Unlock the magic in your story now.

Get the free 20 Questions to ask before launching your Idea Workbook when you sign up for updates.

Knowing What You Don’t Know

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Marketing

The most unhelpful assumption we make as marketers is that our customers know why they need our products or services. From there we think our job is to offer proof—to tell people why we are the best alternative. The first rule of innovation, sales and marketing is to understand the customer’s pain points (often before the customer knows them) and then to show her what life will be like in the presence of your product.

Your success is often determined by knowing what you don’t know about your customers, and by being aware of what they don’t grasp about their problems. Double down on understanding before offering proof.

Image by UN Women

What’s Beyond Reach?

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

When U2 perform a stadium concert, their reach is the entire audience of 60,000 eager fans. As he sings the first note, Bono understands his job is to create an emotional connection with every member of the audience. If the concert goer isn’t changed by the experience, then she might as well have stayed at home and listened to the album on her iPod.

In a commercial world, we spend the majority of our time trying to reach people—often measuring our success by counting the numbers of people who receive our fliers, browse our products or view our pages. It’s easy to lose sight of the fact that ‘reach’ is never the end goal. It’s simply the starting point on the road to delivering value and creating an impact.

What’s the real marker of your influence or progress?
Are you investing resources in the things you want to change?

Image by U2 Start

The Forgotten Marketer

filed in Brand Strategy, Marketing

The best marketer I ever knew was a magician. Literally. John Knight was legendary, and not just amongst children. His act was the highlight of birthday parties and community events. He could keep a group of sugar high children transfixed. But he also knew a big part of his job wasn’t the magic tricks—it was his ability to reassure and take pressure off frazzled parents come party day.

John Knight’s magic tricks varied very little, and that didn’t matter. His real magic was empathy for his paying customer. Everything he did, from confirming the booking, to turning up early and herding kids to the table to sing happy birthday, said; ‘I see you,’ to his customer. The skill was in how he did it. The way he showed up—his way.

Of course, at the end of the party, John had six more bookings. No advertising required. His work was his message. In a world where we’ve become obsessed with followers and followings, likes and shares, simply doing a great job is underrated. Your work can be your message.

Image by Oliver Gouldthorpe

Perfect Ten

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

When we think of our work or products and services, we imagine the perfect ten version of them. The days without a wrinkle, when we are in the zone, and everything is running like clockwork.

Striving for ten while knowing it’s rarely achievable is not easy. The ability to live that paradox is how we make progress and create change—by the millimetre. Showing up to do our best, even when we wish it were better.

Image by Andrea Passoni

The Art Of Differentiation

filed in Brand Story, Success

We, humans, have always been good at noticing what’s compelling about others. Our species’ survival has depended on our ability to recognise strengths and weed out weaknesses. Today, that skill leads us down the road of unhealthy comparison. We have no trouble rattling off the positive attributes of a colleague, competitor or even the guy working out next to us at the gym. And yet we struggle to be as generous about our own.

It’s fine for Roger Federer to study a competitor’s gameplay before they go head-to-head because he needs to respond tactically in the moment. But the majority of Federer’s winning shots come from understanding his strengths and working on what he does well. Becoming more of who he is gets him over the line.

It’s doubtful that comparing yourself or your work to someones else’s will get you to where you want to go. Whether as an individual or a brand—you can’t own your unique identity if you’re spending the majority of your time looking over your shoulder. Differentiation happens when you authentically amplify the best of you. Not by finding ways to be a version of the competition, but by discovering how to be more of who you are. That’s where your search for clarity needs to begin.

Image by Marianne Bevis


The Power Of Constraints

filed in Brand Story, Marketing

What’s the best thing about the place where you live?
What word describes your favourite book?
What’s the first thing you tell a friend when you recommend a special restaurant?
What standout experience made your last holiday memorable?
What’s the main reason you shop where you do?
What’s the biggest benefit of flying with this airline and not that one?
Why choose Apple over Android? Coffee instead of tea? Vanilla above chocolate?

If you could tell a prospective customer just one thing about your product or service—what would that one thing be? Constraints can be a powerful way to get to the heart or what’s important to both you and the people you hope to serve.

Image by Edwin Bachetti

What The Best Marketers Know

filed in Marketing

The call centre operator insists ‘this is not a cold call’. She knows time is running out, so she desperately accelerates her sales pitch—speaking without pausing to either breathe or listen. She was trained to believe it’s possible to close the sale if she can just impart all the information in her script. Sadly, she’s been misled.

The best marketers know permission is a requirement, not an option.
That people rarely make decisions based on the facts
And stories create value.

The best marketers know patience trumps pressure and trust takes time.
That generosity and empathy are underrated.
And there is no shortcut to mattering.

The best marketers know every day starts with a choice.
That we can choose to be the best or take the shortcut.
Which will you choose today?

Image by World Bank

Flipping The Focus Group

filed in Brand Naming, Marketing

We’ve been using focus groups for eighty years in an attempt to understand how to create things people want to buy and messages they want to hear. And while we question what our customers like and what demographic they fit into, we rarely think about who they are beyond the choices they make. What if we flipped our usual pattern of trying to understand to be understood on its head?

Seven Customer-Focused Questions

1. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think about your customer?
2. What three words would you use to describe him?
3. What do you like best about him?
4. What are his strengths and weaknesses?
5. How does working with or creating for him make you feel?
6. If you could change one thing about him what would that be?
7. What else can you say about him?

When we change how we think about our customers everything we do changes too.

Image by Carol P

A World Built On Promises

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

Today you woke in a bed the manufacturer promised would give you a good nights sleep. You ate something for breakfast that was made in a factory you have never visited or grown by someone you have never met.

You belted yourself into a car with a safety rating you have no way of verifying and drove to work on roads you didn’t inspect for potholes. You left your kids with teachers whose qualifications you have never seen.

You assumed the coffee the barista served you was decaffeinated, though you have no way of checking. And you drank tap water that you’ve never tested with your lunch.

You knew the free-range chicken you cooked for dinner was in date because the packaging said so. You didn’t question whether your broccoli really was organic because it came certified from a particular store.

You stacked and turned on the dishwasher knowing you would have clean spoons by morning. You set your alarm, certain it would wake you at the right time tomorrow as it always does.

We live in a world built on promises.
It only works when we each do our bit to make them and keep them.

Image by The 5th

Exactly What To Do

filed in Brand Strategy

When faced with a challenge, we seek out a sure-fire solution. We want to know exactly what to do.

We long for the step-by-step guide. The right answer. A formula to follow and faithfully replicate. Formulas work. They give us the answer to questions that have been asked before. But it’s only by being willing to ask new questions and explore untested solutions that we arrive at original ideas.

What’s greater than the prospect of failure is the risk of standardising our way to mediocrity.
Certainty is overrated.

Miguel Cortés