Repellent nature

Repellent nature

It’s often easier to begin with what you definitely don’t want.

Every block of stone has a statue inside it, and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.


Many businesses are tightly focused on attracting customers from any direction. Strategies based on the “Law of Attraction” are popular, often resulting in a vague wish-list of desires with little foundation in real life and lacking in concrete direction or defined action.

It can be easy to find yourself overwhelmed with options. New data and trends surface daily and only add to the distraction.

What is an ambitious business to do?

I’ve found a powerful tool is the simple question of “who do you want to repel?”.

Similar to a sculptor chipping away at excess marble to eventually reveal the masterpiece within, starting with what you don’t want for your business is often a simple exercise that helps narrow choices and define what you do want.

It’s sometimes counter-intuitive to embrace the negative. But it’s often the best start to get moving toward the positive, and movement is the most reliable guide towards results that really matter.

Hey, what’s the big idea?

Hey, what’s the big idea?

I see so much confusion in the market about how to actually execute a brand.

The entire concept seems to be more trouble than it could possibly be worth, and many marketers actually end up even more confused after trying to implement a brand strategy. Not a good advertisement for branding in general.

And yet, the value of a powerful brand is evident. Shareholder value has been proven to increase in brand-led companies.

So what’s the secret?

There are two crucial sides to any successful brand – the strategic framework and the execution. Both must be given sufficient attention and investment if the brand is to gain traction. But one thing unites them: the brand idea.

The brand idea is the clarion call that expresses your brand precisely. It is at once clear, differentiated, inspiring and ownable.

Abraham Lincoln is quoted as having said, “If I had five minutes to chop down a tree, I’d spend the first three sharpening my axe.” If you have five days to develop a brand, I’d recommend spending the first three crafting your brand idea.

All of your business aspirations should be contained in your brand idea. So should your relevance to your market. But once created, it will be the lynchpin to your entire brand, ensuring clarity of communication and consistency of messaging.

The true power of any brand is its central brand idea – make sure you get yours right.

E-Myth Visuals

E-Myth Visuals

It may come as a shock that the majority of businesses overlook the huge potential of visual imagery to provide a significant market advantage. The difficulty of empirical measurement causes many to shy away from embracing it, or even to dispute the effectiveness of visuals to shape perception. As John Wanamaker said over a century ago: “Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted; the trouble is I don’t know which half”.

It’s the emotional power of visuals that is both their strength and the reason they are mainly dismissed in the boardroom. On one side, emotion drives action (and sales), but how do we measure emotional connection in any meaningful way?

Yet the companies which embrace visuals – defined as “brand-led” companies – consistently perform better in the market than companies that do not. In the wake of the success of Apple, Nike, Starbucks and the like, more traditionally-led firms scrambled to emulate that success. Me-too strategies appeared everywhere, without an inherent understanding of the underlying driver of the brand success – a deep commitment to visual communication and design to engage customers at the human level. Copying tactics are always playing catch-up, and bound to fail.

In “The E-Myth Enterprise”, Michael E. Gerber writes: ” Should it come as a surprise to you when I say that to conceive, create, and successfully maintain an extraordinarily effective business… has much more to do with the management of impressions than it has to do with the management of people?

The management of impressions is the management of people. And visual impressions are the most powerful impressions of all.”

The surface of brand cosmetics

The surface of brand cosmetics

The most effective brands are designed to perform. They are optimized to gain their audience’s attention, stand out from their competition, deliver a compelling reason to engage, and cultivate customer loyalty.

Too often these goals are approached by touting superior products or services. But businesses are slowly realizing that these claims simply contribute to the increasing market noise and inevitable slide to commodification and price wars.

Grasping at the “brand” straw, businesses then throw the most meager possible dollars at the lowest budget “funnel” creators, copywriters and designers. These providers, in turn, produce glossy but often profoundly shallow communications materials, guided by tired and easy trends that only sink brands further into the mire.

This is the trap of brand cosmetics.

Brand cosmetics are a surface veneer that rarely dip into any relevant meaning for the customer. They tend toward current fashion and any perceived instant gratification – short term results and quarterly sales targets. Rarely do they provide any lasting brand value.

Businesses serious about long-term growth and foundational strength will eventually realize that investment in their brand is not about looking smart or saving cash. If your brand doesn’t connect with your customers’ values in a deeper way, you are simply treading water, and wasting time, energy and resources.

Your true competition

Your true competition


There is a lot of focus on the customer persona, the target audience, the avatar. And while this is important, I don’t see much attention being paid to the competition.

In a world of noise, what gets noticed is the different. And being different depends on a consciousness of our environment, and how our audience is experiencing it. And how we stand out within it.

But many businesses focus solely on the competition within their field. On how they are positioned against other toothpastes. Other financial institutions. Other carmakers.

Defining the real competition often requires taking a step back, especially with higher-priced offerings. Your potential customer is also choosing between your product and perhaps a nice restaurant meal, some new jewelry, an exotic vacation. Or maybe a new photocopier, LMS system or corporate offsite.

It’s never just about your business, or even its category. Customer choice is a wide playing field. Your brand needs to provide the evidence that it is worthy of its competition. And your competition is not always evident.


FREE BrandBase™ Scorecard


The Brandbase™ Scorecard is a concept and tool I have been using with brands of all sizes since 1995. Organizations have found it to be the single most important tool in setting strategic brand goals. 

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