How to Make Your Brand Charismatic When You Are A Bootstrapped Startup

If you are an early stage startup, you may say that you have more burning concerns about getting your startup off the ground then the pursuing elusive brand building. 

But if any of you are going to succeed in building a big company in the longterm, you’ve got to really get good at building a charismatic brand from the beginning. 

I’m sure you can’t wait to dive right into what exactly it means for a brand to be charismatic and what is good about being charismatic –so let’s get to it! We’ll start with a fun little exercise. 

What do the following brands have in common? 

  1. TOMS 

  2. Channel

  3. Oprah Winfrey 

  4. Apple 

  5. Ellen DeGeneres 

  6. Jackie Kennedy-Onassis 

  7. Michelle Obama 

  8.  Esty

  9.  Greta Thunberg
  10.   RedBull

Did you guess that they are all well known? If so, then, yes –you are correct. Each one of these brands or individuals is (or was in their lifetime) quite famous. But that isn’t the answer I was looking for. 

What about financial success?  You are right, but that’s not what I had in mind when I selected these brands for this example. 

What about their appearance or style? If you did, I would agree that each one of them is quite “easy on the eye,” as the expression goes. Nevertheless; a collective sense of style is not why they were chosen for this list. 

The thing all of these brands have in common is charisma. 

Each and every one of these brand/individual is (or was) famous, good fortune and good-looking – but these are not the reasons people like them, remember them, admire them and aspire to be like them, or own their products. They may have achieved broad mindshare (famous), which in most cases brought them financial rewards, but it was their charisma that brought them recognition (fame). Most would agree that each of these brands has an appealing look, and this is true, but it wasn’t their appearance that made them famous or brought their fortune – it was their charisma. 

What is Charisma and What is it Good for? 

Let’s start with what “it” is. What is charisma? 

Is it a personality trait? Is it a perception? Is there a special place in the brain that controls charisma? 

I say that charisma is a way of being that radians a perception. When you are charismatic individual, interacting with you causes people to feel a desire to do what you want them to do and a desire for you to like them. Charisma is more than just a matter of influence. It makes people want to earn your favor and be in your good graces.  

When you want to think about a charismatic brand, first of all let’s backtrack and think about what defines a brand!

A modern day brand is not longer a logo or a product,  a brand is the relationship of a brand and its audience — a set of meaningful emotional experiences unfolding between a brand and its audience. Just like individuals, brands can be inspiring, engaging and charismatic, or self-important, bland and confusing. When a brand creator emulates charismatic person’s way of being explained in this blog, it pulls people into in the cherished value system the brand pursues and imbues the brand’s messages in the fabric of its audience’s inner dialogue.

What is elusive is that brand charisma occurs on the outside, and it’s all about perception, but charisma originates on the inside with organizational mindsets,  values, beliefs, and emotions. You can think of charisma as a certain type of magnetic quality or alluring appeal. It is equated with the power of irresistible attraction. Charisma is what draws people to your brand because of what is within your organization. 

Now, let’s talk about what charisma is good for: 

  1. Charisma makes your brand visible, noticeable, and approachable.

  1. Charisma will cause your audience to see your brand as highly desirable to have.

  1. Charisma will cause audience to evangelize for you. 

1. Charisma makes you visible, noticeable, and approachable. 

Charisma is often described as “Presence,” and for good reason — they are noticed –and not soon forgotten. 

When a charismatic person walks into the room, people immediately become interested and they want to know more. Who is she/he? I wonder what she/he does for a living. It isn’t because she/he is good looking or wearing some expensive outfit –even if she/he has both things working in their favor. People notice them because they have the “it factor.” They got charisma. 

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2. Charisma will cause your audience to see your brand as highly desirable to have.


Just like charismatic individual causes people to feel a desire to do what you want them to do and a desire for you to like them. It makes people want to earn your favor and be in your good graces.  

A charismatic brand causes its audience a natural desire to learn about the brand more significantly, and the more they engage in learning about your brand, the more you are able to insidiously influence their perspectives with your worldviews and the values you cherish, and results in their rallying about new meaning and new norms in their life by owning your brand’s artifacts, which could means purchasing the services or products, or participating in your brand’s experience.

3. Charismatic brand will cause audience to evangelizing for you. 

Remember, charisma is about perception. When your brand exude a charisma, your audience find it inviting — it sends a message that says their interactions with your organization will be pleasant and satisfactory, which lead to bonding on a longer-term and a deeper emotional level. All these create more great opportunities for your audience to spread the word for you.

Charisma is equal to power plus warmness

Power + Warmth = Charisma 

Specifically, studies conducted by J. M. Howell and P.J. Frost proved that people can strategically manipulate other people’s perceptions about their own charisma. These findings were published in Organizational Behavior and Human Decision Processes, a highly esteemed research journal. They called the article “A Lab Study of Charismatic Leadership.” 

At its core, charisma is nothing more than the combination of power and warmth. Remember that charisma is alluring, attractive and magnetic. In other words, being charismatic means you seem to have some form of power, which emanates from the core of your being. 

Power comes in many forms. However; most agree that status, immense resources, style, intelligence and esteemed industrial or professional position can all be great sources of power. When a person or an organization possesses one or more of these traits, they are perceived as being powerful and having influence. 

You might ask when you are a resource strapped startup, how are you able to amass power and influence?

That’s the cool thing about charisma –everything is based on perception. As a startup, you can be authentic about your scrappiness, however, you can demonstrate other traits of powerfulness such as being competent, and intelligent, and communicate clarity, don’t need to have boundless resource or industry position to cause someone to unconsciously respond to you as if you are powerful

  • a. Charisma occurs when other people perceive you as being competent and powerful, while simultaneously experiencing you as someone with warmth and interest. You can generate this perception even if it isn’t true. 

  • b. You can increase your charisma by doing things that cause you to appear confident, like projecting a humble attitude, but with indications that you are already accustomed to people recognizing you as someone of significance. 

  • c. When you combine charisma with the radiant warmth that comes from deep listening skills and focused attention, people take notice and remember their interaction with you. 

Here’s how you develop the charismatic brand for your startup: 

First:  Communicate brand messages clearly across the board. And this really makes all the sense in the world. 

If you’re going to woo people to follow you and use your product or service, if you’re going to have other people want to do the thing you’re compelling them to do, you have to be able to paint a clear and compelling vision of the future for them to be able to follow. 

And as a company grows, as any organization grows, your communication has to get better and better and better because you’ve got more diverse people who are hearing it. And your processes that you use to communicate can no longer be one-on-one, but they have to scale as the organization itself scales.

The biggest lesson in good clear communications to me, the most sort of important thing is that great communication needs to be simple. 

And simplicity in communication is really hard and to communicate simply takes a lot of time and preparation. 

There is an example here of Woodrow Wilson, President Woodrow Wilson who was once asked how long it would take him, he was asked to give a speech and he was asked how long would he need to prepare. And he said, “Well, it depends how long you guys want me to talk. If it’s a 10 minute speech, then I’m going to need two weeks to prepare for it. If I can talk for half an hour, I only need a week. But, if I can talk as long as I want to, then I don’t need any preparation at all. I can speak right now.” 

So that from one of the presidents of the United States in effect captures the point, if you want to communicate simply, if you want to express things that are memorable and that can be repeated, it takes time to prepare. 

Another great example here from business for me is from Jeff Bezos when he was asked a about Amazon’s retail strategy, what is Amazon’s retail strategy? And he said that the way we think about our retail strategy is that there are three things that will never change in our world. 

In other words, customers will always want three things from Amazon. They’ll always want lower prices, they’ll always want bigger selection of merchandise, and they’ll always want faster delivery. 

So lower prices, more merchandise, more selection, and faster delivery. And he could never imagine that a consumer would ever want the opposite of any of these three things. And those three things became the pillars of Amazon’s retail strategy for the last 20 years. And employees knew that anything they did to drive those three things, lower prices, faster delivery, and more selection, would be in the longterm strategic interests of Amazon, and it was clear as day, and it drove the strategy of the company for a long, long time. 

So that’s the kind of communication that we’re talking about. That’s the kind of simplicity that’s effective. So how do you get good at this?

 Obviously clear, concise communication comes more naturally to some people than others. 

But I do believe that practice does make you better when it comes to communication. And I believe that even in small startups, even in two to four person startups, as long as you have other people you’re working with, it pays to work on communicating clearly. 

So the way you get better is, number one, to realize that clarity of thought proceeds clarity of messages.

So you have to think clearly to communicate clearly. 

The second: Find the right early customers/audience for your brand.

And why is this important?  The decisions that you make in terms of who to engage and empower as early customers have a really profound impact on the future of the company. 

You have to make really good choices in terms of who you empower because they will become the evangelists of your business which is like the extensions of your organization. So how do you get good at this one? You can find advices in this blog post  7 Tips for talking to early users /customers.

Third: Pursue a cherished value of your customers’

That means standing for something meaningful beyond your business and being motivated by things outside of your narrow business interests. 

People see this and they respect it and they want to engage with your brand. 

So how do you get good at this?  This is about being able to show empathy, and having good timing when you confront issues. It’s about striving for something bigger than yourself and not being selfish or self centered. 

You’ll have to admit mistakes to your customers. Try to view every challenge as an opportunity to increase the trust that people have in your brand. Try to view every challenge as a trust building opportunity.

And as you evaluate one course of action versus another, ask yourself which path is going to generate more trust in your brand and always try to choose that path. the

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