I love brands. They are so human.

And while i learnt my brand trade working in advertising and marketing, I now apply brand to all areas of business and people’s lives. The four areas in which I work as The Brand Guy are   1. Brand as Marketing   2. Brand as Management   3. Brand as Culture, and   4. Brand YOU. This page briefly outlines my thinking and approach in each of these areas.


1. Brand As Marketing

Imagine you go buy yourself a pair of Diesel jeans at the Oxford Street Diesel store one Saturday morning. That’ll set you back about $460, which is quite a lot to pay for a pair of jeans especially when you can get a pretty decent pair of Levis at General Pants, just 150 meters down the same road, for about $80.

Now I know that Diesel jeans ‘have better quality fabric, are better made, and have a better cut to suit your body’. But 8 times better? I mean, is a pair of Diesel jeans really worth eight times more than a good pair of Levis? They’re both denim. They both have pockets, studs, and belt straps. They both last well in the wash, and will give you a good 5 years plus worth of wear.

Rationally, economically speaking, your’s is a poor purchase decision; a bit like spending the annual stationery budget on Mont Blanc pens for the whole office, in one hit. We just don’t spend money like this at work, and yet when it comes to our own private lives, and our own private spending, we pay EXTRA for brands that make us feel good. Wow! A 575% premium to feel good. And feel good you do, as you swagger out of the Diesel store wrapped in an aura of ‘successful living’ coolness.

This example shows the power of brands. Perhaps you’re thinking “well, I actually wouldn’t spend $460 on a pair of jeans”. So what brand of watch sits on your wrist? What brand of car drives you to work in the morning? What brand of shoes covers your feet? What brand of wine do you enjoy with your meal?

Brands are powerful stories that give meaning, and create feeling. It is so true that factories build products, and people build brands. Which is why brands exist way beyond functionality – what something does – in a world of creation and imagination.

Consider the ultimate in utensil functionality: the salt and pepper shaker. Yes! The Alessi salt and pepper shaker set costs 218 times the price of a standard diner set of shakers. And they do NOT make your food taste better. And if you think they do, it’s because you made up a story [with a little help from Alessi] that they do.


The key ingredients of a powerful brand strategy are a combination of the rational – what it does – and the emotional – what it means, brought to life with a powerful idea, unique language, and imagery that moves and inspires.

In this way I have worked on, created stories and built value some of the most iconic brands in the world. Coca-Cola, which stands for ‘positivity’. Microsoft, which stands for ‘potential’. Vodafone, which stands for ‘possibility’. Levis, which stands for ‘originality’. Penfolds, which stands for ‘serendipity’.

2. Brand As Management

Brands are, however, much more than just a marketing concept, and lead to more than just making ads. Brands are a management issue. By this I mean branding is something that sits at the heart of what you do as a business, and drives every aspect of your business: management, business strategy, marketing, sales, distribution, innovation, HR and culture, customer service, the full catastrophe.

Embracing and using brand in this way ensures your business takes a Balanced Scorecard approach; an approach that takes into account both the hard [tangible] and the soft [intangible] factors of running an organisation. The Yin and the Yang which, when combined to work together, will result in organisational harmony.

The hard factors operate at the level of logic, rationality, and structure. The hard side provides direction-givers and managers with reasonable levels of certainty about the likely consequences of their deployment of resources, which allows them to plan to achieve their purpose and targets. The hard side allows the efficiency of the organisation to be measured.

The soft factors comprises human energies, emotions, ideas, and learning which is continuous and motivating. These elements are rarely measured. They are quantifiable, but because most directors and managers think of them as invisible and are not aware of their impact, they are rarely assessed on a regular and rigorous basis, and are frequently discounted as ‘proper’ measures of business results. Yet they affect dramatically organisational effectiveness.


If you look at the value of a company, you will notice there are two values. There is the number on its balance sheet. And there is the market capitalisation number, which is calculated by multiplying the number of shares held x the share price value. The number on the balance sheet is a measurement of the hard factors, and represents on average 25% of the market capitalisation value [SOURCE: Balanced Scorecard].

In other words, 75% of your organisational value lies in the soft factors, your intangible assets: innovation, ideas, strategy, leadership, people, culture, loyalty, credibility, reputation, values and trust.

This is the domain and the language of brand. Brand as Management is about communication, perception, standing for something, and acting on what you stand for. It’s about having an agreed upon and clearly articulated business and brand DNA Model: what is our vision, mission, positioning, proposition, and set of values, and what are we going to DO in order to turn this ‘wish list’ into everyday action.

The bottom line in all this is aligning what you SAY [marketing, PR, corporate communications] with what you DO, being 100% transparent in the process, and so earning the complete trust of your investors, staff, suppliers and customers.

3. Brand As Culture

A major ‘internal’ area of focus for organisations these days is its people. Not only are they your biggest expense, but for many industries [e.g. professional services] your people are your only asset. And these days many of them are feeling a little anxious, a little disheartened, are a little less engaged, and not quite as productive. Gallup’s The State Of The Workplace global survey scores Australian employee engagement at 24%. In other words, 76% are not engaged at or by their place of work.


And so the challenges facing companies in the post-GFC working climate are: How do we keep the best? How do we get the best out of our people? How do we keep our people positively engaged? How do we unite and focus our people –as one– towards a common purpose and a set of performance goals? This is where internal branding has a critical role to play.

Given that branding is about people, and people build brands, I always start the branding journey by asking one simple, fundamental question “What do people want?” Market researchers might answer this question by providing you with a segmentation analysis of your target market, broken down by demographics such as age, gender, socio-economic status, tenure of employment, and nature of work [blue vs. white collar]. While this is useful for implementing your brand communication strategy, it doesn’t go deep enough when it comes to really understanding “What do our people want?”.


Saying you understand an audience because they are Baby Boomers or Generation Y, with a list of attributes, characteristics and attitudes to match, is both artificial and institutional. I am a young Boomer, but I share many of the characteristics and attitudes of Generation X and Generation Y. That’s because I cannot be put into a box + labelled as being X or Y.

I too can segment an audience based on what car they drive or where they live. But what I really want to know is “What drives you?”. “What do you live for?” Or, in this instance, “What do you work for?”.

And while on that question, studies show that people do not just work for a pay cheque. On the contrary, salary is the number 6 reason why people work [Mercer, Randall Pearce, January 2004]. The TOP 5 things companies can do to keep their people motivated and engaged are 1. being treated with respect 2. achieving work-life balance 3. providing a quality service to customers 4. working with quality co-workers, and 5. the type of work performed.

The point here is that people do not just work for the pay cheque at the end of each month. Talented people want to be part of something they can believe in – something that confers meaning on their work, and on their lives. People are just ready and waiting to be emotionally engaged at work. And this, I believe, should be the starting point for any internal branding project that has ’employee engagement’ as its primary objective.

My key insight is that meaning is missing in the workplace. Which is why [AustraliaSCAN] 80% of Australian workers ‘don’t enjoy their work’; because they are not engaged by their work beyond getting a pay cheque at the end of the month.


But how do you create meaningful ‘meaning’ in a corporate environment. How do you inspire your people, as well as inform them? How do you connect with their hearts, as well as their heads, in a believable, credible way?

Xeros guru John Seely Brown said it best I reckon:

The job of business today is not just to make money. It’s to make meaning. When it comes to attracting, keeping, and making teams out of talented people, money alone won’t do it. Talented people want to be part of something that involves a mission. They don’t want that mission to turn into the kind of predictable “mission statement” that plasters many a corporate boardroom wall.

Rather, they want spiritual goals that energize an organization by resonating with the personal values of the people who work there – the kind of mission that offers people a chance to do work that makes a difference. Along with the traditional bottom line, great enterprises have a second bottom line: a return on human investment that advances a larger purpose. A powerful mission is both a magnet and a motivator.

Internal branding is that mission, that spiritual goal, and that meaning. Brands are the meaning-making machine that will drive higher employee engagement by getting everyone singing and playing off the same songsheet.

4. Brand YOU

Organisations don’t make stuff happen; people do. And so unless you can get your people to buy into, believe in, and act upon your strategy and your purpose, you’re stuffed.

There is a point at which the company can only do so much, and your people need to take over, take personal responsibility, and make it happen. But if they don’t have the personal appetite and motivation to make it happen, that’s when Brand You, and a little soul searching, comes into play.

What do YOU stand for? What is YOUR mission? What do YOU do best? What are YOUR strengths?


Brand YOU is not the list of credentials of your CV. Brand YOU is the intangible [brand] stuff. Sure, you have the credentials and the experience for this job or role. But what do you bring to the party, day in day out. Too often people turn up to work and leave a whole part of themselves at the bottom of the corporate escalator; the part they save for weekends, holidays, and corporate retreats.

Why do people hate Mondays? Because they live for Fridays and weekends. The way I see it, Monday is a day in my life. Monday is in fact one seventh of my life – 10 years of my life – and I’m not prepared to write off 10 years of my life because I have a job that doesn’t turn me on. I either get turned on by my job – which is a decision that I can make – or I find another job that does turn me on.

As you can see, Brand YOU comes at a price, and the price is responsibility. We are each responsible for our own lives, although all too often we hide behind a cloud of “they stuffed up; my manager is a dickhead; they don’t care about me; they have no direction”. There comes a time when people need to stop playing the blame game, take responsibility for their own lives, and then make it happen.


My Brand You workshop is a 5 hour journey of discovery that takes participants through three stops: TODAY. Rethinking your current reality, and how you are limiting yourself, by recognising your mental maps. TOMORROW. Rethinking what you really want out of life. BRAND ME. Rethinking who you really are, and what you really have to offer by anchoring your journey [from today to tomorrow] in the real ‘you’.


My workshop approach is a combination of NLP and positive psychology, and has been designed and developed to quite literally give participants an experience they won’t forget. It’s like riding a bicycle. Once you know how to ride a bicycle, you know forever; it’s always with you, and in you.

If any of this is resonating with you, take action now. Leave the waiting room, head straight towards the departure lounge, and give me a call. Or order your copy of Wake Up Tiger, and start your journey. 🙂

6 responses to branding


    What a clever blog this is. Look forward to reading this again soon.


    Levis are superior to Diesel both in terms of fabric, make and shape.

    Specifically: Levis are engineered for comfort, protection and longevity – which is the result of being such a historical brand with the time to be innovative. The fabric s the equivalent strength of 2 layers of denim woven. In terms of make – Levis jeans have true run and fell seams down the centre, making them stronger. The rivets aren’t just decorative, the placement of which is engineered to make the fabric stronger and prevent the seams from tearing. The zippers again are engineered not to bust. Fit wise, Levis use many different shaped blocks (or models) to gain a variety of fit styles, as opposed just cutting patterns from one block.

    Diesel are good quality, but the fabric used in them is still roughly $10 per meter give or take. Essentially, they are just nice fashion jeans.

    So with that in mind, this is a great example of the power of branding, human ignorance and the trend towards keeping-up-with-the-Jones’.


    thanks for sharing this information 🙂

    bev ryan 0418 665 477 26/08/2013 at 12:15 pm

    Hi Richard… I was lucky enough to be at the PSC Conference at Crowne Plaza Coogee where you presented as a guest of Zurich Insurance Australia.
    As a little fish in the sea and only having started my life as a broker in my own right early 2013 I have made quite a few mistakes in the area of branding myself.
    Just interested to know if you only brand with the Corporates or do you assist the small owner / operator .
    Insurance being the boring subject … most people think anyway. I want my brand to be a little outside that boring square and make clients want to investigate what I do.
    Of course as a very small operator the budget is very tight.
    Thought you may have some input for me or suggest how you could become involved. Even with my logo I like it but it is a bit ho hum!!
    Don’t have a real website as yet only a page up with contact details.
    Use link to products on

    Bev Ryan


    Hi Bev

    Happy to help.
    0405 15 19 15

    Richard 🙂


    Hi Richard, I run my own proofreading company – – and I was wondering whether you would be interested in utilising my services.

    Kind Regards,

    Tony Keen

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