Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

What’s an Irresistible Brand Story? Why does it Matter, and Why You Should Give a Damn.

Ever since the cavemen shared stories around the campfire to reading the news updates on our cell screens, story has been at the heart of every transaction. It defines who we are, and it’s the way we connect with each other. It can be profoundly powerful – and transporting – because it takes us to another place. Ahhhh, remember when you last pleaded, in that little child-like voice, tell me another story, please?

Your brand story transforms the way people feel about you.

Telling your personal brand story in the most compelling way is going to make your brand stand out in the marketplace. What’s more, it’ll captivate and transform your world.

Just take a look at what’s happening across the social media platforms. What exactly are over one billion people doing on Facebook? Well, mostly they’re sharing their stories in words and pictures. They’re craving that emotional and powerful hit that comes through telling, and then sharing, a story. It’s the ultimate form of creative expression which is an innate desire, and characteristic of humans, by the way. So if you’re haven’t been crafting your own killer brand story, now is a good time to start.

It goes without saying that technology is making sharing stories more fun and more frictionless. Social innovator Rachel Botsman and co-author of the influential book What’s Mine is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption talks about the new ‘trust mechanics’ online, and explores how technology is actually enabling trust between strangers in the new peer-to-peer social revolution.

So how do you start shaping your brand story so it has a distinctive and emotional resonance, shows you to be a real and trustworthy human being and hits home with your audience? Here’s the secret: You start digging deep, and pulling back the layers.

Try this exercise: Identify the defining moments in your life..

Look at the trajectory of your life and/or career and identify which are the defining moments for you. Don’t go overboard. Start with 5 major times in your life. Why do they stand out? What happened exactly, and why are they so significant to you? Let your memory take you right back there and probe a little more. The idea here is to pick one of your defining moments and then weave it right into the fabric of your brand story.

One of my favorite brand stories

This is an example of a compelling and memorable brand story: Jeff Nussbaum is a partner at one of the country’s most prominent strategic speechwriting firms, West Wing Writers, based in Washington, D.C. ( If you go to the ABOUT page on their site, look for TEAM and click on Jeff Nussbaum, you’ll see how Jeff has shaped his story by capturing one defining a significant moment in his life.

Jeff Nussbaum | Partner

The first speech Jeff Nussbaum wrote was to defend himself against suspension from high school. It was unsuccessful.  Since that time, Jeff has found greater success helping clients pen and promote bestselling books, prepare commencement speeches and viral TED talks, and deliver winning comedy routines at venues ranging from the Alfalfa Club to the Al Smith Dinner.

Get the idea? No matter how dramatic Jeff’s defining moment might have been, you can see how he has turned it around, and crafted a highly idiosyncratic, captivating and moving personal story. What’s more, he shows his quirky sense of humor. And a vulnerable side. What could be better than that?! If I was looking to hire a specialist in this area, and I had to choose between Jeff and four other recommended experts, I’d choose Jeff, for sure. Because his story resonates with me — and hits home big time.

Just a few more things. Storytelling is critical to your personal brand and business for a couple of other reasons:

  • An authentic personal brand story makes you totally memorable. (In the best way possible.)
  • It differentiates you as desirable. (What more could you ask for?)
  • It brings your brand to life. (Nothing worse than a bland brand — or as I like to call it, a Dead Brand Walking. So this is very good news.)
  • It gives you a distinct competitive advantage (Not many people out there can tell a good brand story. Seriously.)
  • Your audience becomes hugely responsive. (Absolutely.)
  • It lands an unforgettable spot in the psyche of your audience. (More good news.)

Warning: Our brains are constantly on alert, scanning the horizon for insincere messages. Make sure you write your story with absolute sincerity. People out there are savvy. They can pick up on a fake story a mile away. Be exactly who you say you are. Then, watch heads turn!

So start to identify one of your most remarkable defining moments, and see how you can weave it throughout your brand story. Then watch what happens. Does this all feel like too much effort?! It’s much easier than you think. If you want to chat, and see how to get started, let’s chat. Or send me an email:

Huge success to you on connecting in a much more heart-felt way. Kudos!

Why some brands nail it (and others fail.)

Why Some Brands Nail It and Others Fail. (Three Clues.)


Today, it’s just not enough to be brilliant. People must know and remember that you are.

Imagine this scenario: You’re looking to set up and run your own business, and you desperately want to be known, remembered and recognized. OK. Focus on creating a compelling brand right from the start. After all, your brand is one of your most valuable assets. Get it right, and it will position you and your business long term as totally irresistible, powerful and engaging.

Then, consider that today’s most successful brands are more conscious than ever about how they communicate with their audiences. If you carefully craft your brand’s voice, language, tone and behavior, you’ll have a much better chance of capturing your audience in a world with a low-attention span.

1º Set the Right Tone for your Brand.

Assume your brand is going to have an ongoing two-way conversation with your world 24/7. You want to be engaging with people, and interact with them across multiple platforms. Please note: Your tone is almost more important than what you say.

Takeaway 1: Realize that your brand has its own voice, and it’s your job to set the tone in all the language around your business. Notice how you are talking to people whether it’s face to face, written communications or online. If you speak with clarity and sincere intention, it’s going to resonate, hit home – and people will be able to hear you, understand what you’re doing, and then, want to climb onboard. (That’s a very good sign.)

Takeaway 2: Be consistent about communicating you are who you say you are. If your brand’s voice is authentic and aligned with your values –i.e. what you stand for – you will come across as trustworthy and genuine. If you come across as withholding or secretive, people will disappear (quickly!)

2º Mind your Brand’s Behavior.

Brands are like puppies (seriously.) They need a lot of attention and a firm hand.

Takeaway 1 Think about how you’d like your brand to be perceived by your audience. Communicate that to your team, make sure everyone is on the same page so there’s the promise to do whatever it takes to deliver exactly what you’re promising. (Under delivering is not a smart business strategy.)

Takeaway 2 Every brand has an attitude. It will either work in your favor or not. Be aware that the world is going to have a particular set of feelings around you, your brand and your business. Double check that your brand is welcoming and engaging from the start. Your business will land a high score when it comes to empathy if people feel your brand cares about creating strong emotional connections with them 24/7. (Keeping people at arm’s length is not an option. At least not on the 21C new brand landscape!)

3º Inspire Others. Share your Purpose.

When you tell people what you do and how you do it, it’s interesting (of course) but it’s not always that inspiring or helpful. But when you talk about why you do what you do, a different dynamic starts to happen.

You’ll notice people lean in, listen closer and an emotional connection start to kick in. People are craving to hear your why. What’s more, it takes courage to live your why– it’s your purpose, after all, says Simon Sinek, author of Start With Why.

Takeaway 1: Look at making your why part of your brand story, dialog and communication in all things, online and offline. In full disclosure, it’s going to take a little more effort than just talking about the nuts and bolts of your business. This is about looking at why you’re starting the business in the first place. What are the defining moments that led you to this very point in time? Why are they meaningful to you? And, just as importantly, why should anyone else give a damn!?

Working out Your Why is a highly-charged process and hugely rewarding. It’s one of the most powerful exercises you can do. PS Try it: it will transform the way you think about your life and business!


Serious Question: Do you imagine others actually recognize your value?

OK Business Entrepreneurs, this is really about the Business of Recognizing Yourself__ so Others Can.

We’re living in a 21C new world__ I call it 21C Business Unusual. Because we’re all having different kinds of conversations across more platforms than we ever could imagine. Right.

Some days, we’re not even sure how we’re going to manage our messaging – and keep it on target, consistent and, of course fascinating.

So taking a close look at your business brand and the story you tell – as well as the subliminal messaging you put out to the world 24/7 – is one of the best ways to recognize who are you, what you do, why it matters — and why anyone should give a damn.

OK where do you start? A Brand Audit tends to make the difference. You get a professional’s outsider’s point of view. It helps you understand the WHY, WHAT and HOW you really deliver. Once you seriously can name that and own it, you will be be more recognized and seen by the people you most want to see you. Here’s my methodology:

Zing Your Brand Intel Methodology

The best news? A Brand Audit makes sense of the messaging dialogs going on inside your brand brain, help you to turn the lens inwards on your unique creative value, embed your individualistic energy into your brand – and then, help you be willing to show up in a more mindful and authentic way.

FYI One of the most common questions that keep coming up with my clients is: how can I best communicate who I really am on this new 21C brand landscape? How can I speak in my own voice and get the right tone — so others know exactly who I am and understand the kind of value I bring to the table?

A brand audit helps you start re-imagining and reframing the way you think. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to close more sales, stand out in the marketplace, get promoted, build a community or looking to kick start your business. It will help people understand who you are and what you stand for.

“Van can switch from multinational to entrepreneur mindsets in a flash – across sectors, channels and audiences but with a brand’s own story running fast through each. She has the instinct of a true marketer that shapes every story right – and a client side manner built on trust and rapport to bring it all together. I think any brand will be the better for talking to her.” __Nick Stravs, Corporate Reputation Specialist |

1.) Brand Audit: An Un-Biased Evaluation. Because every healthy, highly-functioning brand wants a bit of honest feedback, evaluation, assessment and help getting on the right track.

Booking an Audit is where you get help in pulling back the layers, finding out what’s really going on behind your brand and story, the points of pain that are getting in the way __and then, wet get to turn it around so you’re not shooting yourself in the foot, anymore.

Ask yourself: is my messaging communicating who I am, what I do and why it matters? This process is really about bringing more meaning and purpose to the business table. How willing are you to evaluate, assess and tweak the kind of messaging you are sending out? PS It takes courage.

Take away: Look for the clues that might be doing your business a disservice. Ask your colleagues for their honest feedback. Is your site communicating the message you want out in the world? Does it reflect you, and your own unique value? And is it obvious and clear what your purpose is? Plus how easy are you making it for others to pick up on your value?

2.) Brand Story: Why you do what you do. Because every healthy brand loves a well-articulated and irresistible story.

This is where you look at YOUR WHY. Because understanding your WHY will give you all the clues you need to create a meaningful story. This is about coaxing out your creative core essence and getting right to the heart of your brand.

Where to start? Start tapping into the reasons why you’re working at what you do. Or why you started your business in the first place? I bet you have a remarkable ‘back story’ that would fascinate people. As in: share something about you that they’d never be able to know. Articulate that story. Make it personal – be creative and courageous, again.

Ask yourself: Are you willing to get out of your comfort zone? Actually open up just a little so others can get to see you, know you, like you — and trust you. Because that’s when people reach out to you, want to work with you and your organization, hire you.

On a personal note: When I started sharing my story of being a Dutch sea captain’s daughter, I was amazed at the reaction. Some people had trouble remembering my name but they had no problem remembering the Dutch sea captain’s daughter. Because it’s a potent, visual picture that tells a story and it lands a spot in their psyche. Interesting, right.

3.) Brand Identity: Are you who you say you are? Because every healthy brand longs for a fascinating identity.

We live in a design-driven culture. So you better get used to the fact that design is here to stay! It’s never been more important to pay attention to the design aesthetic around your brand.

Ask yourself: Is my logo, color palette and language inviting, warm, energizing — or is it making people want to look the other way?

Ask yourself: What score would you give to your own current logo, site, marketing materials? Would this material stop you — and make you gasp?! If you can’t answer HELL YES to that question, I’d suggest you think about what kinds of design really excites you and make you want more…

4.) Brand Transformation: Why what you do matters. Every healthy brand adores fine-tuning along the way.

Your brand is never static. It’s not just your logo. Or your tagline. Or the color of the uniforms your staff wear. Or the color palette on your website. Your brand is a living, breathing organism that needs regular monitoring, checking in and keeping things on track.

In this final step, think about WHAT you do and why that matters. Why your audience/tribe should care about buying from you. This is about paying attention to bringing as much energy and mindfulness to your brand so it feels alive, engaging — and totally authentic.

If you still think your website as a kind of ‘static holding place’ that really has no significance in the scheme of things, you have to think again. Everyone is checking your website. Before they choose to work with you. Before they make that call to you. It’s the energy you create around your site and online presence that is now the determining factor.

Ask yourself: Rather, ask some of your favorite clients/colleagues for some seriously-honest feedback. As in: What kind of feeling do you pick up when you go on my site? Does my online brand communicate what I am really like? What we really do? And the unique value I really bring to the table?

If you’d like a little help around getting your brand audited, take a look at what we’ll explore in a 90 minute session. The best news? We’ll zero in on exactly what your brand most needs in order to land a spot on the 21C new brand landscape.

Business Strategy: We’ll look at how to manage your reputation so you show up like you mean it. We tap into what makes your customer’s brain tick so your brand message can better relate & resonate with them.

Creative Storytelling: We’ll evaluate, then rethink and craft your own messaging with exactly the right tone, voice and language. (You’ll never keep your audience at arm’s length again.)

Brand Marketing: How to amp up your Emotional Intelligence (EQ), strengthen your relationship with your audience and create more trust so they’ll be your fans forever.

Emotional Intelligence: How can you keep you audience leaning in closer – hearts beating, eyes gleaming? We’ll monitor the kind of messaging your brand is communicating 24/7. Reality check: Your brand is sending out subliminal messages and invisible clues 24/7 whether you know it or not.
Any questions about the process? Get in touch and we can continue the dialog: Or for more info:

Here’s to the business of recognizing who you — so others can!

How 3 Marketers Discuss Going Solo | Marketing News

This article by Hal Conick, staff writer for AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters, was published September 12, 2016. I’m thrilled to be included!

How can marketers take advantage of the freelance and entrepreneurial economy? Three solo marketers discuss their roads to success in independence.

by Hal Conick

Marketing News | September 12, 2016 | American Marketing Association

If you’re fed up with working for someone else, you aren’t alone. There were 15.5 million self-employed workers as of May 2015, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, up 1 million from 2014.

While there’s no known statistic of marketers who have gone solo, there are plenty of marketing professionals who have struck out on their own within that 15.5 million. This may mean freelance, or starting a consultancy or business of their own.

Aaron Zwas, director of emerging technologies at Digital Marketing Works, founder of Zwas Group and author of the book Transition to Independence, says the marketer’s knack for branding may make the transition easier. After all, they have an ability to self-market. However, marketers aren’t immune to difficulty when the product they’re selling is themselves. This exists among other common complaints.

“The most common issues that stop people from going independent include the need for financial security, insufficient potential business, and no desire to ‘take it all on,’” he says. “Each of these issues are significant and valid, but none of them should be show-stoppers. Instead, they should be used as opportunities for careful planning and preparation for transition.”

Marketers, or any other professional transitioning to independence, must ensure they have a long-lasting business model and a service that won’t go out of style. They also need the ability to adapt to changing times. This means not focusing too much on the brand, Zwas says; just enough to get recognized.

“The best independents are very clear on their particular expertise,” Zwas says. “The other defining quality is that they have relatively good communication skills, which help them to interact with their clients and therefore improve client retention rates.”

The most common areas of failure are insufficient planning and prep, as well as lack of planning for how the non-work side of life will be affected by one striking off on their own.

Zwas says independent-minded marketers should know they will have a leg-up on others, but they need to establish their area of expertise early and set proper rates competing on value instead of price.

To highlight the path to independence, Marketing News spoke with three entrepreneurial marketers about their journeys to independence.

Susan Silver, president of Argentum Strategy Group, started in June 2006

Q: How was starting your own business at the beginning? How long did it take to get the hang of it?

A: It was scary but exciting at the same time at the beginning. I had run large businesses at Kraft Foods for 10 years (the largest had a $300 million P&L), so I applied what I had learned there about building a plan and positioning my own business. And while applying my marketing knowledge to much smaller businesses was new territory for me, the fundamental skills and processes were the same at their core. It was a question of learning how to adapt them and teach the concepts to people unfamiliar with marketing.

I was starting up, I also talked with a lot of people who were already independent consultants. I asked for their perspective and advice. I also asked everyone I spoke with how they were continuing to learn. This was a big concern of mine, as I didn’t want my marketing expertise to stagnate. The people I spoke with said that it typically takes about four to six years before you really feel like you’re in the groove. At about the four year mark, I really felt like things began to hum.

Q: What’s the biggest advantage of running your own business?

A: My clients typically hire me because they do not have internal marketing strategy expertise. That means they value what I contribute to their team and their business. It’s wonderful to be appreciated that way. I love being able to flex my time if I need to, but I generally work the same hours as my friends who are not self-employed.

At my five-year anniversary, one of my friends congratulated me for not having had a boss for five years. I laughed and told him I’d had 40 bosses since I started.

Q: Do you have any advice for marketers looking to go independent?

A: Know that not all of your working hours will be billable. Rule of thumb is roughly 50% billable, 40% business development and 10% administrative. Paying for my own health care is the single scariest thing about being an entrepreneur.

I run my business like a business. I track a 12-month rolling average of leads in and maintain detailed records of every single lead that comes in. I also track a rolling 12-month average of invoices, close rate, percent of referrals, etc. Always make time for business development.

Rob Frankel, branding expert, founded Frankel and Anderson in 1986

Q: Why did you start your own business?

A: After working in a bunch of ad agencies (fired by two, hired away by six) I had so much freelance work that I decided working to make myself rich was preferable to making the senior agency dopes rich.

Q: How was it? Did you get the hang of it quickly?

A: I was always a business-type guy, and I’d been running a nice freelance operation, so the adjustment didn’t take very long for me. While I was working at other agencies, I took the time to learn about their business and operations. What worked, what didn’t. As a result, when I started F&A as an ad agency, we were–and remained–highly profitable.

Q: What’s the advantage to running an independent business?

A: No politics. More efficiency. No arguments or discussions with people who don’t share the same visions. Everything moves faster, smoother and usually more successfully.

Q: What’s your advice for other marketers looking to make the transition? 

A: Adapt. Nothing is more important. Since its founding, Frankel & Anderson has morphed from an ad agency to a branding consultancy to a holding company for all my ventures, including my new book. I bought out my original partner very early in the game. He wasn’t a businessman. He was a very talented one-trick pony: all he could do is create ads. Probably still does to this day. I realized that the ad business was changing into a media-intensive business, and media was never my specialty: strategy was. So I adapted into a brand strategist, which is why I wrote.

Mary van de Wiel, creative brand strategist, founder of Zing Your Brand in 2007

Q: What was it like starting your company?

A: In full disclosure, it was almost effortless getting my own company up and running. That’s why I’ve always felt very lucky and very grateful, needless to say. Everything seemed to just fall into place.

Q: What are the advantages you’ve found in independence?

A: The best advantage? You get to pick and choose the kind of creative talent and energy you want to see every day. And look forward to seeing them every day. I’d say that’s quite a privilege.

The ability to resonate with people, understand their values/experiences/stories and know they’re keen to bring more meaningful thinking to the table is a hugely exhilarating and rewarding experience. What’s more, if you find people with a high passion quotient, a keen sense of curiosity and the willingness to learn (and fail quickly)—then, it’s 100% win-win. You can’t teach those innate skills easily. What could be better than working in such good company?

Example: Looking for a new designer? I’d choose the person (with talent, certainly) who had a spring in their step and that twinkle in their eye. You can spot that kind of energy the minute they walk through the door. Although I always had a small team, they were brilliant and highly eclectic individuals. I couldn’t have asked for more.

Q: What advice do you have for other marketers looking to strike out on their own?

A: Make sure you’re mad/crazy about what you do. And make sure you’re good. Very good. If not, you’re wasting your time. And everyone else’s. Master your own inner environment; know yourself (inside and out.) It’s not an option. What’s more, understanding what makes you tick is the game changer. Your mindset is the killer app here. So being empathetic, understanding how to listen to people and hear what’s really going on between the silent gaps is critical.

Differentiate yourself from the rest of the pack. Be 100% clear about what makes you so different from your competitors. Of course, being a brander, I’m going to suggest that if you don’t build a brand that stands out like you mean it, you’re toast. Remember, your brand is really just a feeling people have about you. Make it easy for them to understand who you are, what you do, why you do what you do— and why they should give a damn.

Being in partnership can make a big difference. (I’m sorry I never found the right biz partner.) But I’ve certainly watched biz partners dancing in sync, and it’s like magic. If you’ve got the inspiring, creative brain, make sure your partner knows about logistics. P.S. Business partnerships are like a marriage. Don’t fall into a biz relationship unless you know exactly who you’re dealing with. Trust helps.

Hal Conick is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @HalConick.

A 5 Day ‘Business-Unusual’ Retreat in San Miguel de Allende August 21-25, 2016


brand_lab_a mexico_stamp_big

Sunday August 21, 2016 – Thursday August 25, 2016

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

For the full program package,

go to

I’m thrilled to be launching the ‘Business-Unusual’ Retreat with a focus on creativity, intention, desire and 21C business right in the heart of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico in August. That’s five magical days & five nights in Central Mexico…

It’s really about giving yourself the time to uncover your most creative self and return to your business and digital world with a clear brand vision –– one that will cut through all the clutter (and make your message sing like a mariachi!)

wynne pic














High in the mountain town of San Miguel de Allende in Central Mexico (UNESCO World Heritage site) – and housed in an enchanting 18th century villa, Casa Rosada, you’ll be able to unplug and get clear in a series of 21C Business- Unusual workshop sessions: I’m leading the creative strategy/branding sessions plus we’ve planned a inspirational half day in the Mexican campo (countryside) for equine-guided experiential learning led by a Kentucky trainer Marti McGinnis. This is about making heart-felt connections with a 1,200 lb horse. I’m also delighted to have renowned New York photographer Elizabeth Watt join us for her insightful heart-felt sessions on the The Art of Seeing. PS And I’m going to run a session on creativity and desire where we’ll explore how to coax out our creativity. I’ll  share a little about my personal story re how got started right here in San Miguel in 2014. Magical things happen in this 15C mountain town.

Q. Why Business-Unusual?

wynnie streest smaYou can not do business as usual. Not any more. In this New Digital Era, your best competitive advantage is being transparent and showing up like you mean it.  What’s more, keeping your clients at arm’s length or keeping a low profile is no longer an option. Seriously.

For the full program and package details, go to

See you over on there! Va

Will Microsoft’s own AI Chatbot hurt its brand?

The scenario: Last week, sipping a coffee at Buen Dia cafe on Calle de la Pueblita, I was contacted by Hal Conick, writer for the American Marketing Association. Hal asked if I would comment on Microsoft and the potential damage being done to its brand by its very own Chatbot called Tay. Here’s Hal’s article that appeared a few days ago.

Will Microsoft’s AI Chatbot’s Racist Tweets Hurt its Brand?
By: Hal Conick, staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. Reach him at or on Twitter @HalConick.

Key Takeaways
​What? Microsoft released an AI Chatbot named Tay that the company hoped would learn from conversations on the social media platform. The chatbot ended up going silent after a group of Twitter users targeted a vulnerability, making it tweet out racist, xenophobic comments.

So What? How will this affect Microsoft’s brand? Branding experts said it may not at all. However, Microsoft’s response and how the company moves forward may determine a lot.

Now what? “Sometimes they work, sometimes they fail. When they succeed they’re amazing, and [expressing] that they’re open to the public’s reactions to certain things [is important],” one branding expert says.

Microsoft’s AI chatbot “Tay” was attempting to learn how to interact with humans. Instead, it was hijacked by trolls and learned nasty, racist language. Will the Twitter fail adversely affect Microsoft’s brand?​​​​
Twitter trolls have claimed another victim.

Microsoft’s artificial intelligence chatbot “Tay,” which uses the handle @TayandYou, went offline almost as quickly as it began chatting with users. The bot was created to have quick-witted conversations with the 18 to 24 crowd on Twitter and lean how to interact with people on the platform over time, the company said.

“The more you chat with Tay the smarter she gets, so the experience can be more personalized for you,” Microsoft’s website for Tay said.

However, Tay’s last tweet was on March 23. Instead of learning human communication from your average Twitter account, Tay was spouting xenophobic, racist, and absurd sentiments from Twitter’s cadre of trolls. Tay tweeted that the holocaust was fabricated, agreed with white power slogans, used racial slurs, and admitted support of genocide.

“c u soon humans need sleep now so many conversations today thx <3,” Tay’s most recent tweet reads. A string of its most incendiary tweets have since been deleted. On Friday, Peter Lee, corporate vice president for Microsoft Research, posted an apology on Microsoft’s blog. “Tay is now offline and we’ll look to bring Tay back only when we are confident we can better anticipate malicious intent that conflicts with our principles and values,” he wrote.

Lee wrote that the Microsoft team put Tay through multiple stress tests to ensure interactions with the bot would be a positive experience, but what he called a “coordinated attack” of people on Twitter exploited vulnerabilities in the chatbot.

Screenshot from Tay’s Twitter account from Business Insider
“Although we had prepared for many types of abuses of the system, we had made a critical oversight for this specific attack,” Lee wrote. “As a result, Tay tweeted wildly inappropriate and reprehensible words and images. We take full responsibility for not seeing this possibility ahead of time.”

How does something like this affect Microsoft’s brand? Rob Frankle, an independent branding strategist and consultant who works with Fortune 1000 companies, says he doesn’t believe it will hurt it at all. In fact, Frankle doesn’t believe Microsoft had anything to lose by experimenting in this way, as he doesn’t believe they truly have a brand at all.

“[Microsoft] does some things really well, but the fact is that as a brand, most people don’t really have a lot of loyally to Microsoft,” he says. “They haven’t cultivated a brand. They have never had a brand; they have an identity. But in my experience, given availability and cost issues, most Microsoft people, if they can choose another solution, probably would. … They are a tactical company, not a brand company.”

In fact, this situation be end up as an opportunity for Microsoft, he says: It gave Tay a good shot and can use the Thomas Edison Defense. “If you ask Thomas Edison, he didn’t create the lightbulb the first time out; he discovered 10,000 ways not to invent the light bulb.” It shows that the company is trying something new, he says, and they’ve never been a company that is afraid to fail. Frankle points out the countless clips of former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer “getting all sweaty and jumping around like a nerd on stage and looking stupid” and Bill Gates’ famed blue-screen-of-death during Windows 98’s launch​.

“There’s far worse stuff than this,” Frankle says with a chuckle. “This is sort of a technology thing. Everyone knows you can game technology.”

Karen Post, a branding expert and owner of Bran Tattoo Branding, says the Tay incident may be embarrassing momentarily for Microsoft, but innovators know that “launch and learn” is now a common practice in technology.

“Our society is forgiving and in many cases has a very select memory. The last brand blow up is quickly replaced with the latest brand blow up,” Post says. “The upside of this is … Microsoft is playing [in] the sand box, trying new things and aiming to better understand its customer and prospect. As long as it responds in a timely fashion, it will be fine.”

Marketing News spoke with Mary van de Wiel, a branding expert and CEO of Zing Your Brand, on Thursday before Lee wrote the apology blog post. Van de Wiel said she believes in making companies look more human by having more human dialog, and this was a fantastic opportunity for just that. She doesn’t believe Tay’s failure will negatively affect the brand, but said she hopes this would open up a greater conversation about where this kind of hatred and vitriol came from on social media platforms like Twitter.

“I would want my person at Microsoft to come out and talk about human responses, [and] create an amazing context for this kind of dialog,” she said. “Say ‘This is what we did and we could have waited until it was more fine-tuned, but it is powered by machine intelligence. Of course it’s going to be tricky.’ Maybe [Microsoft could] acknowledge that and instead of being embarrassed, say ‘We understand machine intelligence is not giving us what we need.’”

Frankle, like Post and van de Wiel, believes there is an opportunity to turn this into a positive branding experience,

“[Microsoft execs] should have some kind of focused effort on innovation and some sort of notion to the public about how they are a company that is always testing things, is always trying to develop things. Sometimes they work, sometimes they fail. When they succeed they’re amazing, and [expressing] that they’re open to the public’s reactions to certain things [is important],” he says.

Author Bio: Hal Conick
Hal Conick is a staff writer for the AMA’s magazines and e-newsletters. He can be reached at or on Twitter at @HalConick.

  • Blog
  • March 19th, 2016

Branding Workshop in Mexico | March 22/23


Show Up Like you Mean It

(Or, How to Create an Irresistible Brand)

San Miguel de Allende, Mexico



Dates: Tuesday. March 22 and Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Time: 2pm-6pm (two consecutive afternoons)

Location: Life Path Center, Rinconada de La Aldea 24, San Miguel de Allende GTO 37750

Cost: US$125 PayPal (special offer)

To register: email Van–


Let’s face it, every entrepreneur, artist, business owner and change maker has brand issues. If they’re serious enough, they’re going to shoot you in the foot — and just get in the way of your success. Creative strategist and brand storyteller Mary van de Wiel calls that a serious issue.


After this roll-up-your-sleeves workshop, you’ll walk away looking at your brand through a different lens: A new sense of clarity. A keen understanding about why you do what you do, why it matters, and why anyone should give a damn. Let’s face it:

• a new paradigm shift is inviting us to bring a different kind of humanity back to the table.

• all the rules are changing: the world has never been as transparent or connected 24/7.

• this is the new Social Era. Some call it the Era of Engagement. Whatever you want to call it, if you want to cut through the noise, you need to show up and join the conversation.

• keeping people (your clients, customers, audience) at arm’s length or keeping a low profile is no longer an option today.


With all these accelerating levels of uncertainty, the business of creating an irresistible brand, and a reputation to go along with it, has never been more critical.

Note: Google recently announced they’re only rewarding and ranking people and organizations with relevant brands and irresistible stories to tell. It’s the key to wining hearts, inspiring minds and capturing the imagination of customers.

After this highly interactive roll-up-your-sleeves workshop (over two afternoons), you’ll walk away looking at your brand through a different lens: You’ll have a new sense of clarity, a keen understanding about why you do what you do, and how to create messaging that hits home.


Stamp-Brandintelligence220x220How to show up like you mean it? (3 Steps)

First of all, your brand is all about how people feel about you, what you do, what you offer, why it matters –– and why anyone should care. We’ll look at how to:-

1) Master your Inner Technology

— We look at neuroscience, mindfulness, EQ and their impact on all that you do.

— We’re not the rational beings we think we are. (90% of our decisions are emotionally based.)

— We’re all longing for more meaningful experiences. Transactions don’t resonate as much.

— It’s not about winning. It’s about inviting people to engage in a different kind of conversation.

2)  Lead as Values-Based Influencer

— Your values define who you are and shape your reputation.

— Values are your rocket fuel. They give out important information about you 24/7

— Fact: “68% of people choose not to buy from you or your organization because they can’t tell the difference between you and the other guy.” Values close the gap.


3) Connect as Chief Brand Storyteller

— Through story, you build connection and land a memorable spot in people’s psyche

— Your story is how you engage hearts, minds and imaginations

— Congruence and authenticity are key. Be willing to show up (vulnerability plays a part.)


You’ll walk away with a new understanding, tools and action plans:

 * Your brand communicates subliminal messaging to the world 24/7 (whether you know it or not.) It’s never been more important to be mindful around creating an irresistible brand.

* We live in a customer-centric world. So your brand need more clarity in order to make more meaningful connections that matter to people.

* Your values shape and define who you are, what you do and why you do it. When you can identify and champion your own values (own, live and breath them), the brand story you tell is much more compelling. People will feel the difference.

* Emotional intelligence and self-awareness are today’s meta-skills for for an irresistible brand. Courage and the desire to be transparent is always going to land a higher score with people.

* Developing your own core brand story is an emboldening strategy. Genuine, personal and relevant stories always hit home.

Any questions, get in touch: Email

Looking forward to hearing from you!


10 Best-Kept Secrets to Creating an Irresistible Brand.

1. We live in a Global Village All good brands like to land a spot on the global map. What’s more, the world is watching 24/7. So creating an irresistible brand means you’re going to have to speak directly to the big wide world out there — with intention, in your voice — so people can hear you, and sense that you ‘are who you say you are.’ So what’s the tone and energy around your brand?

2. Storytelling is the Currency of our Time Share your Brand Story with the world in a new, provocative way. Connect the dots, look at the defining moments in your life and your business, and what led you to the very spot you are standing in, right now. There’s a narrative right there…in that journey, and the more it connects emotionally with people, the better. Because a true, heart-felt story resonates deeply. So don’t keep them at arm’s length. They’re longing to connect.

3. Curiosity and Willingness? There’s nothing quite like the desire to go to new places – and see the future. It helps if you are a nimble and agile thinker as it keeps you alert to new opportunities as they fall in front of you – and the inclination to act on them. Understand that people can sense and pick up on this desire. So my question for you is: Are you willing, curious and alert? PS complacency is a killer.

4. Peripheral Vision The ability to see outside the lines of sight is critical right now. In life and in business. It helps to shift your perspective, see the other person’s point of view. It often brings compassion, a heightened sensitivity and the ability to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. This kind of empathy and understanding goes a long way in building trust and meaningful relationships in your business. Are you understanding what other people’s issues are and how you can make a difference? Can they see that twinkle in your eye?

5. Desire to Go Big, Bold and Provocative In this over-saturated marketplace, one of the best ways to soar above your competition is by creating your own signature brand that will make you stand out. Focus on what makes you truly different. Then translate that across your business. So how brave and fearless are you when it comes to showing up bigger and bolder? This is not the time to be small. PS If you can brand with heart, and with intention, you’re going to be miles ahead of your competition.

6. Take the Role of Brand Guardian Seriously You are the guardian of your brand. You’d be amazed at the number of business owners who are not paying attention to their brand. Brands like to be nurtured need your attention 24/7. You brand is never done, so to speak. It needs to change, grow and evolve just like everything else. So what kind of Brand Guardian are you? Because if you nurture your brand, people will be able to tell, and feel the difference. Guaranteed.

7. Wear the Hat of Master of Serious Play Believe it or not, brands have a tendency to want to play, live out loud and have a bit of fun along the way! It’s the one characteristic that is hugely attractive to people/clients and it will certainly keep them paying attention! Of course, it’s about keeping a fine balance between being professional and playful so make sure you can walk that tightrope with grace. PS if you’re not having enough fun with your brand, go out and start addressing this issue immediately. It will pay off, I promise.

8. Knock the Socks off your Clients (and your Competition) There is something very valuable about delivering what you say you will. It doesn’t happen every day, by the way. On the other hand, if you over deliver and add value, your clients will see the difference, and be asking for more. So how are you knocking the socks off your customers? (Because your competitors will be hearing about it.)

9. Fact: We live in a Design-Driven Culture You better get used to the fact that design is here to stay. If you’re not paying attention to the value of the design aesthetic in your business, you’re going to be hurting the bottom line. In fact, research tells us that our brains process images/visuals 60,000 faster than just plain text. So how much attention are you giving to being the visual storyteller and visual thinker in your business? Look around. See what appeals to you visually and then bring some of that magic back into your business.

10. What’s the Buzz around Your Brand? All good brands love a lot of attention. They weren’t created to sit in the back seat let alone be apologetic. There’s something totally irresistible about being truly authentic and credible. Use language that is engaging, real and true. Get out of your comfort. Expand your boundaries. Dare a little. You will find it’s worth it.

@2015 Mary van de Wiel |

  • Blog
  • August 5th, 2015

Creative expression | Saint Cloche gallery, Australia


3153 Black Line Instagram 640px_03

Mary van de Wiel + Jan Howlin

Playful, bold and exuberant, Black Line Boogie presents a collection of black and white artworks that celebrate the power of line and spontaneous mark-making. There are works on paper and canvas, and functional and sculptural ceramics, all of which make high-drama mileage from simple means to create a dynamic immersive black line environment.

Longtime friends and creative colleagues, van de Wiel and Howlin had each been, independently and quite coincidentally, pursuing a visual arts practice in which black line plays a major role.

It was only when the idea of exhibiting together was suggested by gallery owner Kitty Wong, that this resonance leapt out as a joyously uniting theme.  Black Line Boogie captures their shared feeling of play, a black-line frenzy. The collected works bounce off and respond to each other in a fanciful kind of dance.

For Mary van de Wiel, black line takes center stage in all her work. As designer thinker, storyteller and artist, she has worn many hats but it all comes from the same creative pipeline. She sees grit, drama and true color in 100% black & white. Maybe that’s what living in Brooklyn does to a girl?! (It’s been 20 years since she’s last worn color.)

In Black Line Boogie, she explores creativity, re-invention and the freedom to draw ourselves into new stories and feelings – and a new way of being.(van de Wiel) Pulse of a Landscape

Always the incurable doodler, she put aside her sketch books three years ago and began to scale her work big, bold and impulsive. It started with black house paint on a wall in Mexico, exploded floor to ceiling in Manhattan and then trailed over every Sydney opportunity. From murals to gallery windows to three-legged stools, fabric, chairs — wherever there’s an chance to play. This is van de Wiel’s first exhibition in Sydney.

Her exuberance as a design thinker was well-known in Australia before she moved her branding business to New York in 2000. She now paints her way back and forth across the Pacific.

 Jan Howlin came to black line some years ago when she began exploring it as a means of dramatizing and accentuating the volume and curvature of her hand-built functional ceramic forms. By staining clay black and sandwiching it together with a plain clay body she created a material that contained line-work as an inherent element, and she enjoyed the graphic simplicity and unpredictability that resulted. Her more recent sculptural work also relies on black line to accentuate form and volume, but it is achieved through different means. This finer, looser line-work creates a vitrified finish and a textured surface that traps glaze or pigments. At the same time it adds vigour to the figures she creates and life to the ideas behind them.

(Howlin) Carried Away 1

In bringing the work of van de Wiel and Howlin together, Black Line Boogie presents a dynamic, hand-drawn, hand-made environment, a buzzing fusion of black and white that brims with energy and delight.


THE BACK STORY  I’ve been an incurable doodler all my life. It was only three years ago when I was in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico that I first felt compelled to climb a ladder and start painting larger than life – as in: floor to ceiling. A can of black house paint and a roll of gigantic paper taped to the wall was all I needed. You should have seen me. I sighed in happiness.

Fast forward to landing in Sydney 20 months ago: Working, running NY Brand Labs, speaking and tutoring at The University of Sydney Business School/Masters Program, and painting. I found a studio in Paddington in December 2014. Over the moon.

It was earlier this year that I met Kitty Wong, owner of Saint Cloche Gallery – thanks to interior designer Jane Stark. Kitty had already seen my work here on and asked where I’d exhibited before? I gasped. I’d never been asked that question.

FYI Kitty is passionate about many things and particularly, exhibiting an eclectic mix of paintings and ceramics. So I’m thrilled to be collaborating with my longtime friend, writer and ceramist Jan Howlin. We’re showing our work together, Black Line Boogie, and it celebrates the power of black line and mark making.

It’s my first show (not for Jan who has exhibited in Sydney before), and it’s been an incredible adventure. (Understatement.) I feel grateful that I’ve had the help, insights, support and incredible encouragement from so many friends here. Deep bow.

Black Line Boogie is up from August 11 – September 1. So drop by and say hello. Better still, show up in black and white, and be part of the show! Take a look at Jan’s amazing work here I post daily on or you can read my doodler-to-blacklinecrazy-artist story here on the about page @

(van de Wiel) Pulse of a Landscape

(Howlin) Carried Away 1







Sign up now: The NY Brand Lab | July 23 Sydney


brand_lab_a Stamp-BrandintelligencePNG

Thursday July 23, 2015 | North Sydney

How to Stand Out in the New Digital Era? 

Clue: Build an Irresistible Brand.

(It’s your best competitive advantage.)

WHAT’S THE NY BRAND LAB?  (i) A roll-up-your-sleeves workshop with award-winning creative brander, designer thinker & educator Mary van de Wiel; (ii) A unique opportunity for women in business to focus on re-imagining their brand so it’s more authentic and irresistible – and communicates that you are who you say you are. FYI Your customers will feel the difference… and that’s the moment they know they want to work with you or buy from you. Ka Ching!wow_factor

DESIGNED OR WOMEN IN BUSINESS Small business owners, change makers, creatives, entrepreneurs, visionary marketers, start ups, and artists: All looking to find their spot on the 21C new brand landscape.

WHEN Thursday, 23 July 2015 (Choose the Morning or the full day)

WHERE Village Co-Working, Level 3, 1 James Place, North Sydney 2060

WHY NOW? A new paradigm shift is inviting us to bring a different level of energy back to the table. What’s more, with increasing uncertainty in our hyper-connected world, the art of creating an engaging & irresistible business brand – with a high emotional quotient and a reputation to go along with it – has never been more critical. It’s the best strategy for standing out in this hyper-connected marketplace.

NO 1 BENEFIT  Building your brand in the New Digital Era is your best competitive advantage. Because keeping customers at arm’s length or keeping a low profile is no longer an option. When you start paying attention to building your brand in a more mindful way, your customers will feel the difference. That’s when wallets fly open!

LET’S FACE IT Every business leader and organisation has brand issues. If they’re serious enough, they’re going to get in the way of your business success and shoot you in the foot.

FACILITATOR, CREATIVE STRATEGIST & ARTIST  Mary van de Wiel (Van)  calls that a serious issue. After all, this is 21C Business Unusual. The world has never been as transparent or connected 24/7. Everyone’s talking about the new Digital Era. Some call it the Era of Engagement. Because if you want to stand out and cut through the noise, you need to join the conversation. Vanin BLC hatphoto

NOTE: Google recently announced they’re only rewarding and ranking organisations with relevant brands and irresistible stories to tell. It’s the key to wining hearts, inspiring minds and capturing the imagination of customers.

So how’s your brand looking?

My life can be divided into two phases: before and after signing up atThe NY Brand Lab. Van helped me gain clarity around my business and my brand that I hadn’t dreamed possible. –– MEGAN KENT CEO Megan Kent Branding Group / New York, NY

landress1WHAT WILL I WALK AWAY WITH?  Like a caffeine jolt, this roll-up-your-sleeves workshop will not only transform your mindset, it will boost your confidence and reinforce that you are who you say you are. We’ll dig deep, and you’ll walk away with a fresh, insightful set of strategies, tools and ideas. Take a look:

1) Brand Influence & Reputation You’ll learn how to manage your reputation so you stand out, and show up like you mean it. We’ll look at neuroscience trends, what makes your customer’s brain tick. (This is about real relationship building.)

2) Creativity & Storytelling: You’ll start to re-think your own messaging so it has exactly the right tone and voice. This is about bringing a new kind of energy to your story. (You’ll never keep your audience at arm’s length again.)logo-TheArtofBrandStory

3) Emotional Intelligence: You’ll focus on raising the Emotional Intelligence (EQ) of your brand. It takes a willingness to connect in a more transparent and authentic way – online and offline – and it creates more trust. (PS Your customers will be your fans forever.)

4) Meaning & PurposeWhy do you do what you do? We’ll focus on bringing more meaning and purpose to your business. We’ll turn the lens inward on your values, emotions, goals so your messaging will resonate more with your customers.

5) Brand Behavior  You’ll monitor the kind of messaging your brand is communicating 24/7 online and offline. FYI Your brand is sending out subliminal messages whether you know it or not. Being mindful is key.photo8

Special Bonus: You’ll get the chance to sit on the ‘hot seat’ for Van’s signature Brand Audit (a mini-10 minute version) with your home page beamed up: That’s when Van evaluates your site and, with a laser-sharp focus, spots, identifies & interprets the invisible clues embedded in your brand (that are shooting you in the foot) – and then, on the spot, changes them into more irresistible, heart-felt messaging.

Van can switch from multi-national to entrepreneur mindsets in a flash – across sectors, channels and audiences but with a brand’s own story running fast through each. She has the instinct of a true marketer that shapes every story right – and a manner built on trust and rapport to bring it all together. I think any brand will be the better for meeting her.NICK STRAVS, EVP International Consulting / Weber Shandwick Switzerland



Date: Thursday, 23 July, 2015

Where: Village Co-Working, Level 3, 1 James Place, North Sydney 2060

Time: Two options: Sign up for the full day or choose just the morning session.

a) Morning Session | 9:30am-1:00pm (Limited to 20)

b) VIP Afternoon Session | 2pm-5pm (Limited to six)

(If you’re interested in the second session, the morning session is a prerequisite.)

Lunch: 1:00-2pm (not included). Café downstairs.

All-Day Parking: Right next door at James Place. Or a 10-minute walk from North Sydney train station.

In full disclosure: It takes a curiosity, courage and a willingness to rethink your brand, and your story for more transparency and authenticity across all platforms. (Be prepared!)



 • Morning Session 9:30am-1:00pm | Investment: $397

This is an intense 3.5 hour Brand Lab where we’ll work on uncovering what really makes your business tick, why you do what you do, carefully look at your values, your mindset and your willingness to be more transparent. We’ll then work on shaping your brand story so it resonates and hits home with your customers. This is about bringing more clarity, authenticity and meaning across your entire brand messaging so it resonates with your customers. PS They will feel the difference.

An exhilarating session with exercises and transformational insights around you, your business and your brand. Walk away with a new set of invigorating tools and strategies you can put into place when you get back to the office. Guaranteed. (And a spring in your step!)

 • VIP 1:1 Afternoon Session 2:00-5:00pm  (Only 6 people.) Investment: $497

Aligning all the elements of your brand is critical to standing out and showing up in today’s competitive marketplace. After the morning session, you’ll be better informed when it comes to positioning yourself and telling your story more authentically for the 21C new brand landscape.

In this more intimate setting, we’ll pull back the layers so you get 1:1 attention, creative ideas and insights when it comes refining, and then embedding your core messaging across your entire brand and site – as well as coaxing out your own unique voice across the social media platforms that matter to you. Van will carefully audit each business, and make sure your message is engaging and communicates you are who you say you are.

TWO CHOICES |  SIGN UP BELOW July 23, 2015 | North Sydney Australia

Option One: Morning Session 9:30-1:00pm


Option Two: VIP Afternoon Session 2:00-5:00pm

Register Now



  • Your brand is just a feeling. It’s what people say/feel about after you leave the room. FYI It’s not your logo, colour palette or the way you walk your talk
  • Emotional intelligence, self-awareness, business acumen and vision are today’s meta skills for leadership. Courage and the willingness to be transparent always lands a higher score with your customers.
  • All good brands communicate powerful messaging to the world 24/7. It’s never been more important to be mindful around your brand behavior. Your brand requires mindfulness and attention.
  • We live in a customer-centric world. All good brands need more clarity in order to make more meaningful connections that matter to people. This is about raising the connection quotient so your messaging resonates deeply.
  • Values shape and define your organisation. When everyone can champion a set of real, human values (owning, living and breathing them), your brand story is much more compelling. Your customers will feel the difference.


About Mary van de Wiel | Creative Captain at Zing Your Brand & Co.

A Dutch sea captain’s daughter, Mary van de Wiel learned how to scope out the horizon and interpret the invisible clues – no matter what the country, culture or language. It seemed the best way to sense one’s place and identity in the world and give it meaning.

No wonder she’s been dubbed ‘business psychologist’ in the brand intelligence space. For the last 30 years, she’s successfully been interpreting the invisible clues for CEOs, visionary business leaders & change agents – putting their brands on the global map.
AFphotoSwirlAs founder/CEO and Creative Captain of, Van is devoted to transformational branding and storytelling. She consults, speaks at conferences, leads her signature NY Brand Lab workshops around the USA, Mexico and Australia, hosts a weekly radio show on why some brands nail it (currently on hiatus) and tutors & lectures Masters students at The University of Sydney Business School.

She built her award-winning branding agency business on this principle: Helping people recognize who they are – so others can. It’s the secret to mindful leadership. With offices in New York and Sydney, Van initiated the agency’s global start-up division for Fortune 500 clients and led launch campaigns for the Macau International Airport in China, Who Weekly in Australia (first time Time Inc. published its title offshore) and The National Constitution Center in the USA.photo6

Other clients include ABC Innovation, AMP, Viacom, Conde Nast USA, Comcast Cable, Sony, Time Warner, Zurich Int., Sydney Opera House, News Corp., Time-Warner, Seven Network & The Museum of Modern Art, N.Y.

Van has been featured in Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur Magazine, Reuters, Amex Business Forum, The Telegraph (UK), Investor’s Business Daily, The Australian Financial Review and more.

Vanin BLC hatphotoPassionate about the worlds where  neuroscience, creativity and innovation intersect, she’s currently developing online training programs for the 21C New Brand Landscape. When she’s not working on It’s Not Enough to Be Brilliant: 10 Dares to Branding, you’ll find her painting her way back and forth across the Pacific. Check out or her daily updates on

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Sign up now! If you have any questions, get in touch with me:

Look forward to seeing you at the NY Brand Lab on 23 July!


Van | |