Public Image Limited


A good startup knows who they are and what values they want to project. Startups need an identity that encapsulates – in the simplest way – why their business exists and what needs it services.

Image Group International’s Jon Michail knows all about image. He is a past winner of the prestigious International Image-Maker of the Year USA Award (the only Australian to have won this award to date) a recipient of the Australian Achievers Award and winner of the Hong Kong Bank Business Award for export services. 

“Image and identity is about communicating a core message. It is about who someone is and what he or she stands for in the simplest manner. That’s why branding works. A lot of startups look at raising money as their first step, but that is counterintuitive to what happens in the real world,” says Michail. 

A prior understanding of image and identity will help secure funds from an investor. The trap is that many startups feel they need the funds to create their identity, when in fact it is the reverse scenario.

“The startup’s founder may say there is no money to build an image, however what they fail to see is that by creating an image, their return on investment will be greater when contact is initiated with an investor. 

“If the startup is able to relate their values and what they represent, then they can tell a story that is attractive to investors. Their image and identity should encompass values, vision and what they hope to achieve with the company and its product or service.”

When creating your image, set up a checklist. The more boxes you tick on that checklist before approaching an investor, the more success you will have with your pitch.

“In my experience, this can be an afterthought,” Michail says. “Too many startups think of the numbers only. What they don’t realise is that numbers don’t audit the emotional decisions customers make. Image and identity are the connectors to your customers. In other words, the sizzle of the steak is part of the sale.”

There are certain factors that make a business whole. All of those factors should have an impact on the company’s identity.

When Michail looks at investing in startups he wants to know who he is investing in. This means knowing who the leadership team is, how members of that team reflect their personal brand and identity and what they stand for. He wants the leader to have a powerful personal brand. It is not unusual for an investor to put their money into the team as opposed to the product itself, so a strong presence and identity may be the thing that gets a startup seeking funding across the line. The feeling is that a strong leader will keep everyone on brand message.

Take Virgin for instance. Every Virgin brand is associated with Richard Branson, whether the entrepreneur has something to do with that brand or not. His personal brand has a major impact on the corporate brand. That has a direct impact on share price.

“The pitch, the leader, the team, the corporate brand is made up of human beings especially in start up mode,” Michail says. “If you get this right from the start, if you know the image you wish to project then you will give yourself a greater chance at success.”