Brand power

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When a family name is the business name it means the marketing has to be used wisely, as what hurts or helps the business can also do the same to the family.

The family name is an asset of incredible value and the Lees have marketed it and managed them like inseparable twins.

“My dad, Ken, died [in] 2007, aged 72. He was a tough but fair businessman,'' says Bing Lee chief executive Lionel Lee. “He taught me a lot about the importance of family values in business. He taught me to treat our staff like part of the family, our loyal suppliers like part of the family, and as far as is possible, to treat customers like part of the family.”

The Lee belief in creating a family-like link to key partners even extended to the early relationship the management team had with Eric Idle in securing the rights to the famous Monty Python I Like Chinese song.

Though the business agreement over the use of the song is now negotiated by agents, originally the deal came out of one-on-one meetings with the great Monty Python star, who wrote the song.

When you look back at the Bing Lee story, there has always been a strong engagement with people who the majority can relate to.

Its ads have always been easy to relate to, but this also brought some challenges. As the voice of Ken had been an important part of Bing Lee advertising, on his death another family member faced an unexpected challenge.

“When Ken died we had to make some important decisions,” Lionel says. “The decision to have Ken become the face and voice of the business was made less than 10 years ago, under the guidance of Barry Anderson [head of Grey Advertising].”

Anderson had always argued that the owner of the business would be more credible than anybody else and the Lee family agreed, but who would it be?

“The two or three months after Ken’s departure were difficult, in more ways than one,” Lionel says.

"When we spoke to Mum, Yenda, about representing the business publicly, she was at first reluctant, naturally so. However after some stern persuasion from Barry and myself, she agreed.

“Mum understood what it meant for the business. And Mum, like Dad, would do anything if it was good for the business.

“As I said before, the business and the family are inseparable.”

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