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In Praise Of The Ordinary

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

We devote a lot of resources to creating the momentous. Dressing the window for the big sales event, crafting the sales pitch for a product launch, planning the grand family celebration—those orchestrated events to remember, where we can shine. The truth is we have the potential to make the most impact in more ordinary moments. Those times when we do the human, unexpected thing without a script because we care, not because it’s expected or people are watching.

Your customers will rave about the little thing you didn’t have to do, more than the specifications you met. Your team will be talking about how you reacted when they missed a sales target, long after they’ve forgotten what you said in your speech on launch day. And your child will remember the weight of your arm on his shoulder when he fails, more vividly than the balloons and candles at his birthday party.

Thoughtful, human acts carried out without applause are worth more than grand gestures made under bright lights. The ordinary is underrated.

Image by Kathy

Meeting, Managing And Exceeding Expectations

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

If a brand is a promise, then the expectations people have of the brand are created by the promises we make. Meeting expectations is about the alignment of words and deeds.

Disappointment occurs when we don’t do what we say we’re going to do. When we promise more than we can deliver or pretend to be something we’re not. Ironically, we are the ones who are most disappointed when we don’t meet the standards we set. We have the power to change this, by prioritising building trust over making an impression and only setting the expectations we’re willing to live up to.

Easy to say. Harder to do. That’s why it’s worth the effort.

Image by Bert Heymans


The False Promise Of Shortcuts

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

The promise of a shortcut is the most powerful marketing tool you can wield. That’s why we see it used so often and effectively. Diet shakes have done little to make a dent in the obesity crisis, and yet they are part of a thriving multi-billion dollar industry. We all know what works is regular and stepwise progress, choosing the salad and putting on our running shoes more often than we reach for the chocolate cake and the TV remote.

And so it goes for whatever we’re endeavouring to do.

It’s not just what you do that counts, but the way you choose to do it. When in doubt take the stairs.

Image by Philippe Woolgar

You Don’t Need To Compete When You Know Who You Are

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing, Success

Before globalisation, marketing, hair straighteners and the bullworker, our tribal ancestors and village businesses stood out by excelling at their craft. They became known for doing the thing other people in the village couldn’t or wouldn’t do. They were beloved for the way they went about their work. Not much has changed about how loyalty is earned, and a brand is built—except for our ideas about how to get noticed and gain traction. Now we look for the magic formula. We try to stand out by doing a little of what everyone else is doing.

The irony is, the people we admire and the brands we aspire to emulate, gain our respect because they are original. Mimicry is futile. You stand out by understanding what makes you unique—not what gets you noticed. Taking a stand that only you can take is underrated.

You don’t need to compete when you know who you are.

Image by Scooter Loweriemore

Choose Delight Over Satisfaction

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

When a flight is delayed why are the passengers who quietly accept their fate and meal vouchers never the ones who get priority on the next available flight? Our instinct is to acknowledge and take care of the customer who complains the loudest. We work hardest to get the dissatisfied, those unlikely to become raving fans, to the point of satisfaction. This strategy leaves fewer resources to delight our satisfied customers. It’s easy to take the contented regular for granted.

It’s hard to ignore the noisy bell. But focusing on the people who don’t feel they have a voice is the most important work we can do. Who are you taking for granted and how can you make them happier?

Image by Scott Ableman

The Rise Of The Interested

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing, Success

It doesn’t seem that long ago since a customer would get personal service at a drapery shop even if she was only buying four buttons for the baby cardigan she’d made. A real conversation ensued and colours were carefully matched. By the time money changed hands the assistant knew who the cardigan was for, when the baby was due and how many grandchildren the customer had. In the past, most companies gathered information because they were interested in helping, so they could serve us better. Now we immediately ask for the customer’s email address, we collect data, not out of interest, but often just to leverage it. We’ve allowed efficiency to suck the joy from our work.

Our obsession with optimisation and squeezing the most out of every interaction has led us down the path of knowing the facts, without caring about the stories and the people behind them. I think we’re beginning to realise our mistake. We’re often surprised by what we learn when we express a genuine interest in people. No work was ever worsened because it was carried out with empathy.

Image by Andrew

Navigating Opportunity

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

Have you noticed how different the world feels when you set out on a familiar journey but leave five minutes earlier? You experience things you’d ordinarily miss. You become aware of the subtle change in the light or weight of the clouds. The traffic moves easily through green lights, and the birdsong is louder. You see the tall guy in a blue suit walking his Alsatian before heading to work. Pass the homeless people who haven’t yet tidied themselves away. Cross paths with delivery men arriving at closed cafes, laden with fresh vegetables or warm croissants. People seem unhurried. Their cadence altered by the change in the city’s rhythm.

You’re in the same place, walking the same route and yet the terrain seems entirely new.

It’s possible to view opportunity through a similar lens. When you think you’ve hit a wall on your journey, it may not be time to take an alternative path. Maybe you just need to find a different way to navigate it?

Image by Jes

Only You

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

We had a storm on Saturday. More than 20mm of rain in minutes. We lost power shortly afterwards but managed to isolate the problem until we could get Frank, the electrician to come on Monday. He was busy. One of his big contractors had also called him out that day and they were a priority—regular work that paid the bills. He couldn’t put them off because they wouldn’t wait. As he said, as far as they were concerned, ‘If it wasn’t him it would be somebody else.’ They wanted an electrician, they didn’t care who it was.

How Frank has positioned himself (in his head as much as much as anywhere else) is not where you want to be. Another hat in the ring. Just one of many. The best option as long as it’s fastest or cheapest.

Your aim is to be the one people seek out. The one they don’t want to live without. The business worth crossing town to visit. The deliberate choice for the people you serve best. In a globalised world, we tend to think competition is inevitable. That attitude is often our best defence of our drift towards the middle. Choosing to be at the edge, then staying there is a choice. It’s the harder one at first, but in the end, it becomes the decision that frees us to do our best work.

Image by Stephanus Riosetiawan

More And Less

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

We sometimes trick ourselves into believing we can have the best of both worlds. A foot in both camps. Full belly and cake on the plate. Working towards a goal means abandoning an alternative worldview. Brands like Mecca Cosmetica, Lululemon and Blue Bottle Coffee thrive because they are crystal clear about their identity. Like them, we have to choose what we will be more of and less of to create a successful business.

More about service, less about volume.
Less about scale, more about significance.
More about affinity, less about awareness.
Less about tomorrow’s results, more about lasting impact.
More about the right customers, less about the most customers.
Less about reach, more about resonance.
More about the long game, less about near-term gains.
Less about competing, more about mattering.

Being all things to everyone is never a sustainable option. The good news is you decide what stance to take.

Image by Sonny Abesamis

Questions Worth Asking

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The progress we make in business and in life hinges on our ability to ask the right questions at the right time. What we need to discern and prioritise are the questions it’s most important to address.

The questions we don’t know the answers to can be divided into three categories:

1. Questions that can’t be answered yet.
2. Questions that aren’t worth asking.
3. Questions we should be answering, but haven’t had the courage or thought to ask.

We spend the majority of our time going around in circles addressing one and two. But it’s three—the questions we haven’t considered that get us to where we want to go. It’s always harder to determine if this is the right path than to inquire, which way next.

What are the questions you’ve been afraid to or have forgotten to ask? These are ones worth answering.

Image by Alexis Mialaret