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On message: What is a family office’s brand?

A report by consultancy EY found family office branding can predict as much as 35% of return on equity when combined with growth ambition, sustainability, and family cohesion. But what is a family office brand?

A report by consultancy EY found family office branding can predict as much as 35% of return on equity when combined with growth ambition, sustainability, and family cohesion. But what is a family office brand?

Stakeholders, ranging from family members, professional advisers, employees, clients and communities, differ in their structural relationship to the family office, depending on whether it is a single family office (SFO) or multi family office (MFO).

A family office brand is the embodiment of a coveted and exclusive idea shared by stakeholders. This idea is embodied in people, products, services, places, and experiences of the family office. It comprises both intangible concepts and tangible ones, such as logo symbol, colour, term, design, sound, and name, which together form the brand.

Norwegian SFO Ferd has a distinctive and modern font for its name and the reassuring strapline for its brand: “We will create enduring value and leave clear footprints.”

US SFO Fremont Group has timeless and natural images suggesting continual growth to accompany its strapline: ‘Generations of enduring values and entrepreneurial drive.”

This is because cognition alone is insufficient. Strong family office brands have an intense emotional component evoked by the idea in its totality, which at its most successful engenders powerful attachment to them.

Brand power to influence relies therefore on representation and stakeholder relationships. A representation is a mental association of the value system within family dynamics and people, places, products, experiences, and services. Values manifest in brand personality, which is ingrained as the singular DNA of each family office. Mental associations, known as brand image, comprise a narrative of values or brand identity. Over time this identity becomes a heritage.

US SFO 1888 Management and Swiss MFO Cottonfield Family Office have interesting narratives concerning their names and history. Brand image is signified by a name, which in successful family offices commands trust, respect, passion and even engagement and loyalty.

Since branding is now recognised as intrinsic to a family office’s capital, it should be exploited for gain. Family office brands can be developed for profit, where profit is most significantly quantified as reputational benefit which enables brands to have power to influence the markets.

Branding problems centre on family dynamics that are unique to each family office. Areas which can impact on branding and erode strong family cohesion, the principal reason for family office branding, include:

  • Communication and conflict resolution
  • Women in leadership
  • Culture (governance; family values; staffing)
  • Succession
  • Reputation

Family office dynamics which adversely impact branding require effective stewardship or brand management, which starts with communication, culture, and reputation. Internal and external communications are there to structure and steer tangible perceptions of culture and to add intangible ones. Reputation is managed by public relations, marketing collateral, and internal communications.

The aim of brand management is to preserve reputation and gain power for the family office. These increase market share by making family office brands more known, emotionally invested in, influential, and engaging and ensures that the family office survives into the future while guarding its present and protecting its past.


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