Three Obsolete Mental Models (that might be hurting your brand)

By Branding, Entrepreneurism, LeadershipOne Comment

Our minds are one massive input receiver. These inputs become systems, structures, practices, habits, beliefs, biases. Our minds are highly adept at sorting through all of this input by creating mental models to increase the speed of decision making, preserve mental energy and provide situational context — especially in day-to-day situations. Leaders with an elevated level of consciousness (or in Maslow’s terms “self actualized) are aware that these mental models become obsolete and need to be frequently upgraded. Low conscious leaders lock into these mental models so much so that they become institutionalized and create the cult-like nature of many organizations.

For many leaders, the definitions and roles of brand and branding often come from a fixed or static place. It could be from formal education, past experiences, advice from other leaders — or a combo of all three. These fixed ideas about branding are the mental models that inform strategy, prioritization of resources, and assigning value. Upgrading these mental models goes beyond information and knowledge — both of which are a commodity (just do a Google search on branding, and you will see what I mean).

Here are three obsolete branding mental models that might be negatively impacting your brand:

  1. Audience – Demographics are essentially a dead language; a relic of how things used to be measured. Yet demographic profiling remains a stubborn mental model for many leaders. Leaders of B2C companies will say some variation of “our target audience is Millennial-aged urban buyers with college degrees” or “our target audience is 55+ retirees with net worth of greater than $250,000”. Leaders of B2B companies will say “our target audience are companies in the _______ industry.” Yes, these are data points, but they are not an audience. Upgraded model: Focus on the psychographic profile of your ideal audience. What do they believe in? What do they value? What is their unspoken need? What are they attracted to? For B2C brands, these questions will help you form an archetype to speak to. For B2B brands, these questions will remind you that companies don’t buy things, people do. And a free hint … if you don’t know the answers to these questions for your own brand, you won’t be able to understand them for your audience.
  2. Message – The old mental model on messaging is some variation of, “What do we need to say in order to get someone’s attention?” It is very external and often informed by the aforementioned mental model of target audience. From this springs focus groups and test messages. Brands with convictions don’t use focus groups. Instead, they operate from an upgraded mental model on messaging of sharing what their heart has to say to the world. This means speaking truth, taking a stand, having a point of view. It means offending many and attracting some. It means saying what needs to be said because it needs to be said. Not because it tested well. Further, it’s absolutely essential to de-bullshit your brand’s language. No cliches. No buzzwords. Language informs believability. Along with visual elements, your language determines whether or not you will earn your audiences attention. When you use overly-used terms, you contribute to the sea of sameness.
  3. Positioning – For the last 30+ years, the mental model of positioning worked well. It helped you hone in on your audience, your value proposition, your differentiators, your competitors. But now every market is saturated. And not just saturated with crappy products and services. It’s saturated by better branded, better delivered, better made versions of whatever you are selling. The mental model upgrade here is from positioning to category design. Category design is a strategic and intentional approach to naming, defining and owning a category in the marketplace. Positioning ran on being slightly better and safer. Category runs on being radically and provocatively different. Positioning is the battle for the mind — which is an endless war. Category design is the winning of hearts and souls. As such, it requires leaders with conviction, wisdom and courage. If you’re interested in this topic, check out the book “Play Bigger”.

As an industry, advertising needs a massive and total upgrade of its mental model. Chiefly, an upgrade to this: advertising reminds and experiences retain. Or put another way … pay for retention, not attention. Directly related to this is the shifting from the old model of pushing products and services through marketing to the new model of sharing ideas from humans to humans. The old model required saturation, brand recognition, top of mind. This new model requires consistent and believable inspiration and invitation — all of which fuels word of mouth. Which may be the only mental model that doesn’t need an upgrade.

Are You a Thought-Leader or a Wedding Singer?

By Branding, Entrepreneurism, LeadershipNo Comments

I don’t like the term “thought-leader”. For similar reasons I don’t like the terms “branding” and “personal branding”. All three phrases have been frequently co-opted by the self-absorbed and/or the manipulative.

Alas, “thought-leader” is probably the best term – but I will give it my own definition:

A thought-leader is someone who consistently expresses and monetizes original ideas.

Many people with the label of thought-leader are often just well-marketed karaoke singers or cover bands for other people’s ideas and intellectual property.

If you want to be known as a legit thought-leader read on …

True thought-leadership is a kind of art. What music is to a musician. Or painting is to a visual artist. As such, it has all the rules of successful art enterprises – of which I have codified three rules:

  1. Be Original – No cliches, industry jargon, cut-and-paste intellect. Have something to say … from the soul. Have a point of view. Make your own music. Sure, you can be inspired by other artists. Just don’t copy them.
  2. Be Real – Get used to practicing emotional nudity. This means you are going to offend some. Get your facts right and speak truth. Being real is creating anabolic agitation – being so thought-provoking and disruptive to thinking that you stay in a person’s head.
  3. Be Consistent – If you’re going to be a thought-leader, start sharing your thoughts. Write those posts. Give those presentations. Conduct those workshops. Get on those podcasts. Write that book. Get your ideas out there … every single day.

Being a true thought-leader requires you to be connected with your true self. Your beliefs and values. Your mission. Your talents. Without this connection, you become extrinsic in focus. And pretty soon you are playing the music that others want to hear rather than playing your own stuff. It takes a lot of inner work, reconciling of your past, acceptance of your gifts.

Being a thought-leader means ignoring the inner chatter that your ideas aren’t all that original. Or useful. It means ignoring the “nobody cares about what I have to say” nagging voice of doubt. If what you have to say is original and real and advances humanity in some way, it needs to be shared. As Wayne Dyer said “Don’t die with music still inside you.”

Being a thought-leader requires some sort of system for idea capture – then idea sharing. Use a journal or the Notes app on your phone to capture flashes, musings, ideas. Look for areas that are conventional thinking, taboo or dogma and examine them. Catalog and codify it all. Then decide what and how to share. I recommend finding the medium that gives you the most joy and organize around that. Then implement idea sharing into your calendar. Make it part of your business or career.

Just as everyone is an artist at something, I’m convinced everyone is a thought-leader about something. Most just don’t do the work. Either to dig in and find the originality. Or to express it consistently. Or both. Most are just fine covering “Sweet Caroline” at weddings. Honor those that inspired you, but play your own s**t.

5×7 – Day 4: 5 Personal Branding Practices to Adopt

By Branding, Leadership, LifeOne Comment

Day 4 of my 7 days of 5 things to end the year! Today’s list of 5 is related to your personal brand.

A few level-set concepts …

First, whether or not you work on it consciously, you are a brand. Second, your personal brand contributes to your team’s brand. This team could be your tribe of influencers and clients if you are a solo brand – or your corporate team if you work for a bigger brand. Finally, personal branding is the practice of authenticity. It’s not working on your image. It’s doing the inner work to produce an outer reputation.

Here are 5 practices to consider adopting. These are not formulas. They are concepts to establish a practice. Take them as your own and do them your way.

  1. Be a Human. There is no work version of you. There is no home version of you. There is no social version of you. Yes, those are different aspects of how others experience you but you are just you. Which means you are a human. You love. You fail. You get wounded. You achieve. You grow. You learn. Let other’s see all this. A simple tip to remind you to be a human … when someone asks you how you are doing, answer them with the truth! Not “fine”, “great” or some other filler.
  2. Be an Original Thinker.  Originality is the surest sign of an awake, thriving soul. It is evidence that you are creating, not just following. That you are producing your own music, not being a cover band for other people’s ideas. Sure, you can be inspired by others. But sit with your own thoughts and ideas. Share them. Test them. Change them. You know you are an original thinker when you share an idea and someone says “I’ve never thought about it that way before”. A simple tip … clear all of your vocabulary (written and spoken) of cliches. Cliches are the varnish that cover up the real wood of you.
  3. Build a Tribe. Call it your circle of influence, your friends, a mastermind, a cross-departmental team – it is all the same idea. Attract and find a small group of people that you have a connection with and go do something. Go solve a problem. Go create something. Go serve others. This tribe will be a constant source of new ideas, encouragement and the occasional kick in the ass. Further, this tribe will have your back when you aren’t around. A simple tip … everyone in your tribe should be energy positive. This doesn’t mean you always agree with them, have the same interests, etc. but it does mean that being around them is not a drain.
  4. Say No. One of our many mantras at Root + River is this: “You build your career by saying yes. You build your brand by saying no”. In relationships, this is healthy boundaries. It is practicing healthy non-attachment to the past and future, to people, to things. It is protecting your sovereignty while still contributing to humanity. It’s protecting your resources like time, attention, intellectual property – not with a spirit of lack but a spirit of appreciation for their value. Simple tip: keep a log of what you say yes to that you want to say no to. Being an adult is sometimes saying yes to things you don’t want to do, but if your days are spent saying “yes” to things you don’t want to do, you are a domesticated human.
  5. Practice Self-Care. It takes a blend of confidence and wisdom to discern between self-love and selfishness. To discern between self-awareness and being self conscious. To take care of you without becoming self-absorbed. It’s a fine line, I know. It all comes down to “loving your neighbor as your self”. Treat yourself like a friend that you love. Treat yourself like a client that you love working with. Don’t talk yourself out of self care with negative bullshit like “I feel guilty when I do things for me” or “This feels selfish …” This is the language of a martyr. Simple tip: keep track of what you do that’s just for you. It could be 5 minutes of silence, yoga, going to the gym, reading – whatever feeds your soul. Keep track of these and consciously incorporate them into the flow of your life.

If you adopt these five practices (again, in your own way), the promised results are profound and sustainable. You will grow. And when you grow, everyone around you will benefit. You will enhance your reputation and attract more people – which in turn will create more opportunities. You will feel lighter, more balanced, less frenetic. You will find that coping mechanisms are almost entirely unnecessary. You will be living as your True Self. And your True Self is your brand.

The Mind, Maslow and Marketing

By Branding, LeadershipNo Comments

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)


Social programming is all the buzz these days. Study after study shows that we humans are quite impressionable and that external input never stops teaching our brain what we think and who we think we are. To become a brand requires a concentrated effort to overcome this social programming – primarily our deeply engrained need for approval and acceptance. This programming is why we often say that in order to differentiate yourself, you must actually be different!

If you are an entrepreneur or a corporate marketer, there is a sub-set of programming related to all things branding and marketing. The most prevalent issue is that many leaders have a fairly static knowledge set. They may be informed on the latest branding and marketing tools and trends, but there is a deep-seated first response system that must be overcome.

I have noticed at least three common “social programming” traits related to branding and marketing …

Selling Offerings. Simon Sinek has made “Start with Why” a contemporary branding mantra. But few actually do this. Most often, you see leaders start with their product or service offering. The social programming behind this is from several thousand years of tribal survival. It pretty much follows Maslow’s Hierarchy. Most of human existence has been focused on the bottom end of the hierarchy: physical survival, safety, security. This is all HOW stuff. In the middle of the hierarchy, you find the WHAT: acceptance, attention, belonging – all traits that have been heavily exploited by advertising the past 70+ years. At the top of the hierarchy is self-actualization. This is the WHY that Sinek talks about. We also teach this is where brands come from – because true branding is how other people experience how you are self-actualizing (mission, beliefs, purpose, creativity, etc).

When you start with your WHAT (offerings), you are really just selling that they’ll accept you. Two simple tests:

1) On the above-the-fold section of your website, is the language and visuals WHY or WHAT?

2) In conversations where you are asked what you do, do you provide a WHAT answer?

There is no shame in this! But it is science. All decisions are made in the non-verbal part of the brain. They are made with emotion. Further, attention is meted out based on pattern disruption. So if you don’t sound and look different, everyone’s hyper-programmed brain will shove you in to an existing file folder.

Clarity at the expense of curiosity. Most of us are programmed with a deep need to be right; to have the right answer. To do a good job so that we get the grade, the approval, the promotion. So we over-explain everything in pursuit of clarity – both for our audience and for ourselves. When we seek to provide clarity first, we rob the audience of one of the essentials of experiencing life: curiosity! Curiosity is triggered by breaking pattern recognition. It is part of our primal wiring to notice something different and give it our attention. When we over-explain, we rob our audience of the opportunity to get closer, ask questions and otherwise investigate the mystery.

Tactical bias. Phew. This is a big one. This programming comes from the making and doing of the Industrial Age and ages prior. With it comes a need to pick the right tool and learn how to use it. It is also driven by the primal coding of competition. What if my competitor has a better tool than me? Or what if she has the same tool but knows how to use it better than me? Here is secret #1: you can’t use all the marketing tools. There are too many of them. So you have to choose the ones that best fit you. And here is secret #2 (this one said in a whisper): if you get a few things right, ALL marketing tools work. If you organize your brand around your mission. If you share a belief-based message. If you are disciplined about customer experience and marketing activities. Then whatever you decide to do will work. As a fitness trainer friend of mine once said, “The plan that you do is the one that works.”

If you want to become a brand – that is, go the top of Maslow’s Hierarchy – here are four principles to embrace:

  1. Your brand is how other people experience what you believe (not just an external image).
  2. “Advertising is the price you pay for being boring” – Andy Sernovitz
  3. All branding is an act of provocation. (Branding is an art. Art offends some people. These are not your people.)
  4. If ingredient panels sold cereal, they’d be on the front of the box. (there’s a lot to learn from the research done by a multi-billion dollar industry).

Take a look at the best branded competitors in your sector. Or your favorite local establishments. Or the brands of your favorite thinkers. Unless they’ve had a long term dominate market position (i.e. Coke), they all became great brands by ignoring social programming and just focused on being consistently original and interesting.

What Still Works

By Branding, Leadership, LifeNo Comments


One of our mantras at Root + River is “if you aren’t producing value, you’re just contributing to the noise”. And oh what noise there is in the over-proliferation of formulaic marketing. Carefully staged Instagram photos. The endless stream of click-funnel language. The pleas for attention from email marketing. And (to me at least) the biggest culprit: cut-and-paste pitch emails and LinkedIn messages.

To be clear, I’m not really complaining about the tools (although I do find click funnels to be extra annoying). I am complaining about the way these tools are being used. That’s because how you market has far more impact on your brand than what you market.

There is a silver lining to over-information fatigue. We are returning to more ancient principles of communicating, relating and collaborating. As these new marketing fads run their course, certainly new ones will replace them. But there are a few timeless practices that will work in perpetuity.

  1. Be Direct. Use a scalpel not a butter knife to get your point across. State your why/what/how (in that order) in the most succinct way possible. Then clearly and directly ask for what you want. Over-explanation is a sign of insecurity. Simplicity and directness are signs of confidence. Your audience doesn’t need more insecure marketers begging for their attention.
  2. Don’t Waste Other People’s Time. There is some direct correlation with the above point. But it goes deeper than that. Wasting someone’s time is the modern equivalent of stealing someone’s horse in the Old West. Time is our “horse” – our most prized possession, our biggest asset. When you send long ass emails or write long ass marketing copy, you are stealing your audience’s horses. The same applies to asking for someone’s time for a call or a meeting. It better be at least equal in worth to them as it is for you.
  3. Storytelling. Ah, yes. The most ancient practice of sharing and liking. If you are sitting around a fire swapping stories, two things become quickly apparent: a) not having a story to share and b) not be very good at sharing it. Such is the case today. Not having a story to share is usually because you haven’t done the work to find out what’s truly interesting about your brand (hint: it is you and the humans you impact). Most people settle for checking the box next to “Marketing” on their to-do list without ever considering whether or not they’re telling a story. Secondly, storytelling is far more about will than skill. Storytelling takes vulnerability and consistency. Both of which are matters of courage and discipline, not following some storytelling formula.
  4. Tell the Truth. One of the positives about the acres and acres of bullshit caused by over-marketing is that the truth is far more obvious and far more memorable. Most of truth telling in marketing boils down to these three things: 1) Don’t over-inflate what you think makes you different. I call this the “turkey bacon” rule. “Turkey bacon” isn’t bacon. It’s pressed meat with an ad agency. 2) Don’t be afraid to say no. Not everyone is worthy of being your customer. Or your friend. It’s ok to say no to people that are not energy positive for you. And 3) Don’t pitch or preach. Nobody likes to be pitched to or preached at. Yet this is 90% of the behavior of most marketers.

To reiterate, I’m not saying the tools are the problem (although sometimes they are). I am saying that how they are used is important. To paraphrase Dr Jordan Peterson, marketing is suffering; don’t make it worse.

Further, there’s something to be said for using timeless practices. It grounds us in our history. It shows that time is a continuum but some things transcend that continuum. These timeless practices of directness, not wasting other people’s time, storytelling and telling the truth provide a solid baseline of branding and marketing competency. And all four get amplified by most contemporary tools.

The 3 Shifts of Modern Branding

By Branding, Entrepreneurism, LeadershipNo Comments

I (and we at Root + River) have written extensively the past few years about the end of the old world of branding and marketing. No more pretense. No more construct. No more shiny candy wrapper with a crap center. No more fear, manipulation, persuasion, coercion.

I believe most leaders understand this era is over. There is no more Mad Men. They understand and accept the importance of culture, customer experience, visual appeal. But as Hank, Jr. once moaned “Old habits … are hard to break.” To break these old world habits (or mindsets) requires a conscious choice.

I think there are three shifts a leader needs to have – first inwardly, then in his/her business …

  1. Shift your brand from being business model driven to being mission driven. In the 21st century, brand, mission and business model are really the same thing. Yet many leaders still have the mindset that brand is an external wrapping and that mission is either a passive awareness or a get-to-it-later. The present and future of being a brand is to have mission at the center of the brand. And then the business model supports both. Big brands like Patagonia, Chick-fil-A, Nike, Virgin get this. In fact, I would say that all four were born of mission that became a brand that became a successful business model. It’s just even more obvious in this modern era where you can’t pay for the kind of attention these brands get. In order to organize your brand around your mission, you must also know your personal mission – the thing you are here to do that only you can do. This requires inner work, EQ and discipline – and won’t be found in a book or on a spreadsheet.
  2. Shift your thinking on who your audience is. “Target audience” remains a common term that rarely has actual usefulness. It’s a term from the bygone era of predictable demographic behaviors, less media choices and less overall product and service choices. Consider this instead … your audience is not who you are looking for. It’s who’s looking for you. Your job as a leader is to get the brand out there – be findable. This means first diving deep into the soul – or root – of your brand. Brands that do this learn something almost magical: when you build your brand from the soul, you find the people that are looking for you. This doesn’t mean a build-it-and-they-will-come mindset. Nor does it mean that you shouldn’t market. It simply means that you need to get out there in different and unique ways. And this is highly contextual to your marketplace. Red Bull built their brand by going to skate parks and extreme sports events. They didn’t advertise to a “target audience”. They went to the people that were looking for them but didn’t yet know it.
  3. Shift from head-based messaging to heart-based messaging. Head-based messaging is also a relic. It assumes through saturation, purchased brand awareness and repeated calls to action that you can take up a position in the mind of the buyer. This is no longer true. While certainly some of the principles of positioning still apply, the conditions have changed dramatically. Here’s another way to look at it … head-based messaging is for the conscious mind. It requires people to pay attention. Yet most Americans are in a perpetual primal state of flight/fight/freeze. They’re tired, over-booked, over-worked, over-extended. They don’t have the conscious mind resources to pay attention to you – unless you are solving their current and present issues. But these same people have plenty of room in their hearts. In fact, they crave meaning, authenticity, realness. This means that messaging is really what your heart has to say to the world. It’s a message from your heart to their hearts. But like discovering your personal mission, it requires the inner work of connecting to your heart – a process many leaders still avoid.

Modern branding is ultimately about two things from a leadership perspective: 1) Letting go of old beliefs, habits, systems, concepts and 2) letting in new feelings like love, trust, joy, delight, purpose, failure, triumph. And no one can make you let go or let in. Only you can do that.

The Return of Long-Form Content

By BrandingOne Comment

The old models of content delivery don’t work anymore, right? Everyone is busy. Everyone is distracted. We all have ADD. Way too much screen time. Media is too fragmented. Too many choices. So your content has to be short. Snackable. Chunkable. Bite Size. Drip. It’s gotta be easy to consume and easy to share. Packaged just right so that they can scarf it down like fast food from the drive through window.

Not. True.

Long-form content is more popular than ever. Some examples …

Hugely popular podcasters like Joe RoganAdam Carolla and Theo Von regularly air episodes that are 2 – 3 hours long.

Intellectual phenom Jordan Peterson has lectures on YouTube (1.3 million subscribers!) that are 2 – 3 hours long – and have 2.5 million views.

Black Panther, Jurassic World, Avengers: Infinity War are all top grossing movies of 2018 – and all are well over 2 hours long.

Isaacson’s incredible book on DaVinci is 624 pages long. Peterson’s million+ selling book “12 Rules for Life” is 365 pages long. Springsteen’s stellar autobiography is 528 pages long.

The two top grossing novels of 2018 are “The President is Missing” (528 pages) and “The Perfect Couple” (480 pages).

Serial shows on Netflix and Amazon Prime are hugely popular. With each episode much longer than traditional TV episodes.

How can this be? In a world full of fragmentation, saturation and too-much-information, how did long-form content become so popular.

A few thoughts …

The #1 factor is that we humans always love a great story. There’s something of the human psyche that is drawn to story. We are wired for it. A great story bends time. It makes time almost irrelevant. A great story is transcendent of current conditions. When enraptured by a story, we can escape from the pressures of life.

A second factor is portability. Podcasts, YouTube videos, audio books are – obviously – highly portable. This allows us to fill in the seams and crevices of time – like commuting, working out, flying. This also feeds our sense of accomplishment because we are double dipping on time.

Another factor is that self-care/personal growth is hot right now. And there are many ways to manifest this self-care and personal growth. For many, consuming long-form content is a type of self-care. It’s indulgent. It’s fulfilling. And if it’s intellectual or spiritual content, it also triggers a sense of achievement.

In analyzing popular long-form content, I’ve noticed three must-haves:

  • Originality. This is true in all aspects of life and business. There are way too many karaoke singers covering other people’s stuff. But this is particular true with long-form content. We want, demand, need content that we’ve not heard or seen before. We need to laugh, think, cry – all emotions that are most often triggered by originality.
  • Rawness. This varies based on the medium, but when it comes to podcasts and YouTube videos, we don’t want them too polished. We want to consume something that’s organic – where the content provider is speaking from their souls. Even in more structured content like a book or movie, we still want to connect to the soul of the creator. We want to feel the pieces of themselves they put in to their work.
  • Consistency. You can’t half-ass long form content. If you are going to do, you gotta do it again and again. This consistency comes in the form of frequency, quality and provocation. This means that the creators of content must always be learning and growing. They need to be aware to not get sucked into a formulaic approach in the name of consistency.

Long-form content works if you are rooted and confident in who you are and how you show up the world (what we would call your Brand). You have to truly believe in what you have to share. You have to be disciplined about presenting it in a compelling way. Both of which are the fruits of self-confidence. And you have to pick the platform that takes the most advantage of your natural gifts and talents. I don’t know that I would ever be able to craft a 400 page book. But I could definitely talk for 3 hours on a podcast!

What long-form content are you consuming? Reply in comments.

5 Ways to Reduce Marketing Fails

By BrandingNo Comments

Marketing fails. In fact, it may fail more than any other part of your business. The reasons for failure are endless – starting with the increasingly relentless number of options and tools and highly fragmented, overly-stimulated audiences. Failure is often unavoidable. By its very nature, marketing is an experiment of both science and art. But many of marketing’s failures are completely avoidable if you are aware of these things:

  1. Have a great brand. As we frequently say at Root + River, a great brand solves a thousand business problems. One of the problems a great brand solves is withstanding marketing failure. A great brand allows you to experiment with a wide variety of marketing tactics to see which resonate and which don’t. A great brand reduces the pressure on marketing to produce some tangible (and often immediate) results.
  2. Razor-sharp messaging. A boring, uninspiring message turns pretty much any marketing tactic into a dull blade. To sharpen the message, speak to and from the heart. Don’t BS, manipulate, persuade, coerce. Just speak the truth directly and succinctly. And keep that blade sharp by frequently re-examining your messaging. Make sure this message can be communicated in any medium – especially off-line conversations.
  3. Remove tactical bias. Every marketer brings to the table a set of knowledge from past experiences and efforts. Some of those tools and tactics worked and, because marketing is about failure, many did not. Your brain remembers both the things that worked and didn’t work and applies that knowledge to current situations. Start from scratch. Look at each marketing scenario with a fresh set of eyes and ears. Don’t make assumptions.
  4. Put word-of-mouth at the middle of your strategy. Word-of-mouth (WOM) is often viewed by marketers as an after-effect or a hopeful outcome. While that’s true, putting WOM at the center of your marketing strategy aligns all of the marketing tactics to serve the same goal. If you create delight in the customer experience, you increase the number of conversations. If you increase the number of conversations, you increase the number of leads. If you increase the number of leads, you can put your marketing resources into more long-term initiatives.
  5. Implement agile marketing principles. Just like in software development, agile principles allow you to move faster and smarter. This is one of the reasons why we don’t create year-long marketing plans for our clients. It’s a waste of energy and resources to make a series of assumptions about the marketplace. Instead, we focus on 90 day cycles and a rolling Top 5 of marketing initiatives. We also focus on role clarity – making sure everyone knows who is doing what. Of course, we also align the marketing tactics to expected outcomes/KPIs/metrics. But we build in failure knowing some stuff won’t work. That’s why we never take our eye of the brand (see #1 above).

My business partner and co-founder of Root + River, Emily Soccorsy frequently says, “marketing isn’t rocket science. It’s clarity of message delivered consistently over time.” There are thousands of things you can’t control in marketing. But Emily’s quote contains the three things you have absolute control over: clarity, consistency and patience. These three eliminate a bevy of “ifs” and “shoulds” and “hopefullys” from marketing efforts and properly set expectations for marketing’s performance. And if you are in internal marketing person, the methods presented here will help you hold fast against unreasonable expectations and outlandish assumptions.


Chatting with Reuben on Sales4Nerds Podcast

By Branding, Entrepreneurism, LeadershipNo Comments

I had a blast sipping Ben Milam bourbon and chatting with the very smart and insightful Reuben Swartz on his Sales4Nerds podcast. We talked about my journey from the ranch, to sales guy, to branding guy – and how all of those are connected. We dove into the role of branding within sales and even covered finding your mission and purpose.

Listen here.

Check out Reuben’s cool sales technology tool, Mimiran.

Is Your Brand Doing These Two Things?

By Branding, LeadershipNo Comments

As I/we have often written about, brand and branding is not what it used to be. It is no longer an external construct based on perception and image. It’s not about demographics, campaigns, ad spend.

So what is it?

We say that a brand is how other people experience what you believe.

This means that your brand must successfully and consistently do two things:

Emit Love

Create Trust

Love is the ultimate “bacon” aroma that a brand can generate. It literally means triggering oxytocin in the people that touch the brand. But it’s so much bigger than that. Love makes your brand un-copyable, unbreakable, timeless. Love turns your employees into ambassadors and your customers into your shareholders. Love makes your competitors shrink – or rise to the occasion. Love can’t be bought with Taco Tuesday’s nor with discounts. Love is earned through the daily habits of an organization – starting with its top leaders. One of these habits is self-care – leaders that invest in the holistic well-being of themselves and the people they lead.

Trust is what happens when you consistently emit love. Trust allows you to fail, make mistakes and otherwise be a human. Trust shows up in a thousand ways – from empowering your employees to truly help your customers to proactively listening to the needs of your customers. Trust means using branding and marketing language and tools that encourage, invite, inspire and saying no to manipulation, persuasion and saturation. Trust means building your brand as a word-of-mouth machine – knowing that the more trust you generate, the more your brand will grow. Trust means always seeing the humanity in your decisions.

My question to all leaders is this …

If your brand doesn’t emit love and create trust, what are you asking your marketing team to do?