On Foundation Mythology as Part of the Brand Toolkit

Question: Before revolutionising the vacuum, what was James Dyson originally looking to reinvent?

For those that make it all the way to end, the answer will be revealed!

I recently read “Branding: In Five and a Half Steps” by Michael Johnson.

Cut the fluff to give yourself, and the people around you, the very best chance of achieving success.

“People are working harder than ever, but because they lack clarity and vision, they aren’t getting very far. They, in essence, are pushing a rope…with all of their might.”

Stephen R. Covey

A brand that tries to stand for everything invariably ends up standing for nothing much at all.

A product — however brilliant — is destined for obscurity if it cannot be clearly explained to potential customers.

A message, be it vague or verbose, just becomes a mess.

One of the most common (and meandering) paths to a complete debacle is ambiguity. Put simply, fluff leads to failure.


Hard truths. Often unsettling, but always worth knowing in the long run. And, as is often said, it’s only by coming to terms and working with them that we arrive at better outcomes.

I learned one recently.

Earlier this year, I read “No Rules Rules: Netflix and the Culture of Reinvention” by Reed Hastings and Erin Meyer. It provides a thought-provoking glimpse into the unique culture of the world’s biggest subscription-based streaming service.

Given how widely the book has been read and reviewed, I’m not going to summarise or paraphrase it here (see video summary below).

But there was…

The key to a business well run, a career well built, and a life well lived.

“Give, and it will be given to you.”

Luke 6:38

Don’t worry — this isn’t a sermon.

But this passage — like so many from The Bible and other ancient texts — does speak to a fundamental human truth.

In the field of psychology, it’s known as “The Law of Reciprocity”. And it can be summarised like this.

The deep-rooted urge we all feel to return a favour that someone has done for us.

Mundane though it may sound, this principle is the cornerstone of successful relationships, both in life and business.

We are — all of us — playing…

Businesses rise and fall — it’s the natural progression of things. Many companies once considered great have long either collapsed or been overtaken by a fresh-faced challenger.

But, in spite of this, there are some businesses that continue to endure and thrive. They seem almost immune from the cut and thrust of competition. They are survivors.

So, why is that?

The business book that has had the most profound impact on me is “Zero to One” by Peter Thiel. The basic premise of that book is that great businesses are singular, unique and monopolistic.

These companies are almost impossible to…

31 slides. Version 14. 10 working days to create.

“The consequences of our actions are always so complicated, so diverse, that predicting the future is a very difficult business indeed.”

J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Pollsters, economists, modellers — they continue to get it wrong, over and over. No one is able, with any level of consistency, to predict the future.

Yet, as humans, we seem hardwired to believe those who claim they can. And, in business, this claim is usually made via an impressive-looking presentation. 31 slides. Version 14. 10 working days to create.

Nice job!

But, for all that effort, we’re really still…

The opportunity to develop a brand doesn’t come around very often. For most businesses, this is an exercise so seldom undertaken that it can be difficult to know where to start (or, indeed, end).

And, yet, this really isn’t something you can afford to mess up. A brand, by its nature, is a long-term asset. And if your brand is off from the outset, there’s simply no easy way to backtrack.

But, fear not. Help is at hand.

For those looking to get their brand in order, here are six key questions you’ll need to answer.

What do we do and how do we do it?

If you already have…

2020 hit the travel industry hard. The impact of Covid-19 forced Airbnb to make what, at the time, must have been a gut-wrenching decision.

Airbnb’s annual report shows that the company slashed its marketing spend by 58% in 2020 when compared to the previous year, equating to a $662m total reduction. Of this, the overwhelming majority of the cuts were made to its performance marketing channels.

But, far from this leading to disaster, it actually spawned an incredible discovery, as Brain Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, explained in the company’s latest earnings call.

“In 2019, we had elevated spending of performance…

A brand. Every business has one. All companies will, at some point, have to invest at least a little bit of time in it (if only to create a name and logo). But what is branding for? Why is it even necessary?

Here’s a short case for branding.

Firstly, let’s kick off with an explanation of what branding is.

A quick Google search of the term “brand” yields the following definition.

“The promotion of a particular product or company by means of advertising and distinctive design.”

Hmm. I guess so. But that doesn’t get us very far.

Here’s my preferred…

There is any truth to it?

The memes are rife!

The business world has a newly developed fetish — the fetish of failure.

Try to guess the number of times each week that you see or hear phrases like this:

“Embrace your failures.”

“Wear your failures with pride.”

“Failure is success if you learn from it.”

These memes are rife!

Now, I’ve no doubt that, at its inception, this seemingly radical reframing of failure probably felt quite fresh and liberating. Suffice to say, it has long since made its home in the land of business clichés.

But, aside from it being totally yawn-inducing, is it even true?

I’ve cause to…

Nathaniel Bastin

Branding for the better | Published in “The Startup” & “Better Marketing”

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