What do Virgin, Dyson and Blendtec have in common?

Personality and business have been connected ever since industry began. Henry Ford is recognised for revolutionising the car industry, as well as production line manufacturing in general. John D. Rockefeller was the world’s first billionaire and Walt Disney’s dreams still brings joy to children across the globe, nearly 50 years after his death. The same is true for the modern age. Apple’s media events, or Stevenotes, became all about ‘what will Steve Jobs reveal?’ and, to his credit, they worked brilliantly.

But not every business follows the same path. For the billions of pounds brands spent on marketing, some businesses are largely faceless organisations. Without Googling, tell me the senior figurehead at companies like British Airways or Samsung? Difficult isn’t it? For these businesses though that isn’t the point, but it is interesting. They’re all certainly successful but they lack that personal touch. The final piece that sets them apart.

Thankfully, there are others who do.

James Dyson, Richard Branson and Tom Dickson stand out in business. All three of them had the drive to do something different, break convention and achieve success for their business. Without them you wonder where their businesses would be today. But how can you compare two of the world’s most iconic entrepreneurs with a man who sells blenders?

Let’s find out.

James Dyson – Dyson

Very few people can be credited with revolutionising an industry. Even fewer can be described as innovative, especially when the term is overused in business. James Dyson breaks that rule.

Entering a market where the leading brand Hoover, in the UK at least, became synonymous with the activity, Dyson changed the way we hoover… sorry, vacuum. Today, the bagless vacuum cleaner dominates, but none more so than Dyson. The brand leads the industry with anywhere between 20-30% market share in Europe alone.

James Dyson advert

Ever since the Dyson brand launched, the man himself has repeatedly starred in the company’s adverts. This methodology seems to stem from the initial rejections Dyson received from major retailers during the early days. “When I was completely unknown the big retailers wouldn’t take me because they said I wasn’t a brand. I realised that my weakness was probably my strength… people might quite like buying off someone who was doing it all themselves, rather than an anonymous international company.”

So today when we use a Dyson Airblade, we think back to the revolutionary vacuum cleaner and then to the man himself. Subconsciously or not, this reinforces our trust in the product; we know it will work, and work well. And, if you’re like me, when you see a different branded hand dryer or vacuum cleaner, you can’t help but think it’s simply copying Dyson, thereby once again setting off that same train of thought.

However, I do disagree with Mr Dyson on one point of view, ‘brand’. He doesn’t believe in it. Or at least he didn’t back in 2012 during a Wired conference. Assuming I’m not the only one who follows the above thought process, the brand is now synonymous with quality, real innovation and stunning product design. Which means when products like the bladeless fan are released, we can’t help but admire everything about them.

But perhaps this opinion is simply a ploy? A tactic to keep his company and staff focused on the groundbreaking innovation that for so long has set them apart from the competition. Not resting on their laurels, producing any old tat that will sell simply because it’s got a Dyson logo. Which raises the question, what next? Well, according to the man himself, don’t rule out the Dyson car.

Now that’s got you thinking.

Richard Branson – Virgin

Richard Branson is the stereotypical entrepreneur. He left Stowe School at 16 with just three O-Levels and infamous parting words from a headmaster; “Congratulations, Branson. I predict you will either go to prison or become a millionaire.” His wild hair, hippy attitude and serious aversion to ties (he cuts them off anyone he meets), has made him a household name, but also one of the most successful British businessmen ever.

However he probably wouldn’t be if it wasn’t for his understanding of marketing. The man knows when to take a risk and dares to be different. His success began with Mike Oldfield’s Tubular Bells, he signed the Sex Pistols when no one else would and soon had Genesis and The Rolling Stones on his books. He’s launched venture after venture, from trains to planes and even space travel.


For over 45 years he has put himself front and centre, marketing Virgin using his own image and personality to huge success. He’s appeared in numerous adverts, including one with Usain Bolt for Virgin Media, organised marketing stunts and has maintained a hugely high profile since he founded the business. He’s even cameoed in numerous films and TV shows.

His advice on how to market a business stresses the importance on having fun. He’s had failures along the way, but he’s never given in, creating a business empire. Less serious it seems than James Dyson, Branson is not afraid to make a bit of a fool of himself. From abseiling down a Las Vegas hotel (and ripping his suit) to dressing in a Virgin air hostess uniform complete with makeup and lipstick after losing a bet.

PERTH, AUSTRALIA - MAY 12: Sir Richard Branson waves farewell prior to his flight to Kuala Lumpur at Perth International Airport on May 12, 2013 in Perth, Australia. Sir Richard Branson lost a friendly bet to AirAsia Group Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandez after wagering on which of their Formula One racing teams would finish ahead of each other in their debut season of the 2010 Formula One Grand Prix in Abu Dhabi and that the loser would serve as a female flight attendant on board the winner's airline. (Photo by Paul Kane/Getty Images)

If that doesn’t get you column inches, I don’t know what will.

Tom Dickson – Blendtec

For every Branson and Dyson, there’s Tom Dickson – the founder and CEO of Blendtec, a company that sells professional and domestic blenders. Bordering on mad scientist, Dickson is most famous for hosting the brand’s viral marketing campaign Will It Blend?.

Following the common American infomercial style of ‘slightly deranged man talking at the camera’, albeit with a twist, the series follows a simple formula. Will it blend? And in the nine years since the campaign started, the ‘it’ list is massive. My favourites include:

Tom Dickson Will It Blend?

Nevertheless, the campaign is so simple in its execution. The product’s single purpose becomes its own marketing USP, generating hundreds of millions of YouTube hits and I’m sure a healthy profit for Mr Dickson. Every brand is different, but the success of Will It Blend? proves that sometimes you don’t need an expensive, holistic campaign to generate sustained awareness. If anything, this proves Richard Branson’s opinion on how to market your business fairly cheaply, leading with your own personality.

But, even if you do, if the idea isn’t strong enough it will never fly.

It is pleasing though to see that Blendtec’s marketing has evolved alongside Will It Blend? While these videos keep brand awareness ticking over, it regularly shares numerous recipes (with the blender still at the centre of the action) to maintain its audience. This reinforces the lesson of not relying solely on a single idea. Your customers will switch off, especially in the short-attention-span-world of social media.

Ultimately the passion of one man for his business has helped Blendtec achieve success. Much like Dyson and Branson, Tom Dickson wholeheartedly believes in his product and the benefits it brings to the consumer. There’s no doubt that each of the gents featured in this post achieve results for their businesses. After all, despite their different methods, that’s the sole point of what they’re trying to do. But, if you’re looking to take away one piece of advice after you’ve finished reading, remember this, they share one personality trait crucial for success – passion.

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Dad, digital marketeer at Tank PR, Derby County fan, film buff, book worm and husband. In that order, but don't tell the wife.