Grow, don’t bloat!

January 8th, 2019  •  4 minute read

Why bad branding is to blame for Henry VIII’s whopping waistline.

Photo: Siora Photography on Unsplash

Unless you’ve spent the vast majority of your life hiding from history books, you’re probably quite familiar with this former King of England. And there are a few things we all probably know about Henry VIII.

Henry had a lot of wives.

On occasion, he liked to chop their heads off.

He was a fan of music and liked a sing-a-long.

He was extremely paranoid about getting unwell.

Oh, and he was a Henry was a pretty big fella. Everyone knows that.

But what you might not know is that Henry didn’t come into this world portly and cursing all women.

Combine his love of hunting and jousting (pretty much anything else that got his blood pumping) and the former King of England was once a fit, healthy, happy chappy.

As we all know, that didn’t last.

Over the years, the King of England gradually transformed into a perpetually plump, grumpy git. And when he finally died in 1547, he was completely unrecognisable.

Image: Henry VIII (1491–1547) by Hans Holbein the younger

So what was the catalyst for such a big (pun intended) change?

Some historians blame a jousting accident that never properly healed.

Others argue it was the 70 pints of beer a week combined with untreated diabetes.

But whatever was to blame for his rotund physique, Henry’s fear of poor health came true in a big way, and he only had himself to blame.

This isn’t just about portly monarchs. Over time, things change. Even some of our favourite brands change. Some for the better, others… not so much.

Remember how good Cream Eggs were before they changed the recipe?

Or that time Royal Mail changed their name to Consignia?

Some of us are still boycotting Cif until it’s switched back to Jif.

Changing for the worse. It’s a nasty trap anyone can fall into. Whether you’re a startup, scaleup, market leader or Tudor monarch.

It often happens when companies expand quickly. They’re now bigger, so think they need to offer more. Which is often at the expense of refining what they know. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it really, really doesn’t.

Take Apple for example. Love them or loathe them, they hold a colossal position in the tech market.

But before Steve Jobs returned to the helm — after being famously ousted seven years earlier — Apple was just weeks away from bankruptcy.

It even took an investment of $150 million from Microsoft, their primary competitors at the time, to keep them afloat.

On his return, Jobs stripped Apple back to its roots. He cut any off-brand products, including the Newton MessagePad, and developed the core four: the Power Macintosh G3 desktop, the PowerBook, the iMac desktop and the iBook.

Time has passed and their offering has once again grown, but Apple has a consistent way of looking and speaking that’s instantly recognised almost anywhere in the world.

The lesson that’s to be learned?

You’ve expanded. Whether it’s going well, or not, take a step back.

You’re different. That’s fine, nothing stays the same forever.

But do you still resonate with your core customers? The ones you wouldn’t be here without.

Do you still care about the same things they do? That made them loyal to you in the first place.

Or have your values and purpose changed?

You may have never had them in the first place, so people (including your staff) aren’t really sure who you are.

Losing sight of these things or completely failing to define them can be a fateful blow for businesses — old or new.

It doesn’t matter how great your idea is. People need to know who you are — and why they should be loyal to you.

Let’s take a look at Chetwood, a new player in the fintech market. They wanted to change banking services for the better and asked us to help. We’ve worked with them since day one, beginning by defining their Organising Idea.

If you’re wondering what an Organising Idea is, it’s what your business believes in, cares about and stands for. It’s the truth about who you are. It has clarity, relevance and confidence behind it.

Since we started working with Chetwood, they’ve launched LiveLend — their first financial product- and received £150 million in investment from Elliot, one of the best-known investors in the financial services sector. On top of that, they were the only retail bank in 2018 to receive their full UK banking licence.

We’re expecting big things from them.


They know their product. They know their market. They know their customers.

And they communicate it consistently.

Will they change in the future? Probably.

Will they still matter to their first customers? Yes, we’re sure of that.