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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).



It’s long been recognised that the UK health service is largely focused on the physical health of the nation. Mental health, in spite of its rising importance, continues to be the Cinderella. We still find it hard to appreciate the influence of mental health on our physical health and general wellbeing and to give it the attention and investment it deserves.

I attended an excellent seminar the other week on brand visual identity. There was much talk about its importance, some sophisticated tools for auditing brand application and alignment and several impressive case studies of organisations that had succeeded in bringing rigour to the issue.

As I listened, it struck me that there was a close parallel between our health service and the way many of us go about branding. Much time, effort and investment in branding is spent on the physical aspects – products, services, environment, identity, communications. Some of the more advanced "branders" (is that a word?) even broaden the experience to satisfy all the senses – vision, sound, touch, taste, smell

But there appears to be much less focus on the mental and emotional aspects of branding, the essential psychology that really underpins and drives brand strength:

  • Beliefs, Core purpose, Reason why
  • Goals, Aims, Aspirations
  • Values, Priorities, Behaviours
  • Feelings, Emotions, Motivations
  • Attitude, Commitment, Engagement

These are the things that deserve real attention when we define a brand and these are the things we should be auditing and measuring as we assess the strength of our brands.

This applies especially to business to business (B2B) brands, where branding is so often focused on the rational and physical aspects. Capturing the heart and soul of a brand differentiates it in the market place and creates a higher level of engagement for staff and other stakeholders.

Challenging? Yes. Inspiring? Absolutely.


To that point, if you haven’t seen the TED talk by Richard Sinek, "How great leaders inspire action", or read his book, "Start with why", I would recommend either or both. He has a simple message with profound implications for brands.

His mantra is "People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it".

In other words, work out why you’re really in business or what is the core purpose of your organisation and talk about that above all else. He refers to "The Golden Circle", which has three words. The word at the centre is WHY? In the next ring is HOW? And in the outer ring is WHAT?

Most people, he says, begin by talking about WHAT they do (reference most websites). Some get as far as HOW they do it. Most don’t even reach the WHY.

Apple begins with WHY. According to Sinek, their message goes something like this:

"Everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo. We believe in thinking differently. (WHY)

The way we challenge the status quo is by making our products beautifully designed, simple to use and user friendly. (HOW)

And we happen to make great computers. (WHAT)

Wanna buy one?"

Contrast that with:

"Here’s our law firm. We have 200 partners and 30 offices across the world. And we cover all the major practice areas. Hire us."

I’ve worked with several organisations recently who have either forgotten why they existed or never worked it out. Helping them remind themselves of their "WHY" or discover it for the first time is immensely rewarding, for all concerned.

It’s also encouraged me to think more deeply about my own "WHY". At one level, I could simply describe myself as a Brand Consultant and Coach. Simple and clear enough.

But my WHY is something about "Inspiring people and organisations to realise their potential". Which is probably a tad more interesting to potential clients and more likely to get me out of bed in the morning.

Finding and communicating your WHY is the route to creating an inspiring and emotional connection to all your stakeholders. And that’s branding.

Values image


In October 2012, just after the feel good Olympics, the Barrett Values Centre conducted a survey of the UK nation’s values. What it revealed was nothing short of shocking.

When asked what their top 10 personal values were, people said:

Caring, Family, Honesty, Humour/fun, Friendship, Fairness, Compassion, Independence, Respect, Trust.

Sounds like a pretty nice bunch of people.

When asked what were the top 10 values of the nation, they said:

Bureaucracy, Crime/violence, Uncertainty about the future, Corruption, Blame, Wasted resources, Media influence, Conflict/aggression, Drugs/alcohol, Apathy.

Sounds like rather a nasty nation.

One year on, I still struggle to understand the reasons for the chasm between the two responses.

But reflecting on it recently, it occurred to me that my own experiences with a number of organisations have not been so different.

Whenever I help an organisation define their brand, I generally recommend conducting a values survey, using the Barrett approach. In almost all cases, there is a significant gap between the personal values of the staff (including leadership) and the perceived values of the organisation.

In other words, people are unable to bring themselves fully to work.

This is troubling. It seems that whenever we put people together in an organisational unit, we stand a very high chance of producing an uncomfortable and in some cases toxic culture. And if the culture is not right, there is no chance of delivering a positive and cohesive brand experience, internally or externally.

You would think it couldn’t be so hard. Assemble a like-minded group of people, give them a common purpose and agree a set of core values that define their communal behaviour. And hey presto.

So where does it go wrong? Is it something to do with the two articles above? Have we perhaps got our spotlights in the wrong place?

I hope so. Because if we begin to focus them on the right things, we could release a lot of untapped human and brand potential.