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What Can You Learn From Your Competitors?

filed in Brand Strategy, Success

Karl’s been a successful financial advisor for many years. He’s at the point where he doesn’t need to advertise his services. Karl chooses the clients he wants to work with and generally only takes on new clients by referral. He’s intentionally built the kind of business he wants.

Karl will tell you that the secret of his success is down to one thing—learning from his competitors.

“I spent a lot of time paying attention to my competitors. But instead of  worrying about what they excelled at, I wanted to know where they fell short. I found out what they wouldn’t do for their clients. And then I did the things they weren’t prepared to do for mine. Now, sometimes those things didn’t scale. They weren’t systems and processes I could easily automate. To an outsider that might have looked like a short-term disadvantage, but over time things that weren’t easy to replicate turned into my competitive advantage.”

It turns out that differentiation happens in the heads, but mostly in the hearts, of your customers.

What’s the story your competitor doesn’t want to tell?

Image by Abdullah Öğük

Thank You For Your Work

filed in Brand Strategy, Success


Every day, we are served and nourished by others. We are supported and guided or empowered and inspired by people who have no idea how much they helped us.

What kind of companies would we build if happy, grateful customers were our goal?
What would it take to empower more customers to say thank you and mean it?
What if we created a culture that meant more people heard that their work mattered?
What difference would connecting our effort to its impact have on each and every one of us?

We can be more grateful customers and build the kind of organisations that create them on purpose.

Image by Garry Knight

Your Company Needs A Strong Strategic Narrative

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy, Success


A strategic narrative is the story that drives the choices a company makes. That narrative is the thread from which the company’s fabric—its culture and strategy are woven. Sometimes the story accidentally informs the strategy with unintended positive or sometimes, negative consequences.

It stands to reason then that we can and should intentionally leverage our narrative to achieve greater alignment and success.

The elements of a strong strategic narrative

1. Mission
Having a strong sense of purpose.
2. Values & Vision
Knowing who you are, what you stand for, who your best work is for and where you’re headed.
3. Value Creation
Understanding who your customers want to become in the presence of your product.
4. Capability
The ability to align and deliver on 1, 2 and 3.

A strong strategic narrative enables us to prioritise the opportunities, plans and behaviours that align our vision and values with our customer’s unmet needs.
Yes, we tell our story, but the story also tells us.

*Want to explore your company’s strategic narrative in more depth?
My book Story Driven will show you where to begin.

Image by Joris Louwes

Good Stories Drive Great Strategy

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy


Good stories have always driven great strategy—not the other way around.

Companies forgot this in the golden age of advertising when they began asking ad agencies what they could say to sell more products, instead of first understanding what they must say to show who they were and what they stood for.

Successful brands have a great story long before they have a grand plan.

Image by Alice Donavan Rouse

The Power Of Brand Energy

filed in Brand Story, Brand Strategy


Weekends are a quiet time for the two chocolate shops at the ‘Paris End’ of Melbourne’s Collins Street. During the working week, they are busy serving office workers who meet for coffee, buy gifts or want a little treat with their morning tea. On Sundays, the pace is much slower. A handful of tourists and window shoppers wander in and out to browse and enjoy chocolate samples.

It’s a good time to restock and get the shop looking good for the week to come. When it’s quiet, both shops are staffed by one or two people who are responsible for the entire customer experience. The energy they bring to their work on Sunday carries the brand.

The manager at the first shop enjoys the leisurely pace of Sundays. So much so that he sighs when customers ask questions or change their mind and looks for an excuse to close the cafe early so he can get away on time. The young girl at the second is excited to hand out free chocolate samples. She delights in telling customers about new flavours and marvels at the colours of the packaging and that the Easter eggs are all hand-wrapped.

Her eyes light up when she talks about the man—she describes as the company’s own Willy Wonka, who sits in a little office at the factory in Adelaide filled with ingredients and spices, inventing new flavours all day. ‘It’s not hard to be passionate about chocolate,’ she says. As she carefully wraps small packages.

The difference between the manager in the first shop and the sales assistant in the second is easy to see and hard to account, let alone hire for. That difference is purely the energy they bring to their work.

Brand energy builds brand equity. Passion isn’t something you can fake. It’s impossible to instruct. But when you have it people know. And when you experience it, you return to its source.

Image by Matthew

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