The Brand Flip (New Riders, 2015)

Is It Finally Time to Flip Your Brand?

Brand Flip

“A brand isn’t what you say it is, its what they say it is” – Marty Neumeier

We are yet to see the full fall out, loss in revenue, court cases but more importantly long term brand damage from the Volkswagen emissions fraud. What is certainly clear is that the leaders at the company had lost sight of the new reality in branding.

They were of the old belief that short-term profits and revenue and what they determined was right for the brand was the way to build the business.

In his latest book, “Brand Flip” Marty Neumeier tells us that this is no longer the case. The book takes many of his earlier thoughts from a book series, especially from The Brand Gap and Zag, and applies to brands the background of technology and social media that was not around, or at least so prevalent, when those two books were written.

Brands can still be highly successful and profitable, so branding continues to be very relevant, but now with social media the future of those brands and the companies connected to them is in the hands of the consumer. What Seth Godin called Tribes and in fact Marty wrote about first in The Brand Gap.

There are 10 new realities to consider;

  1. Power has shifted from companies to consumers.
  2. People are not focused on products but meaning.
  3. Customers buy products to build their identities.
  4. They hate being sold but they love to buy.
  5. They buy in tribes to feel safe and successful.
  6. The battle is no longer between companies but tribes.
  7. The company with the strongest tribe wins.
  8. Tribes are connected through technology.
  9. Brands need to flow through multiples technologies.
  10. The most successful brands are not static but fluid.

The book offers more than an insight in to what is happening with brands. Through 18 chapters it offers up ‘flips’, something we have expected in business but now has been changed and impacted by technology, as to how a brand can build those all important relationships with its consumers.

The chapter on Purchase Funnel versus Brand Ladder outlines the need to move away from just a short term revenue and profits focus to longer term brand building and development through the customer. It offers an excellent suggestion as to how to measure how far toward the consumer ‘owned’ brand you are currently. The rest of the book gives you the steps you will need to take to achieve brand Empowerment at the top of the ladder.

I have been a member of Marty’s tribe ever since reading The Brand Gap. Now with The Brand Flip he takes all the past wisdom and packages a solution for the new brand reality. A must read for any marketer, brander or business owner.

Lean In – Women, work and the will to lead (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2013)

You Cannot Afford to Lay Back

Lean In

An initial reaction when you see a book about women’s leadership written by the COO of one of the highest profile companies in the world might be, well that’s easy for her to say.

To be honest that thought crossed my mind about Sheryl Sandberg and her book Lean In – Women, Work and the Will to Lead.

However in reading this hybrid of biography, lessons learned and sound advice that feeling disappears quickly.

Being a woman leader today is still tough. No question.

In her book Sheryl Sandberg certainly does not sugar coat the cost of being a successful and engaged leader and the desire to be a supportive partner and loving and attentive mother.

She openly shares the angst, anguish and anger she has encountered through a highly successful climb, not up the corporate ladder, but as she describes it “work is now a jungle gym” and sagely advises that “no-one wears a tiara on a jungle gym”.

She is a strong believed and supporter of the role of men in this equation. The need to have support, and ideally as many men seeing being a stay at home Dad have equal merit to a corporate career. That is for sure going to take time but it does not mean it’s not possible.

The key messages from the book though are about women not being afraid to ‘Lean In’, to set the ground rules or at least to work on their terms not those imposed or traditionally expected. To tear down external barriers.

And once in those leadership roles to finally eliminate those external barriers to get other women in to those roles. Men can play a role in this too.

The book started a conversation. It spoke much more openly about this topic than perhaps any book or movement before it. An extension from the book has been the creation of a not-for-profit Lean In organization to encourage a continuation of the conversation.

Men and women need to read this book and then continue the conversation too.

Most of us are blessed to be in a culture and society where striving for recognized equality is permitted. Many are not so fortunate. That makes it even more important for all of us to be working toward that equality.

A great passage in the book summed it and the ability to be the personal brand you want to be this way;

“ Many people are not interested in acquiring power, not because they lack ambition, but because they are living their lives as they desire.; Some of the most important contributions to our world are made by caring for one person at a time. We each have to chart our own unique course and define which goals fit our lives, values and dreams.”

Buried Alive – Digging your way out to clear communciation (Riverview, NB: PF Publishing, 2014)

Why No-one Is Reading Your E-Mail

Buried alive

“Your inbox is nothing else than a nice organization system for other people’s agendas” – this quote seems to have been attributed to several people, regardless it rings so true.

I have yet to find anyone who is looking forward to opening their inbox and all the productivity guru’s advise not opening e-mail until at least lunchtime!

But the problem may actually lie with you in the first place. It is how you are communicating, or rather failing to communicate clearly.

Of course it’s not just e-mail that offers up the opportunity to be unclear in communication. It just happens to be for many of us the most common and regularly used communication tool.

In his book “Buried Alive – digging your way out to clear communication”, Geoff Weinstein offers up some interesting and insightful reasons and suggestions as to why we feel continually snowed under or spend more time trying to clarify than we spent on the original request or project!

The big a-ha for me in the book was in the chapter about our Google brains. Geoff offers that technology has rewired our brains to prefer power browsing and sound bites over deep analysis and reading. Yet our approach to communication remains stuck firmly in the more academic approaches and formats.

As you would hope and expect in a book on communication, this book is well laid out in easy to read sections and follows a natural flow from outlining the problem, practical suggestions on how to make changes and then offers up tactics and strategies to lead others to do the same and shift culture.

Since reading the book I have tried to be much more consciously aware of how I am communicating, especially with e-mail. As Geoff says, better to spend a little more time on an effective communication piece that send out something unclear that ends up generating confusion and everyone spending way more time on trying to gain clarity.

His 3 step Action Sequence formula to apply to all communication is simple, but certainly much harder to implement. Definitely for me a work in progress. I found myself back in the old habit of trying to rush to clear an inbox the other day which resulted in two email conversations going back and forth versus a few extra minutes would have meant one email both times.


Connections That Count (Seattle: Amazon Digital Services, 2015)


A number of years ago at the annual Top 20 under 20 leadership summit, a young teenage web designer, Scott Oldford, was in the workshop I was giving on personal branding. He had bundles of energy and tons of confidence and was a delight to get to know a little. One of the books I mentioned in that workshop was Keith Ferrazzi’s book, Never Eat Alone. I am not sure if it was my mentioning it or a different connection, but Scott has embraced many of the lessons from that book to build relationships and business over dinner and lunch.

Now he has captured all of the lessons from doing that in his new book.

I have had the pleasure of attending Scott’s lunches and dinners, buy this book for your road map to make meaningful connections and relationships that go deeper than you will ever have at the next boring networking event.

The process is also a great antidote to that 1:1 meeting you wished you had booked as a 20 minute coffee or worse still you get that last minute cancellation after driving somewhere for an hour.

Scott is someone who never sits still for long, so you can be assured this content is not going to have you dragging your feet either. Its action oriented and clear enough to have you hosting your own events in no time.

You likely have a favourite meeting spot or like trying somewhere new, especially if travelling to cities you don’t know, what better way to enjoy both and have great conversations and build business. I have even used Scott’s advice here to start planning my own social dinners at home.

This truly will change the way you eat, let alone network!

18 Minutes – Find Your Focus, Master Distraction and Get the Right Things Done (Business Plus, 2011)

The 18 Minutes

Part One – Pause

Part Two – What is This Year About?

Part Three – What is This Day About?

Part Four – What is This Moment About?

18 Minutes

On a scale of 1-7

Relevance – is it right for personal branding? – 6

Resonance does it make sense to the reader? – 6

Relation is there a connection for everyone? – 6

Remarkability – does it stand out, will it get noticed? – 5

Real – does the personal brand come through? – 5

Would you pick it up? 

For me there is always one book each year that has the most impact on the way that I think, act or say. At the end of last year this was the one. People regularly identify a strength in me, organizing and I have been consistent in a related area to this – making some kind of daily planning system work for me – NOT!

There are far too many books out there that espouse the very latest ways, ideas and ‘simple’ systems to implement and make your life easier. I have tried many of them and found that most of them require a Phd to understand or operate and ultimately get frustrating and unworkable.
What I like about ’18 Minutes; is that it boils things down to the core basics of what is most important to you and ‘forget’ the rest.
As you slip out of all the good intentions you had at the start of the year, this book can get you back on track fast.


Perhaps not immediately evident that this is a book about your personal brand. But once you have clearly identified what your personal brand is and who needs to know about it, then you have to get on with living and communicating that brand. The challenge is remaining focused and not getting distracted. This book and its easy to follow 18 Minutes a day looking at the 5 most important areas of focus for the year make staying on brand much more effective. It also means at the end of the year you are going to be much further forward.


I found the 18 Minute approach quick to grasp, easy to initially implement and in most cases stick to regularly (a failing in many of the more complicated systems – one I have followed has almost 20 pages to act on – weekly!).

For me though the most compelling part of the whole system is that when I have not followed it for a day or I find my day got away from me, I can check back in and identify right away where I was falling down AND find a quick solution to getting back on track.


In today’s world of multiple demands on seemingly less and less time we can all relate to the desire to want to not just get back control of our lives and simplify them too. But deep down we also want to know we are making a difference (whatever we define that to be), 18 Minutes gives us the approach to focus just on what is most important.


Because the approach is so simple there is a danger that people do not see this as remarkable. That would be a shame. We do not have to complicate or over think things to have them make us more effective or successful.

Just the simple suggestion of setting a one hour alarm to do focused and concentrated work has made a huge difference to my productivity. This book review and one other article were effectively completed in one of those 60 minute bursts.


The author is constantly using personal and real life work and client examples to get his points across. His blog posts do the same. The book is broken down in to very bite size 2-4 page chapters that get one key point across. This makes for easy reference and pick up again stickiness. But once ingrained it’s certainly one to keep on the bookshelf.

Irrational Predictability (New York: Harper Perennial , 2008)

We like to think that the decisions we make are ours, or that we are conscious about them. But even when it comes to significant purchases such as cars or homes, there are still hidden forces that shape our decisions.



This is an revised and expanded version of the original book. I found this book to be highly interesting and in many places entertaining.  The author is a professor of psychology and behavioural economics at Duke University and prior to that MIT. He has conducted hundreds, likely thousands of experiments in all areas of behaviour and its fascinating.

Many of the lessons he takes away from these experiments can be very easily applied to your career, teams, business and personal brand. 

Here are just a few of the lessons;

Relativity – Focus on things that are easily comparable. Avoid comparing things that cannot be compared easily. When CEO’s were forced to disclose their salaries in the US it was expected that this would help reduce the wage gap between workers in a company and the most senior. In 1976 the average CEO earned 36 times more than the average worker. In 1993 it was 131 times and by 2006 it had leapt to 336 times.

Supply & Demand – We believe that we have precise and well articulated preferences. But in reality we only think we know what we want.  We get too excited when something is free and subsequently can make decisions not in our interest. Take Amazon free shipping for example.

Social and Market Norms – Giving a gift in exchange for help works well. Add value to that gift and the market norms return. Adding a $ value to a social norm decreases motivation.

Emotional State – we are best to delay decisions when in an emotional state as we are less likely to be rational.

Procrastination – those conscious of their procrastination tendency are able to be set realistic deadlines and more likely to succeed than those given too much flexibility.

Self-Control – pair something we love with something we dislike but that is good for us, it helps us to harness desire with an outcome.

Price of Ownership – when focused on two options with similar attributes and minor differences we fail to take into consideration the consequences of not deciding.

Expectations – when given a math test Asian women did worse when asked to identify their gender instead of race prior to the exam. Behaviour is influenced by stereotypes. This can depend on the current state of mind and how we view ourselves at the moment.

Behavioural Economics – Those who have a high degree of need to be different or unique tend to compromise more of their choice to appear different.  In cultures where uniqueness is not considered a positive trait conformity is much more likely.

This ia book I am going to be picking up again and again and referring back to for its thought provoking messages.


Sticky Branding – 12.5 Principles to Stand Out, Attract Customers and Grow an Incredible Brand (Toronto: Dundurn, 2015)

Are You an Orange Tree in an Evergreen Forest?

This is the point that I kept circling back to as I read through “Sticky Branding – 12.5 Principles to Stand Out, Attract Customers and Grow an Incredible Brand” by Jeremy Miller. It’s THE question you need to ask yourself about your own brand. As I was reminded in the book “Branding has shifted from a feel-good marketing activity to an essential part of business”. What that means for you and your business is if you are not that orange tree, then you need to pick this book up sooner rather than later.

Sticky Branding

The book lays out a formula for looking at how your brand is now, what you need to do to make it sticky and gives you plenty of examples of others who have succeeded in doing the same. What I really liked was that the author did not rely on just the usual ‘easy’ brand stories like Apple, Starbucks or Nike. Yes, they are all examples to a degree of sticky brands. But how relevant can a company worth over $700 billion be to your business? You might use their products and love their brands, but you are not likely to ever have their marketing budgets! But that should not stop you aspire to be more like them and aim higher “Sticky Brands punch outside their weight class”

Miller has searched out and talked to dozens of small and mid-sized businesses and found concrete examples and especially stories as to how his 12.5 principles applied. It was very evident the passion that these businesses AND their employees had for their brands Sticky brands take pride in their work and customers and it shows” Many times also he refers back to his own personal experience of taking a diminishing family business and creating and developing their own sticky brand.

The concept of stand out brands is not new for sure, Marty Neuimeir is his branding books talks about the need to be a ‘charismatic brand’ – a brand for which people feel there is no substitute. In ‘Sticky Branding’ the author encourages us that a sticky brand is achievable for anyone willing to put in the time, energy, resources and creativity to break away from the industry norms and find innovative ways to serve their customers”.

The lessons about focus (“To drive sales and grow a sticky brand, focus on one priority at a time; Volume, Velocity or Value”), simplicity (“Describe your brand in 10 words or less”), and creativity (“The branding strategies and tactics that worked a decade ago are losing relevance”) are loud and clear. But above all that is the unwritten lesson that lies in all the principles, and that is – ‘courage’.

Taking on the challenge to become a sticky brand is not for the faint hearted. The book is a useful guide for you, it gives many good reasons why and suggestions how to do it. The clear exercises with action steps at the end of each chapter are particularly useful. It is definitely a pick up regularly and refer to type of tool. At the end of the day though it requires belief, boldness and hard work to become a sticky brand.

Tame The Primitive Brain (Wiley, 2013)

Tame the Primitive Brain


28 Ways in 28 Days to Manage the Most Impulsive Behaviors at Work

© 2013 by Mark Bowden, 290 pages, Hardback

5R Score: 30/35

Keeping Your Reptilian Brain in Check

1. Seek other environments that do not support the triggers.

2. Mindfully choose another less instinctive behavior.

3. Let people know what triggers you and what to expect.

On a scale of 1-7
Relevance – is it right for personal branding? – 6
Resonance does it make sense to the reader? – 6
Relation is there a connection for everyone? – 6
Remarkability – does it stand out, will it get noticed? – 6
Real – does the personal brand come through? – 6

Would you pick it up?
Each year I always end up finding one or two key books that have the most impact on the way that I think, act or say. It’s great to find not just a book that fits that criteria so early in the year, but I know it is one I am going to be picking up and again and again, referring to on a regular basis.

Biology was never one of my strong subjects, my teacher even had me labelled as an idiot – perhaps that was his primitive brain talking! So when I started to read this book my fear was this was going to be too science based, I started to come out in cold sweats again, just like cramming for an exam.

Almost immediately Mark Bowden puts the reader at ease. You do not just realise that deep down we all react in the same predictable ways when it comes to our reptilian brains, but also that there is nothing wrong, it’s just good to be aware of the impact.

The book breaks down in to punchy, workable chapters, looking to tame one reaction or impulse. There is always an example or story to kick off, followed by clear explanations and suggested actions, circling back to the story and highlighting how things changed or might have been different.

Mark uses an excellent balance of neuro-science, humour and practical solutions that will appeal to a wide range of readers. This ensures that the message gets heard, appreciated and acted upon.

Perhaps not immediately evident that this is a book about your personal brand. But once you have clearly identified what your personal brand is and who needs to know about it, then you have to get on with living and communicating that brand.

As Mark writes in his Introduction “Anyone who works with other people – which is pretty much everyone – has to deal with all kinds of challenges involving human nature. Chances are that at work one of your biggest challenges is handling the most basic behaviors of people – such as impulsive decision making, tunnel vision, and resistance to change. And that’s just you!”

Being more conscious and proactive with your personal brand means stepping outside of your comfort zone on occasion, something the primitive brain is trying to avoid at all costs. That is why this book is going to prove so useful to you. As you try new things and do not get the results or reaction you expected you can dip in to the book to understand why, and then take a suggested approach or action.

The overall concept I found able to quickly to grasp, no biology cold sweats, and the actions fairly easy to initially implement. Because the default for the reptilian brain is to go back to several hundred million years ago I can see the challenge for most of us will be to stick to new approaches.
With many books these days there are additional resources to access and what might be useful in this case would be a quick glance reference guide, perhaps even in pocket style format.

The relationships you have at work are critical to getting your own work done, projects completed and ultimately your longer term success, so this book will prove to be a useful, constant reference guide. For leaders in particular I can see this being invaluable.
The bonus is that while the book is focused on work situations this is obviously equally applicable in all other relationships too.

The reptile brain is the most basic part of our brain. Because this subject on the surface appears so simple there is a danger that people do not see this as remarkable. That would be a shame. We do not have to complicate or over think things to have them make us more effective or successful.
I would recommend a read through of the book in logical order first time and then after that you can refer back as needed to handle specific situations.

I like Marks relaxed style, (the English humour helps!) he is constantly using personal and real life work and client examples to get his points across. With the short, yet informative and practical chapter make up it easily gets that one key point for the day across. This makes for easy reference and pick up again stickiness. Each 7 chapters focus on one area and are collected in to weeks, week 1 focuses on You, week 2 Relationships, week 3 Tribe and week 4 the New You. Unless you are Mark, I am not sure it will ever be ingrained so it’s certainly one you will want to keep on the bookshelf next to your desk!

Question; What did you think of the book? Leave a comment.

Elevator Pitches (Riverhead Hardcover, 2012)










Dan Pink – To Sell is Human

Alternate ways of pitching or delivering.

I love the works of Dan Pink. He has written several books that really connect with the whole personal branding movement and has produced numerous articles and videos that relate too.

One such book is “To Sell is Human”. One chapter in the book covers the alternative ways to ‘pitch’ someone, more modern ways of addressing the elevator pitch. Here is Dan explaining each one and then below is the copy taken from the book.


1.       The One Word Pitch

Attention spans are getting shorter and shorter. It used to be okay to post videos of over 5 minutes, now the recommended is less than 90 seconds.

The argument with a one word pitch is that people are traveling at higher speeds and a one word pitch really demands discipline and forces clarity. Think internet search and you immediately recall Google, or if we said priceless and credit cards you would immediately think of Mastercard or even both of Obama;s election campaigns were one word, in 2008 Hope in 2012 Forward.

What is the one word that captures who you are or your organization is?

Write a 50 word pitch. Reduce it to twenty five words. Then to six words. One of those remaining words is likely your one word.

2.       The Question Pitch

Instead of making a statement consider instead asking a question. In studies it has even been found  that questions can outperform statements in persuading others. Think about the time someone asks you a question, you feel compelled to respond.

In the 1980’s Ronald Reagan used this to great effect asking voters if they were better off than 4 years ago. The answer was a resounding no.  The question however needs to have a strong likelihood of being answered positively in your favour, Mitt Romney tried that same tactic in 2012 and it did not work because many people actually thought yes they were.

If you were to ask a question of your target audience, what would it be?

Your argument needs to be strong to use a question. If it is weak, make a statement, or you need a new argument.

3.       The Rhyming Pitch

One of the most famous pitches using rhyming was the lawyer Johnny Cochrane representing OJ Simpson, talking about the gloves “If it doesn’t fit…you must acquit”

Researchers have found that given similar statements participants favoured the rhyming ones, even though each pair says the same. Our minds equate easy flow with accuracy.

If you think you have time, can you pitch in a rhyme?

Don’t rack your brain for rhymes. Use an online rhyming dictionary like

4.       The Subject-Line Pitch

Think how many e-mails you receive in a day or week. Many. If you are scanning that list of e-mails you are making decisions about which ones to open first many times by the subject line. In research if the e-mail is useful to you then you are motivated to open it because you have something to gain or lose.  For other e-mails of low priority the subject lines that offered curiosity were more likely to be opened sooner.

One strong recommendation is to be very specific in a subject line pitch. E.g “Improve your golf swing” is not as specific as “4 tips to improve your golf swing this afternoon”

Can you pitch what you have to offer that satisfies utility, specificity and curiosity?

Review the subject lines of the last 20 emails you have sent. Note how many appeal to utility or curiosity. If the total is less than 10 rewrite each one that fails the test.

5.       The Twitter Pitch

With just 140 characters Twitter forces you to be to the point and succinct with any message. Some organizations have used this format to receive pitches for business, job search even placement applications for college.  The key with a good ‘tweet’ is that it also encourages a continued conversation or at least a response.

With just 140 characters you have little space to get your message across. How easy is it for you to do that and continue the conversation.

Try to limit your twitter pitches to 120 characters so that others can re-tweet and pass it on. Best pitches are short, sweet and easy to retweet.

6.       The  Pixar Pitch

Story telling is quite possibly the oldest form of pitching and as humans we love to hear and connect with an engaging story. Pixar, the cartoon feature film maker, has perfected the art of the story with successive blockbusters and their success has in part been put down to following a story formula.

Read all 22 of former Pixar story artist Emma Cost’s story rules 

Once upon a time………………………….Every day…………………….One day……………………….Because of that…………………………….Because of that…………………………………Until finally.

Whichever pitch you work on make sure that after someone hears it;  What do you want them to know, feel and do?