Branding Lessons from my late Father In Law - Ismaël Ahmad Randera OBE
We all have a personal brand whether we are conscious of it or not. At the very least, it is what people say about us when we are not in the room. If you think about your neighbour or somebody at work, immediately certain traits and characteristics of that person will come to mind. These are all as a result of his or her brand.
Slightly over a year ago I lost my father in law, Ismaël Ahmad (Bhai) Randera OBE, who passed on after a fruitful life spent in the service of his Lord and fellow human beings. Following his sad demise, we received countless messages from people who knew him or with whom he came into contact, albeit briefly. The consistency of these messages got me to ponder over the efficacy of his personal brand. After all your personal brand is not what you think of yourself but what others think of you.
Here are five lessons that I retain from thinking about Late Ismaël Randera’s brand.
Authenticity – Living your brand
My father in law was always authentic to his brand. It helped build his credibility and secure trust in him. In a certain way, his actions and the pieces of advice he would share were predictable. If someone was in need, I would have no difficulties in predicting that he would go out of his way to help. He had values that he lived by and these permeated his actions and beliefs.
Similarly, if someone needed advice when in a difficult situation or needed general guidance, the gist of his advice or guidance would be to some degree predictable. Of course, each situation had its own specificities but the outcome and values which he promoted would be distinguishable in his advice. People do not feel they can trust someone who is not authentic. Authenticity is the antithesis of hypocrisy. It screams integrity.
For those who knew I.A. Randera, they would certainly agree that the “I” stood for Integrity as well as for Ismaël whilst the "A" stood for Authenticity as well as for Ahmad.
“To be authentic is to be at peace with your imperfections. Great leaders are not the strongest, they are the ones who are honest about their weaknesses. … Great leaders don’t try to be perfect, they try to be themselves. And that’s what makes them great.” – Simon Sinek
Consistency - Enduring personal brand equity is not built overnight
Throughout the twenty-five odd years that I have known him, he has displayed exceptional consistency in his character and personality. His brand promise hardly changed over time. Even with age, when certain traits and weaknesses start to develop as the body no longer match the spirit, the changes in him have been hardly perceptible to the outsider. This is because the changes were linear and not incongruent with his character and personality. Sometimes, only the attention and devotion of a loving daughter would detect these nano-changes in him…
Consistency in brand promise points to authenticity. It is a powerful lever of influence as supported by the research of Dr Roberto Cialdini, the author of the must-read and groundbreaking book “Influence: Psychology of Persuasion”, currently Regents’ Professor Emeritus of Psychology and Marketing at Arizona State University, and who has held visiting scholar's appointments at multiple universities including Stanford University.
Consistency also helps people to know the behaviour they can expect from you which in turn establishes trust.
“Often we don’t realize that our attitude toward something has been influenced by the number of times we have been exposed to it in the past.”
― Robert B. Cialdini, Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion
Relevant values are better remembered.
People tend to better remember values that are relevant to them. For example, values like generosity, affection and kindness are better remembered than values like strength, intelligence or good looks. This is because the first set of values results from an interaction or an experience with the person whilst the second set of values are more focussed on the person himself and may not be so relevant to the target audience. “So what if you are strong or good looking, it does not affect me!” “However, your generosity or kindness are values which I have experienced.”
Bhai Randera’s values included being Caring, Considerate and Generous. These were values that resonated with his audience.
He embraced innovation as a means to reach out to his audience and learnt to surf the web, use emails and text messages, even though he was in his eighties, just to stay relevant to his audience.
Communicate your brand and your values
He was a great communicator and chose to stay in contact regularly with the people that mattered. He wrote articles, gave presentations and communicated regularly by email or phone or in person. Very often he would ask to borrow our driver and vehicle to go and visit people whom he had not seen or met in a while to stay in touch. He would send envelopes with cash gifts to ex-employees and to all those who helped him occasionally. His weekly articles in The Star had developed a fan base that transcended communities. This was the most effective means for him to reach out to a larger audience. He also intervened regularly in forums and gatherings and used these platforms to influence his audience and share his values.
Play to your strength and underplay your weaknesses
Like all of us, he certainly had his flaws. However, these were underplayed and overshadowed by his strengths. Only his closest and dearests will be able to give you an idea of some of his flaws. I suspect that he saw his weaknesses as 'growth areas' and that he was not blindsided by them. Weaknesses are what make us human and often endearing to others and this he certainly was. There were always opportunities to reframe weaknesses and situations.
In business, branding is about user experience. In life, personal branding is about the way one touches the lives of those one comes into contact with. Ismaël Ahmad Randera certainly has touched the lives of a large number of people. He was a catalyst to the changes I brought into my life in my early forties. To this day, we, his children, still benefit from his and his wife's interactions with numerous people over their respective lifetimes. We are confident that we will also benefit from them in the afterlife for they have heavily influenced the way we now live our lives...
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