Brand Matters header


The last thing you want is more stuff in your inbox. But it's sometimes good to read about new thoughts and ideas. Brand Matters aims to communicate a few ideas about Brand in the shortest possible time. It will come out occasionally, when we have something worthwhile to share. We hope you like it and find it useful. Let us know (either way).


Reading a book recently called "Your Brain at Work" by David Rock, I began to get a better understanding of the importance of emotion in business. Only 4-5% of the brain (the pre-frontal cortex) is involved with rational thought. For the rest, we're wired to respond as animals, to avoid danger – "fight or flight". The result is that we respond emotionally to almost everything before rational thought kicks in.

The problem is that the way business people think about business is the other way round – 95% rational and minimal emotion. Sellers focus on the sensible reasons why. Leaders describe their carefully honed strategic priorities. Brands tout their rational benefits. All terribly worthy but you have to ask how effective?

When it comes to defining a brand, my experience is that most firms shy away from the emotional ideas, especially in B2B. Which is why most firms look and feel alike.

With 95% of the brain responding at an emotional level, it might be time for a little more courage.

Coaching image


The imminence of the Olympics brings to mind the importance of great coaching to a high performing athlete. I can't think of a sport where, in order to perform at world class levels, coaching is not a vital part of the mix. And yet most companies send their best people out into highly competitive market places to compete against the best in the world, without the benefit of coaching. Imagine what a difference good coaching can make to the performance of business developers, especially in the current challenging environment.

And when it comes to brands, the stakes are even higher. Many companies do little to define what's special about their brand. If they do, they tend to employ expensive consultants like me (not really…) to help them scratch their heads, come up with a neat brand idea and recommend what needs to change. Sometimes that works. Often the change is difficult.

The brand coach takes a different approach. In coaching, responsibility for thinking and acting rests firmly with the coachee. The role of the coach is to ask the right questions and provide the right challenge. And when it comes to implementation, coaching puts the onus for action on the client. So the actions are right for them in their situation. Much more appropriate and effective.

Coaching may just be the least used, most powerful tool in the branding and business development toolkits.


Isn't it wonderful when something about a product or service is even better than you expected?

I had fully expected the iPad to look beautiful, to be fast to start up, to be fun to use, to be great for Facetime, in fact to justify its hefty price tag in every way.

What I had not expected was to enjoy the unpacking experience. Unpacking things is never enjoyable. It's almost always a struggle. It often breaks nails and shortens tempers.

Opening the iPad was sublime. It was clear from the start that this was something to which the designers had given a lot of thought. Instead of destroying the packaging as I opened it, I felt that I was "reverse engineering" it.

Sounds weird, sad even. But it's the management of the smallest, most insignificant touchpoint that best symbolises your brand values.

Herb Kelleher, former CEO of Southwest Airlines, said "the coffee stain on the aircraft drop down tray is an indicator to the passenger of how much we care for our engines".

Look after the smallest touchpoint and the bigger ones will take care of themselves.


I was always impressed by David Maister's trust equation:

Trust = Credibility + Reliability + Intimacy

Self interest

His premise is that degree of self interest, being the denominator of the equation, is the most significant driver of trust. So the lower your level of self-interest, or the more you have the interests of others at heart, the more you will be trusted. How many organisations TRULY have their clients' interests at heart? Be honest. Most organisations are driven by a desire to sell more rather than a desire to see their clients succeed, save money or have an easier life.

In "The Speed of Trust", Stephen M.R.Covey says much the same in a different way. For him, trust is about four things:

  • Capabilities and Results
  • Integrity and Intent.

The first two are about Competence – in many ways expected but can't be taken for granted. The second two are about Character – the real determinant of trust and the route to differentiation.

Trust is at the core of branding. Brands that demonstrate a genuine interest in their customers' interests will be the future brand leaders.

Trust image