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.

How To Build A 21st Century Brand

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

Forty years ago a brand was an identifier. Branding was what we did to the outside of a product or service after it was conceived and created. Brands became tales woven to increase visibility and memorability using design, clever copy, print and TV advertising to make sure the product was known by the majority of prospective customers. This is how traditional brands like Cadbury, Coca-Cola, Visa and Hertz became top of mind and won big in the days of traditional advertising.
The following list is what branding was traditionally designed to achieve:

Objectives Of Traditional Branding

  • Awareness
  • Attention
  • Authority
  • Majority
  • Average
  • Profit
  • Dominance
  • Outside in
  • Shareholder value
  • Single bottom line

But this isn’t how you build a beloved brand now. Today a brand is a promise that people align with, believe and invest in and branding begins from the inside out. 21st century brands are purpose-driven. They have a reason to exist beyond making a profit, and they no longer aim to appeal to the average or everyone. Here’s what 21st century branding sets out to do:

Objectives Of Branding in the 21st Century

  • Affinity
  • Alliance
  • Trust
  • Individuals & Tribes
  • Edges
  • Purpose
  • Relevance
  • Inside out
  • Customer-centric
  • Triple bottom line

If the nature and function of brands have changed, then the process for developing brands and brand stories must evolve too. We’ll be on our way when we begin by prioritising the objectives on the second list. A brand story is no longer like the top coat of gloss paint applied at the last moment to make the surface shinier and more immediately attractive. It’s the undercoat that often nobody sees, but which allows the brand to endure.

Image by NASA HQ.

What’s Missing?

filed in Brand Strategy, Innovation

The patisserie opened with great fanfare and then fell flat. The brand had an international reputation, was selling a half decent product in a good location and yet customers didn’t feel like they had a reason to come back. They couldn’t put their finger on it, but the cafe just had no soul.

It’s easy to get into the habit of working on our advantages. We often reassure ourselves by focusing on strengths or paying attention to the best performance metrics. This reticence to address our shortcomings can blind us to opportunities to do better.

On the journey to perfecting an unforgettable dish, the question talented chefs ask themselves most is; “What’s missing? Many of the groundbreaking ideas and innovations of our time from raw chocolate to bottled water, the iPod to the Tesla were born from understanding not just what was lacking in the product, but also what was missing in the life of the customer and how she might want to experience it differently.

We uncover breakthrough ideas when we address the questions that haven’t already been answered.

Image by Jaume Escofet.


filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

On my recent travels in country Victoria, I came across an incredible artisan gluten free bakery miles from nowhere. The owners baked only three types of bread. The bakery sold fresh salad rolls and quality coffee on the premises.

As we got chatting about how well they had nailed their story, the owner began to apologise for their social media presence. “We know we need to get onto that,” she said. And while she’s right about the need to give her far-flung customers an opportunity to connect and a way to share online—there is no more powerful presence than a great product designed with the customer in mind.

It’s tempting to jump ahead to creating the buzz we believe we need to succeed and harder to do the work of understanding what makes a product buzzworthy in the first place.

Image by Dave Bloggs.

Changing The Customer Experience Narrative

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

My husband, who is a doctor has been trialling ways to improve the patient experience at the practice where he works one day a week. There are many things about the experience that are out of his control. He can’t control how the receptionist speaks to the patient on arrival, cut the waiting time or shush crying babies in the waiting room. But there are moments in between where he can have an impact.

His intervention is simple. Instead of sitting behind the desk in the big comfy doctor’s office chair, he rearranges the furniture—inviting the patient to take the ‘big chair’ while he sits alongside them, (not staring at the computer) on the standard issue patient chair. The patient almost always asks why they are sitting in the big chair. This simple (and free) act changes everything about the consultation. The results are dramatic. Patient satisfaction is improved, they leave happier because they have been made to feel seen and understood.

We mistakenly believe that a great customer experience must be flawless. And knowing that perfection is impossible, we overlook opportunities to delight. The truth is that just as sand in our shorts can’t spoil a romantic picnic on the beach, even our most memorable experiences are not one hundred percent perfect. Customer satisfaction does not come so much from good experiences alone, but also from the stories people tell themselves about what happened. We don’t need to be perfect, we do need to work on giving customers moments to remember and recount—good stories to tell themselves.

It’s possible to create moments of delight that bookend the customer’s narrative. We have more power than we think to change the stories people believe in, value and share.

Image by World Bank.

Change Making

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy

The story changes the value.
The value changes the perception.
The perception changes the experience.
The experience changes the outcome.
The outcome changes the customer.
The customer changes the story.

Image by Matthias Ripp.