Branding lessons from Bouris and Packer

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Talking to the AFA Conference, Mark Bouris says that building a trusted brand is an unusual topic for him to talk about – it’s not his role in the YBR company.

However, he has had to build businesses before, and he says that he learnt the most valuable branding lessons from media tycoon Kerry Packer in 1999, when he was trying to convince Packer to invest $25m in Wizard home loans.

Bouris says that after all his due diligence was done and the deal was almost signed, he was summoned into Packer’s office. Packer had three questions for Bouris, which would alter the way he thought about branding going forward:

  1. What kind of business are you in?
  2. Have you ever failed in business before?
  3. How far are you willing to go?

The first question sounded quite simple, until Packer warned him not to say home loans. He told Bouris that he was “in the business of peoples’ hopes and dreams”.

“The brand is only one part of it,” Bouris says. “A brand is a colour, a name, an individual or an icon, that is associated with a message. It’s the message that’s the important bit. The brand itself will get its own gravitas…as a result of what the message is that sits behind it.”

Bouris says it is vital that you find out who your audience is, and what the common denominator is that resonates with them. And you only have one chance.

The second question was about building the brand. Building a trusted brand takes time and Packer wanted to know that Bouris would see the business through its ups and downs.

“[Packer] said to me, ‘if you haven’t been to the brink, you don’t know how to stand up and recover’.”

Finally, Bouris says, trust is about familiarity. People trust what they understand, so you have got to be consistent.

For the last question, Bouris put $25million on the line. He told Packer that he was willing to do whatever it takes to make it work. So Packer challenged him to acquire all of – or an influential interest in – the wholesale funder behind Wizard home loans, in 12 months, or give Packer his $25m back in cash.

Bouris ended up flying to Amsterdam to make the deal. It came through three weeks before his 12-month deadline.

He says that everyone needs to make a commitment to someone about how far they are willing to go. And they need to be tested.

“The potential of losing something, motivates you to do something for gain,” says Bouris.

“This guy can cut through all the crap and get straight to the most important points you need to know for a business,” Bouris says, about the man who taught him how to build a trusted brand.

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