Archive for the ‘Branding’ 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!


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


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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!)

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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.

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


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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

happens onlinehappens online

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 | |




How to create a strong brand message that’s irresistible (7 clues)

1. This is Business Unusual. We’re living in a 20C Global Village If you have a presence online, don’t forget for a second that the world isn’t checking you out 24/7. Whether you know it or not. Creating an irresistible brand message means you’re going to have to show up and speak directly to the big wide world out there — in your voice, in your language so people can hear you. They need to sense that you ‘are who you say you are.’ So what’s the tone and language around your brand?

2. Storytelling is the Currency of our Time  It’s time to re-imagine and reframe your brand story and message for your audience in a new, provocative way. Connect the dots and defining moments in your life, your business, and what led you to the very spot you are standing in, right now. Because your defining moments and stories around them are what’s going to connect emotionally with other people. That’s irresistible. Story resonates deeply with people. 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 be transported to new places – and see the future. It’s something we all crave. So if your business can deliver people to another sense of place or discovery —  make sure that’s embedded in your messaging. That’s irresistible, for sure. Allow your clients to sense and pick up on this desire.  Are you paying attention? Being curious and having a sense of wonder in your messaging is magic. PS Complacency is a killer.

 4. Peripheral Vision The ability to see outside the lines of sight is critical in your 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. Bring your own kind of empathy and understanding to your brand messaging. It 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’t do business without trust. If you’re trustworthy, people will feel it and head in your direction. That’s irresistible.

5. Desire to 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 message that will make you stand out. OK Focus on what makes you truly different. Then translate that over into 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 on the Role of Brand Guardian You are the Guardian of your brand. It’s a role to be taken seriously. 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. (A bit like puppies. Seriously.) Your brand is never done, so to speak. It needs to change, grow and evolve just like everything else in your business. So what kind of Brand Guardian are you? Because if you nurture your brand, your customers will tell, and feel the difference. Guaranteed.

7. 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! That’s irresistible. It’s the one characteristic that is hugely attractive to 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. So if you’re not having fun with your brand, go out and start addressing this issue immediately. It will pay off, I promise.

OK Your turn! I’d love to hear your best-kept secrets about how you’re creating the most irresistible brand messaging out there!

Zinging along,


@2015 Mary van de Wiel | CEO Creative Captain Zing Your Brand & Co.


Attention entrepreneurs, startup CEOs, and small business owners: This is not your run-of-the-mill branding site!


This is all about taking on the role of Brand Agent/Provocateur to turn your business around, and take off! Click here to see the extraordinary line up of business thought leaders and creative visionaries — ­all speakers at the Online Brand Reinvention Summit held Oct 1-2. 2009.

Is your brand doing what you want (and need) it to do?

Let’s face it. Right now is the time to step into your brand, and it’s only going to get more important in the future. Every whip-smart Brand Agent/Provocateur out there is working right now on leveraging, reinforcing and amplifying their brands. What about you?

The good news? I gathered together an inspiring group of business leaders, creative storytellers, innovative strategists and trend spotters and invited each one to speak to this hot topic of ‘brand reinvention.’ They offered insights and insider strategies re how to:

Tap into WHY you do what you do. It’s the first step to creating an authentic and charismatic brand

Create a brand that’s going to do what you want it to do ­ and give you the kind of visibility, credibility, clients and profits you deserve

Tap into your creativity and irresistible energy, and embed it across all aspects of your business

Create a personality and passion-driven brand that’s fun (online and offline) and that will set you & your business apart (big time)

Want that? Great! To get your hands on the Summit’s All-Digital Interview
Package as well as sign up for one of the new special coaching programs
launched on the heels of the Summit, click on the link below!

The NY Times Ideas and trends: the new breed of corporate logos

If you read the Sunday New York Times last week (05.31.09), and opened up the Week in Review Section, you’d have seen Bill Marsh’s piece in Ideas & Trends talking about a new breed of corporate logos. Marsh notes how Wal*Mart, Kraft, Stop&Shop, Sysco and Cheer and a few others have taken on more ‘non-threatening, reassuring, playful, even child-like logos and, rather than being emblems of distant behemoths, they’re faces of friends.”

There’s nothing quite like paying attention to your brand identity – its tone, attitude and mood – and, while it may not be at the top of your radar screen with the world economy in a downturn, you might pick up a few interesting insights from Bill Marsh.

Here’s what Marsh had to say re some recent redesigns in the corporate arena:

1. Bold, black and capital letters are out. Now, lower case letters are in (sometimes, all lower case) giving a less authoritative and stern voice. More like an informal chat. Letterforms are rounder and lighter, calmer and quieter.

2. Friendlier flourishes and whimsy are in. Marsh describes the logos from Kraft Foods, and Hasbro as ‘logos that smile’. What’s more, a dash of whimsy has been thrown into the mix. It lightens the corporate mood, so to speak.

3. Happier (and more joyful) colors are in. New colors for logos run in electric blue, school bus yellow, red, purple, orange and green.

So, when’s the last time you paid some attention to your logo?!!

Looking to reinvent your brand?

If you’re a start-up CEO with an entrepreneurial mindset and keen to reinvent your brand presence online, I’m going to bet you’re already wearing the hat of Brand Guardian every day, right!?

OK. This is for all you brand guardians. You know that taking the stance as Brand Guardian in your business is like being the captain of a ship. You’re responsible for steering your brand through all kinds of weather (stormy seas or not.) You’re taking the leadership position of your brand seriously. What’s more, you’re skilled in the art of navigation, especially in this particular downturn, right?!

Here are a couple of my favorite tips for All Good Brand Guardians, and particularly how to get your head around your brand before you even start thinking about the Brand ReInvention process:

1. Accept that you are your brand.
Look at your brand with a fresh set of eyes. Are you actually injecting all the following into your brand on a daily basis: – your personality, your true character, sense of humor and warmth, sense of self and that idiosyncratic energy of yours? If the answer is “no”, you might want to take a look at how much of your personality you’re actually embedding into your business brand. This is important stuff. No use trying to reinvent your brand if you’re not willing to be part of the process! YOU are THE critical component here.

2. Conduct a Brand Reality Check.
FACT: Your brand is ALREADY communicating something to your market. So do you know exactly what that is? Evaluate your current ‘branding’ messaging. Is it accurate, up to date, current? Is it actually aligned with who you are, what you do and what you offer? Is it easy and clear to understand? And does your positioning differentiate you in the market out there? If the answer is “no’, then this is the time to start paying more attention to your brand if you’re even thinking about Brand ReInvention. Make sure you’re excited about what you’re doing, what you’re communicating to your potential market out there. and why it’s meaningful to you. If you can’t tell me that (and have me believe it!), then it’s time to go back to the drawing board!

3. Be aware of your brand behavior
Your brand’s behavior is what defines you in the minds of your clients. (You better believe it!) So if your brand is ‘acting out’ – this is giving you real information, and it’s telling you something important here. Just like a badly-behaved puppy, brands need a lot of attention, discipline, control and consistency. So this is the time to be paying attention to your brand’s behavior and make sure it’s consistent, congruent and articulate and clear across all your platforms and mediums – design, marketing messaging, website, services, the way you answer your phone, the way your people dress, speak and behave, the way you deal with your customers, the lot – it’s all a part of your business brand behavior and needs constant attention (and nurturing).

4. Mind your Tone: It speaks Volumes
If you don’t what your voice sounds like, or you’re unaware of the tone of your voice when you talk business, ask a friend to interview you – and record you – and then, listen back to the tape. Then transcribe it. Why? There are many good clues in your choice of words and how you walk your talk. All good brands take advantage of their guardian’s kind of ‘speak’, language, idioms and expressions. Try to intensify the vibrancy in your language, too. Whether it’s headlines, taglines, titles for your products, services, use your own distinctive language so people can feel the blood running through your veins! Desire is big here in branding!

So keep tuning in, listen to the tone of your voice. It conveys a huge amount of information. If you don’t like what you’re hearing, this is the time to ‘mind your tone’ before you start the Brand ReInvention process.

FOOTNOTE No.1º Raise the energy levels around your brand as you’re considering to reinvent your brand Why? It just happens to be magnetic, magical and contagious. Also, there’s something very attractive about people and brands that are passionate and energetic. No question about it.

FYI I’m putting together my first BRAND REINVENTION SUMMIT and it’s coming up sooner than later so keep watching this space! or if you like sign up on my site and I’ll keep you posted that way…