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Dyson, Nandos and Ryanair: brand heros are a varied bunch

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Whether it’s innovation, authenticity or a leader who speaks their mind, these entrepreneurs find inspiration in established businesses

When it comes to brand heroes, Premier Inn and Nandos are hard to beat for Neil Westwood, managing director of Magic Whiteboard .

He says: “Premier Inn offers really good value, the quality is very good and the product is the same wherever you go. They offer affordable accommodation and food, and customers always know what to expect. It is quick and easy to book a hotel and the staff are friendly.

“We’ve been inspired by Nandos because the service and product is consistent across the whole country. Food arrives quickly, there’s no waiting around and you pay upfront so you don’t have to wait for bill.

“Both companies use lean thinking to increase sales, increase profits and reduce waste in their businesses. They are value-adding companies, and only do something if it adds value for the customer.”

Rebecca Morter and Gemma Vanson, co-founders of innovative women’s fashion house Rein have been inspired brands such as Nineteenth Amendment and Hotel Chocolat.

“Nineteenth Amendment was set up by two New Yorkers Gemma Sole and Amanda Curtis, who help to expose new brands like us without taking too many risks, allowing their brand to grow,” says Morter. “They have been amazing to work with. Meeting two women in the same industry as us, doing so well has inspired us to keep going and keep expanding.”

Hotel Chocolat’s innovate approach to financing also won their admiration. “They’ve been extremely clever at raising money, allowing customers to buy into them with shares and memberships, all in chocolate!” says Vanson. “We’ve met with investors and discussed loans, but we keep thinking that there must be other ways of raising money. Hotel Chocolat are not only creatively smart in securing the funds they need, they also generate brand exposure, a real buzz and hype, by getting people talking about them, which is the best marketing too.”


“Learning from these brands has helped shape our decision making, made us stronger and savvier business women, and also encouraged us to take risks, and trust our gut,” adds Morter.

Ben Hookway’s brand hero is a legacy of his childhood. The CEO of brand language analyst Relative Insight is a huge fan of the Lego brand.

He says: “As a youngster, I remember every year Lego would release an image of a large scale model. One year, it was a model of a Porsche. I had all the pieces to build the car, but without the instructions I was lost. So I wrote a letter to Lego asking for some help. Addressed to ‘Lego, Denmark’, it somehow made its way to their offices and, soon enough, a response came back with the instructions to make the Porsche. I was able to build my model car.”

He says Lego has influenced him in business by teaching him about the importance of customer service. “I may be the CEO but I have office hours with all my customers. I always make the time to sit down with them to chat about what they are looking to use the service for and how we can help. I’ll always be available.”

When John Bentley started his photography business fourTwoGraphs he wanted the name and ethos to “do what it says on the tin”. The brand he believes does that better than any other is Virgin.

He says: “The key elements of the Virgin brand; quality, originality, competitive edge, and fun, are the qualities I’ve tried to instil in my own. As a photographer, I put the client first. I never settle for the predictable; I’m constantly thinking out of the box when I’m photographing people.

“I want to offer a service that others can’t, or won’t, for fear of the impact on their profit margins. And yes, I do like to have fun when I’m working. It breaks the ice, helps people to relax and feel comfortable in front of the camera, and produces the results that delight them.”


Dyson is the brand that has influenced William Seabrook, managing director of creative agency Seabrook . He says: “James Dyson had his initial inspiration with the bag-less vacuum cleaner, but it was years of perseverance and design iterations that made Dyson a success. I love that Dyson hasn’t stopped innovating, and is moving into different product categories – hair dryers, car engines – rethinking how these products could work in a new way.

“Their commitment to design and engineering is inherent in its brand. They understand there aren’t any shortcuts in creating something original, valuable, and of real quality, and this has influenced the way I run my business. Our new website, for example, depicts our services as illustrated characters that live within the Internet. We’ve developed back-stories for the team, and will be storytelling on a regular basis to help build our brand online. Telling people that you are a creative agency is one thing, but we’d rather show you how creative we are.”

Sam Parton, co-founder of OpenPlay , an online marketplace for sports facilities and activities, admits to having several brand heroes, including perennial favourites like Zappos and Innocent Smoothies, and the occasionally controversial Ryanair.

He says: “I love founders who speak their minds and, every now and then, put their foot in it. What I like about Ryanair is that it doesn’t pretend to be anything other than a low cost airline and does away with any pretence. That stems from the founder Michael O’Leary. Love it or not, he has been brilliant at generating PR, sometimes not for the right reasons, but he has built a huge airline and ruffled some feathers along the way and part of that is certainly influential.”

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