true strength is their ability to marry design, technology and a strong understanding of user experience to help people accomplish things. There have been rumours about experimental projects in the works like the self-driving car, live TV, and so on in search of their next big thing. I believe that if Apple focused their efforts in developing new products in the areas of Artificial Intelligence (AI), Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR), they would reap massive rewards. The great thing about Apple is that they don’t need to be first; they just need to execute the idea better than everyone else by a mile. I believe they can extend their brand in these new emerging categories.
Artificial Intelligence: The Apple way is to make tasks much smoother and easier. Being creative, being productive, and consuming entertainment are all relatively seamless on Apple devices and platforms. Siri, the artificial intelligent personal assistant was introduced with the iPhone 4s. Imagine your day to day powered by the wonders of AI. Imagine an even more advanced artificially intelligent assistant you could converse with, give proper tasks to, like managing your schedule, sorting out your files, replying emails. Imagine an AI you could delegate to, knowing it was able to give you the right recommendations based on data about you.
Virtual Reality: The true next frontier. VR has the potential to be the next Internet. It is a blank slate for story telling, simulation, entertainment and work. Imagine being able to pop into a VR environment and hold face-to-face meetings with colleagues from around the world. Imagine being able to share your holidays by capturing your surroundings with 360-degree cameras and inviting your friends directly into the experience via VR. Imagine being able to tour potential destinations before you actually visit them.
Augmented Reality: Even better than all of those wonders is harnessing the power of AI and virtual reality and mapping that onto reality itself. Imagine being able to shop for clothes and super impose them on yourself before ordering. Imagine finding an object or product you really like in real life and being able to instantly pull up information about it and order immediately. Imagine being able to walk through your design projects, or rearrange your space before you even move a couch. Imagine being having your map overlaid in your field of vision so you can navigate travelling or moving around large buildings without getting lost.
All these ideas would dramatically change the way we live and interact with each other. Apple has the potential to change the world once again by extending its brand into these new product categories. There are risks to extending a brand; the idea of an extension is for the consumer to buy into these new products because of the name ‘Apple’. The extent to which this positive transfer occurs is positively related to the perceived fit, or similarity between the brand and the extension (Barone, 2005:263). If the new product or brand fails, it has a negative impact on the core brand. What makes Apple most likely to win however is that they understand how to use technology to create objects and experiences that delight their customers and enables them to do more. I think the areas of AI, VR, and AR are a great fit for Apple brand.
Klopper, H.B. & North, E. 2011. Brand Management. Cape Town: Pearson.
Barone, MJ. 2005. The interactive effects of mood and involvement on brand extension evaluations. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 15(3):263-270
Mikolajczak C. 2017. Apple becomes first US company to be worth $800bn. Available: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/business/news/apple-worth-800-billion-first-us-company-worth-tech-market-capitalisation-a7727526.html (10 May 2017)
Smith, D. 2016. 3 cutting edge projects Apple is working on right now. Available: http://www.businessinsider.com/apple-future-projects-vr-electric-cars-live-tv-2016-1 (25 Jan 2016)
Mac Rumors. 2016. Apple VR Project. Available: https://www.macrumors.com/roundup/apple-vr-project/
I heard the above quote from a Tai Lopez podcast sometime in 2015, and it stuck in my mind ever since. It even made it to the little pile of post-its I keep on my desk covered with odd notes and scribbles. It reminded of me something I heard Marc Ecko say back in 2012 – that the phrase ‘Artists and Instigators’ was a more apt way to describe what startups and entrepreneurs do. We get stuck sometimes on the nuts and bolts of creating businesses and launching brands, managing teams, balancing books, developing markets, we miss the essence of what these activities are, or what they should be. Which is making something we believe should exist to communicating an opinion, a point of view.
That is the true allure of being a designer for me. It is the chance to make something, the ability to offer my take / perspective on an idea, a product, a service, a business that wakes me up in the morning eager to get started.
I watched a talk by Sasha Strauss on ‘branding in the normal’ last week, and he so elegantly distilled the essence of what a brand is. As a matter of fact, the idea he put forward is the founding conceptual framework behind all the great institutions of our time – religions, nations, and so. The core of brand is this – there is the idea, and there is the belief around that idea. Religion has the idea that there exists a god or gods. The belief system in relation to this idea, i.e. how we interact with and behave because of this god or gods is what makes different religions appeal to different people. The Virgin Group takes on multiple markets and products but the core ideas are business, products, and services. Their belief is that business should be fun and that customer service is the most important thing a great company can have.
I don’t know what your motives are for getting into business if you are an entrepreneur, but the best businesses and the most creative works of art succeed because they have a point of view. There is something they believe in, and they stop at nothing to birth a world that expresses that. It might be in the way they treat the customer, it might be in the way they do business, but they believe something.
That goes double for the freelancer, the creative, the solopreneur. You got into this because deep down, you want to create a specific kind of life; you want to do something remarkable. You became an entrepreneur, to make something specific happen. There are a multitude of people doing the same thing you do – designing, writing, photography, coaching, etc. What will separate you from everyone else is the same thing that makes you unique. It is your DNA, it is your opinion, its your point of view, it is what you truly believe. Don’t hide away from it; don’t dumb it down to fit in. Embrace that and recreate the world in your image.
The Virgin brand is one of the most recognizable brands in the world. Founded in 1970 by Sir Richard Branson as a mail order record business, the brand grew to a portfolio of over 200 branded companies at some point, with more than 50,000 employees in 50 countries. Presently, there are over 60 Virgin businesses in the world employing 71,000 employees in 35 countries.
The Virgin brand portfolio follows the endorser model being made up of individual and distinct product brands, which are linked together by the endorsing parent brand ‘Virgin’. What makes Virgin quite unusual is that its portfolio brands come from very diverse fields. In fact every year, Virgin enters and pulls out of multiple markets. Virgin Companies have included Virgin Money, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin America, Virgin Mobile, Virgin Trains, Virgin Active, and many, many more.
What ties all of this together in an unlikely mix is the core brand idea behind Virgin. The name Virgin is used to represent the idea of the company being a virgin in every business they enter. Virgin’s brand promise is to be the ‘champion of the consumer’ going into categories where the needs of consumers are not well met and innovate those spaces with a strong focus on customer service. Such a high-level brand promise has potential relevance across an array of industries, and having such a diverse portfolio of brands comes with its advantages and disadvantages.
The Virgin brand is very strong and closely linked with its founder Richard Branson. With charming charisma and numerous publicity stunts like crossing the world in a hot air balloon, Sir Richard Branson and the Virgin brand have become cultural phenomena. The lending/endorsing power of the brand name allows these new business to kick off with a firm foundation of high brand equity. However, delivering on these promises can be challenging. Sometimes Virgin ventures into industries where the customers are already quite satisfied or the space is already full of irreverent rebel brands and thus the promise to provide a new innovative customer experience holds no merit. There have been many busts, such as Virgin Cola, Virgin Clothing, Virgin Brides and so on. These failures are counter balanced by the many successes within the Virgin portfolio, which give these new brands a fighting chance to become successful over time. But these failures if they occur frequently would eventually lead to a weakening of the Virgin brand.
The brand led by Richard Branson has proven adept at handling crises, as shown in the Virgin Galactic test flight disaster in 2014. Branson was quick to go to the site of the crash as well as speak to the public and media taking full responsibility and vowing to find out what went wrong so Virgin can ensures such doesn’t happen again. In the face of tragedy, Branson and the Virgin brand showed accountability, transparency and strong leadership.
As far as ethical practices and sustainability goes, many of the Virgin intiatives and companies have the mission of making the earth a more sustainable and better place to live. These include Virgin Earth Challenge and Virgin Pure
So back to the question that kicked off this post, is Virgin overextended? Is having such a diverse portfolio of brands a wise strategy in the long term? What are the possible long-term effects of having a brand that is so closely tied with its founder?
The Virgin brand has already pared back its portfolio retaining the most successful brands as well as the brands with the most potential within its main portfolio. These brands should leverage off the core competencies of the Virgin brand, which are innovation, great customer service, as well as a deep understanding of lifestyle and entertainment needs. They have the power to make seemingly mundane services exciting. For this portfolio to succeed, the role of each brand should be clearly defined in relation to the whole, and the goals of the portfolio as a whole should be clearly defined.
Newer and more diverse company interests could be grouped under a Venture Capital portfolio that serves as an ‘explorer’, looking for opportunities in markets that are underserved or otherwise locked into false monopolies by dominant players and disrupt those sectors. That would be the most effective application of the Virgin brand with the potential to create more ‘stars’ that can move on to the main portfolio.
The Virgin brand and way should also be firmly embedded within the corporate structure and supported on every level to ensure the brand promise lives beyond its founder.
Virgin. About Us. Available: https://www.virgin.com/virgingroup/content/about-us [2017, May 16]
Lennox, A. 2014. Smart brand extension allows Virgin to keep up appearances. Available: https://www.theguardian.com/media-network/media-network-blog/2014/oct/23/virgin-success-brand-extension-easygroup [2017, May 16]
Keller, K. 2015. The Branding Logic Behind Google’s Creation of Alphabet. Available: https://hbr.org/2015/08/the-branding-logic-behind-googles-creation-of-alphabet [2017, May 16]
Wisdom Jobs. An extension-based business model: Virgin. Available:
https://www.wisdomjobs.com/e-university/strategic-brand-management-tutorial-350/an-extension-based-business-model-virgin-10983.html [2017, May16]
Feloni, R. 2014. Crisis Management Expert Explains How Richard Branson Can Bounce Back From Virgin Galactic Crash. Available: http://www.businessinsider.com/richard-branson-virgin-galactic-crisis-management-2014-11 [2017, May 16]
Aaker D. 204. Brand Portfolio Strategy. Simon & Schuster, Inc: USA.