Download e-book The Branded Gentry: How a New Era of Entrepreneurs Made Their Names

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The Branded Gentry are restless souls. Branded Gentry is very well written. There is a commendable amount of descriptive detail and direct speech.

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One often feels one is in the room with the interviewee, observing his or her furniture, inflections, physiognomy. For Vallance and Hopper the personal is professional. This was the slogan used by Warburtons, the family-owned bakery company, to set itself apart from its rivals, most of which had impersonal names like Premier Foods or Allied Bakeries.

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Is this just a marketing ploy, or do people actually prefer to buy from a company that has the same name as the person who owns and runs it? The answer is not obvious. Entrepreneurs often choose to use an invented brand name rather than their own. Branson Atlantic sounds less inviting than Virgin Atlantic, and Apple might not be the company that it is today if it had followed the example of its Silicon Valley predecessor, Hewlett Packard, and called itself Jobs Wozniak, after the two founders.

On the other hand, there are cases where the company and its products are so closely identified with a single individual that the use of his or her name is entirely appropriate. Johnnie Boden himself is probably nearer the mark when he says that in a crowded market you need as many things as possible to make your business stand out.

As it happens, Julian Richer, unlike most of the other interviewees, was determined to get rich at a very early age; he was buying and selling hi-fi hardware while still at school, and he bought his first Rolls-Royce at the age of Emma Bridgewater, who runs an eponymous ceramics business from a Victorian factory in Stoke-on-Trent, likes the fact that people assume, partly because of the factory, that hers is an old family company, which it is not. Choosing an attractive brand name is important, but hardly crucial to whether the business does well or badly. Indeed, the men and women profiled here are mainly interesting, not because of what they have called their companies, but because they are successful.

The value of the book is that it allows them to explain, mostly in their own words, why they are successful. Warburtons, founded in and now in the hands of the fifth generation, is unusual in wanting family members, as long as they are competent, to hold senior management posts. Many of the others seem not much bothered about succession, or about how history will view their achievements.

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There are, however, exceptions. About the Author David Hopper is a marketing research strategist with over 20 years of international experience, running his own consultancy, H2 Partners, whose clients include Bollinger, Nokia, Pernod Ricard and McDonald's. But we wanted to depict the true colour and texture of entrepreneurial success — in a way that could only be achieved by our actually meeting the-people-with-the-names. To shake their hands and look into their eyes, as it were.

The Branded Gentry : How a New Era of Entrepreneurs Made Their Names

Here, then, is what we have found. Yes, Branded Gentry is a clever title for a book, but I found it a bit misleading.

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What I had expected was a book that analysed the pros and cons of eponymous brands with comparisons drawn against the new era of largely made-up ones. I had also hoped it would explore how the entrepreneurs behind these 13 familiar names — Dyson, Boden, Bridgewater and Richer to name four — had generated their hugely valuable intellectual property and established themselves successfully in our mental landscape. I don't think that the business leaders in it are any different from other entrepreneurs who choose not to name their company after themselves.

When Sainsbury's and Warburtons were founded it was common practice and it still is for design-based businesses like Emma Bridgewater, Boden and Dyson even. Sure, you are going to worry about quality and performance if your name is above the door, but so do all successful leaders, whatever name they have chosen.

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Readers keen to pick up useful tips about starting a business are probably better advised to try Dear Entrepreneur - Letters from those that have made it and are making it happen by Danny Bailey and Andrew Blackman. It is smaller than The Branded Gentry and contains just what it says on the cover - a collection of short letters to the budding entrepreneur from the people behind successful new businesses. Perhaps reassuringly, much of the same advice is repeated again and again. A book therefore for the loo, and to be consumed a couple of chapters at a time. It is a nice idea but would be much improved by a short summary of each of the companies.

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Maybe I should get out more, but there are nearly businesses featured and I hardly knew any of them. They sounded fascinating when I Googled a few but the founders were so busy offering the pithiest of advice that they mostly forgot to tell us what they do and what they had achieved so far. Perhaps an improvement for a second edition? William Kendall is a director of a number of early-stage investments and chairman of Cawston Press, a small premium soft drinks company.

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