Archive for the ‘Blog’ Category

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.


  • Blog
  • February 27th, 2015

Personal Branding: 8 elements and why you need to know them.

Meet Scott Brunelle: Scott was sitting in a lecture hall not so long ago when I was a guest lecturer at The University of Sydney Business School.

Dr. Helen Parker had invited me to talk to students in the capstone unit, Succeeding in Business (BUSS6000). The topic? How to Create a Leadership Brand for the 21c. Today Scott’s article has appeared in The Big Opportunity, the University’s Business School blog and he’s based the content here from the lecture. Kudos Scott! Here goes:

According to an infographic from, on average, 118 people apply for every job. And only 20% of those who apply will get an interview. Those are not great numbers. How do you stand out from the pack and get noticed so that you can get the job you want? Read on to learn the eight elements of Personal Branding and why you need to know them.

What is Personal Branding?Personal Branding in today’s world is not an option. According to Wikipedia, Personal Branding is defined as “the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands”. If you think your university education alone will get you the job you want, it is time to think again. With an average of 118 people applying for every job, how will you stand out? Your personal brand is your best competitive strategy to stand out and cut through in an over-saturated job market. By being aware of the eight elements that make up your personal brand, you can focus on developing each of them so you can set yourself apart and get the job you want.

8 elements of Personal Branding

  1. Appearance: This is how you come across non-verbally and takes into account things like your body language, your handshake, how you dress and groom yourself, and also the energy you give off. Present yourself at your best and “think positive” to leave a lasting impression.
  2. Qualifications: This is your education and the skills that help you to do your job. Having a good education does help, so ensure that you appropriately display your education and your skills on your CV and on your social network presence.
  3. Achievements: How have you made an impact in the world thus far? What projects were you successful in delivering? Have you won any awards? Completing a degree from a major university will require you to complete assessments and projects. If you are just starting out, focus on what you achieved while at university, and as your career builds, keep notes of achievements so you can use them in future conversations for new roles.
  4. Passion: What do you love doing? How does it reflect in your work? Is it obvious to others? Employers today are looking to employ team members who have a positive attitude, and if you are doing something you are passionate about, that positive attitude will just flow from you. Learn what you are passionate about and be able to talk about it.
  5. Value: How do you describe the value you will bring to the company and what will the return be to the company if they employ you? Today’s jobs require more than compliance with the minimum requirements. Top employers want to know what you can do for them, so think about how you deliver value and be prepared to talk about it.
  6. Reputation: How do others view you? What would your university professor and classmates say about you? What does your LinkedIn profile display? Does it display recommendations from others? When you feel like you have done a great job on a project, ask your teammates and supervisor or professor for a recommendation on LinkedIn so that you can start building a positive social media reputation that will work for you as your career grows.
  7. Personality: This is a mix of your values, hopes, dreams, identity, behaviour, goals and desires. Are you warm to new people? Do you make an effort to try and connect with new people? In the marketplace today, more companies are looking for transparency and authenticity with their employees, so start sharing your personality with others. This may seem difficult or awkward at first, but once you start, you will see others warm to you and it will become more natural.
  8. Differentiator: We are all unique in some way. What makes you unique? Research from the Gallup Research Methodology 2013 states, “68% of people won’t make a decision to hire you…because they can’t see the difference between you and the other guy.” Spend some time thinking about this. Once you figure it out, make it easy for others to see how you are unique.

For many of us, our culture has influenced our perception and taught us that we should not stick out and that we should conform. Unfortunately, this teaching works against developing your Personal Brand and will work against you in gaining your dream job. Now is the time to break free of these cultural barriers and get what you want. Think about the eight elements listed above and develop your Personal Brand. Once you know this information, be sure to update your social media pages to reflect your Personal Brand so that when a potential employer searches the Internet for your name (and they will) you are reflected exactly how you want.

Have you ever thought about your Personal Brand? What will you do first to build your Personal Brand? To see the blog online:
Scott Brunelle
Scott Brunelle is a Sales and Marketing Management professional and recently completed his Master of Commerce (Marketing) at the University of Sydney Business School. In the capstone unit, Succeeding in Business (BUSS6000), Dr. Helen Parkerorganised a guest lecture from Mary van de Wiel on “How to Create a Leadership Brand for the 21C”. The information in this blog is based on the content from this lecture.

  • Blog
  • February 26th, 2015

Why I love visual branding (and so should you!)

Are you fascinated by visual branding Y/N? Here’s a clue: Think about the last time you stopped in your tracks (gasping) with eyes wide open?

You might have stopped in your tracks on Fifth Avenue in New York Y/N? The Bergdorf Goodman’s windows are certainly mesmerizing, inventive and can literally take your breath away. This retailer knows visual branding inside out.

On the other hand, you might not be visually oriented or interested at all. OK. It’s just important to note that visual branding in our 21C global village is more critical than ever – because it’s the images and visuals you spot along the way that are what really captures your attention, imagination… and then, you’re longing for more. Right? Another clue: Your heart beats faster, your eyes are gleaming. That’s the power of a strong visual… ahhhh.


If you understand that we’re wired to process the world first and foremost through sight, then it’s going to make sense for you to use amazingly compelling visuals whenever you’re talking about your brand, the kind of value you bring to the table, why it matters – and why anyone should give a damn.


According to my terrific branding colleague, New York-based Megan Kent, her research says our brains process pictures 60,000 times faster than text. So using visuals across all your brand communications and platforms just means your message will be more quickly and intuitively understood. (See the energy in that?)

I’ve always loved visual storytelling. (Being a Drama major probably helped.) In full disclosure, I’ve been called many things from brand storyteller, brand provocateur, brand anthropologist and then, of course, there’s the Dutch sea captain’s daughter. Quick guestion for you: What do people call you, over and over? When you’re dubbed a  nickname, these terms often hold some powerful clues…

OK. The piece here that fascinates me the most? It’s how you express your personality – and the personality around your brand, your business, the lot. That’s visual branding. It also requires that you show up (like you mean it.) This can be difficult for some.

Think about visual branding as words and pictures mixed up in an irresistible, potent cocktail that says it all: The look, the feeling, the energy, and then, there’s the line, color, shape, materials, finish, typography, composition (and all the rest.) These elements communicate your values to your audience directly (as well as subliminally) as well as what you stand for _all through your own design style. The best news? Your visual branding will create deep emotional connections between you, your brand and your audience. Bonding is important today in a world with a low-attention span. It’s part of being H U M A N.


• Fact 1º Design, visual branding, visual storytelling and a creative aesthetic is here to stay.

• Fact 2º If you have visuals on your site or blogs, it’s going to boost traffic. (PS Stock shots are not an option. Believe me. Do you really want to bond with two people (with forced smiles) dressed in suits and shaking hands?)

• Fact 3º If you watch a (product) video, you’re more likely to be influenced or tend to buy (than those who don’t watch.)
• Fact 4º Visual branding is going to get you more traffic and boost your conversion rates.

So let’s look at one brand that’s highly-visual. It’s brilliant in its simplicity. Mesmerizing. Meaningful. One of my favorites.


A new breed of entrepreneurs: Alex Bogusky, Ana Bogusky, Rob Schuham and John Bielenberg created the ‘world’s first collaborative brand’… Their mission isn’t just to sell stuff. It’s more about doing shit that matters. Over a year ago, I interviewed Alex Bogusky (interviewed Dec 11, 13) and Mark Ekhardt (Oct 24, 13) on NY Brand Lab Radio. (Hear them here.)

At that time, the people were in the middle of a new site development. It was only last week that I looked at it again: From a visual branding point of view, I’d give this top marks! It gets a Zing prize!

1)  Simplicity of Design  Simplicity is one of the hardest things to get right. Something can look simple but there is always huge intelligence and mindfulness behind This Business of Simple. Here you see simple, striking design plus an exquisite energy that compels you to lean in closer to the screen. (Gasping.)

2) Maverick Mindset The message hits home. Big time. Notice the conversational language. You get what they are all about (effortlessly). You understand their intention and where they want to go. You’re invited on the journey. What could be better than that?

3) Sense of Optimism. Color palette is bright, clean and inviting. You want to stick around, see how much more you can discover. FYI Nothing worse that a dark, gloomy site which is really about sending people away.. and on their way. (Not a good business strategy.) Here you can sense these people are all Masters of Serious Play.

4) A Pumping Pulse. You can tell there’s a tribe of people behind this platform that are all Chief Inspiration Officers. Or better still: Chief Excitement Officers. The pulse of this site is pumping, and showing strong, vital signs. (FYI You never want to fall into the trap of a Dead Brand Walking, OK?!) So can you sense the energy here vs a site where no one’s at home? Big difference.

5)  EQ Reality Check When it comes to emotional intelligence, how do you think this site would score? For starters, its language speaks simply and directly to you. It’s certainly not keeping you at arm’s length. You understand that they understand. You know they get what’s going on here, now. They share that with you. You’re on the same page. So you see: their brand is just having a conversation with you in plain language. Forget the jargon. (PS Clients ask me every day: But don’t I have to appear to be professional? Mmmmmm. How about just being human. Isn’t that good enough?)

A design question for you: Does the design of your brand/company/website sparkle? Resonate with people who visit your site? (If you don’t know the answer to that, go find out ASAP.) Do you have some irresistible images around your brand that make your heart beat faster? No? Well then, go make that happen.

A communication question for you: Does your messaging, story and language hit home with your audience? Can people grasp the meaning and intention behind what you’re saying – easily? effortlessly? Or are they scratching their heads and wondering….

So go check out See how few links they have. Simple language in a box. Not pages and pages of small text that you know you don’t want to read. Pick up on how you’re feeling when you’re so close to that screen. Is that how you want your audience to feel Y/N? OK maybe you have work to do!

Get in touch, let me know how you’re doing as a Master of Visual Branding.  If you need any help, start off with my first (free) online video training: Start-Up Branding. 5 Questions you Should Ask Yourself.  

Zingingly yours

Why a Brand Audit will help your clients recognize who you are.

We’re living in a 21C new world.

I call it Business Unusual. Because we’re all having different kinds of conversations across more platforms than we could ever imagine….

Some days, we’re not even quite sure how we’re going to manage our messaging  – and keep it on target, consistent and, of course fascinating. (You know that feeling, right?) I do!

So taking a close look at your brand and the story you tell – as well as the messaging you put out to the world – is one of the best ways you’re going to catch (and capture) people’s attention today.

How do you do that? Through doing a a brand audit. It’s going to give you all the information you need to be more recognized and seen by the people you most want to see you…

The best part?  This is really about your strategy for Your Brand 2015 – because the art of communicating you are who you say you are has never been more critical.


  • Understand that building your brand is going to be your most competitive advantage in 2015.
  • Recognize that we’re all wired to connect with others on an emotional level.
  • Doing a brand audit in January is going to help your message resonate and hit home with people, particularly if you share that you are who you say you are. 

A New Brand Landscape & Co

A New Brand Landscape is a philosophy of self awareness designed to help you identify and recognize who you are  so others can. In such an over-competitive marketplace, this is one of the most effective ways of making sense of the unpredictable changes going on, turning the lens inwards on your unique value, embedding your unique energy into your business brand  – and then…. ah-ha…being willing to show up in a more mindful, and authentic way

FYI One of the most common issues that keeps coming up in conversations with clients is: how can I best communicate who I really am on this new brand landscape? How can I speak in my own voice so others know exactly who I am, what I stand for, and why anyone should give a damn?

This is exactly the level of self awareness that is going to shape your brand, your story and your reputation going forward.

OK Take a look at the info-graphic below: It will help you start re-imagining and reframing the way you think about your brand. It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking to close more sales, stand out in the marketplace, build a community or looking to kick start your business… It will help your potential audience understand who you are and what you stand for.

brand audit

brand audit.jpg



1.) Brand Audit: An Un-Biased Evaluation.

Because every healthy, highly-functioning brand wants an Audit. 

You get regular checkups with your doctor, right? Well, ditto your brand. This is where you go in and pull back the layers, find out what’s really going on behind your brand and story, where it hurts and what’s getting in the way…

Where to start: Believe it or not, there are always invisible clues staring you in the face. Keep looking because this is where it gets interesting. The last thing you want to be doing is shooting yourself in the foot when it comes to your brand and business.

Ask yourself: is my messaging communicating who I am, what I do, why it matters and why anyone should give a damn? 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 to the world, 24/7?

Take away: Look for the clues that are doing your business a disservice. Ask your colleagues for their honest feedback. If 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? Take a long look…what are you coming up with?

 2.) Brand Story: Why you do what you do.

Because every healthy brand loves a well-articulated & 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. PS Here’s another blog post that will help you  craft a meaningful story about you, your business and your brand.

Let’s face it: This is about coaxing out your creative essence and getting right to the heart of your brand. Ask yourself: Does my brand have heart Y/N? (What’s your answer?!)

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, too.

Ask yourself: This is about making human connections through your story. How willing are you to tell your story_ as in: the story you don’t normally share with others? Does your current brand story keep your audience at arm’s length? Or does it help people understand exactly who you are. It’s a good feeling to allow others to understand YOU… Are you allowing that connection to happen?

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 open up their wallets — and buy from you.

On a personal note: When I started sharing my story of being a Dutch sea captain’s daughter, for example, I was amazed at the reaction… People seemed to have trouble remembering my name but they had no problem remembering the Dutch sea captain’s daughter. Why? Because it’s a potent, visual picture that tells a story …and lands a spot in their psyche.

OK I know: that’s not exactly getting myself out of my comfort zone. But there’s a whole big story around that: As in, I learned how to see the horizon even in stormy weather. When I started sharing the ups and downs in my story, it resonated more with readers… See the difference?

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! If you’re not paying attention to the design aesthetic around your business, you’re going to be hurting the bottom line.

Where to start: Understand there is nothing more compelling or important than building a brand identity that helps you show up like you mean it. Our brains are wired to pick up on visual imagery. We are, at heart, visual storytellers.

Ask yourself: Is my logo, color palette and language inviting, warm, energizing — or is it making people want to look the other way? (Believe me. Sometimes I take one look at a business card someone has handed me, and I want to cringe. Because the color, font or the design – is about to suck all my energy. Not a good business strategy.)

Ask yourself: Out of 10, what kind of score would I give my current logo, site, marketing materials? Would this material stop me in the street and make me… gasp?! If you can’t holler HELL YES to that question, well… I’d suggest you think about what kinds of design excite 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 or signing up with you or visiting your site (online or off.) 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 are making a big mistake. Everyone is checking your website –before they contact you. Before they choose to work with you. It’s the energy you create around your site and online presence that is now the determining factor as in: whether people decide to work with you, or not.

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? Listen to the answers carefully.

If you’d like a little help around getting your brand audited, there’s an option of booking a 75 minute session with me, check it out here:

In my Brand Audit, we’ll zero in on exactly what your brand most needs to it land a spot on the 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: Let’s look at how to 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 raving fans forever.
  • Emotional Intelligence: How keep you audience leaning in closer – hearts beating, eyes gleaming. How to monitor the kind of messaging your brand is communicating 24/7. Reality check: Your brand is sending out subliminal messages and invisible clues whether you know it or not. 

Any questions about the process? Get in touch and we can continue the dialog: Or say hello on

And please comment below on how you best  evaluate and assess your business brand. Love your insights, as always!

Jazzed and zingingly yours,



  • Blog
  • November 30th, 2014

2 Self-Confidence boosters for women.

stark2 landress3

If that voice in the back of your head is getting in the way of releasing your creativity out in the world, this is for you.

If you’re dealing with self esteem issues around whatever you’re doing in life or business, this is for you.

Or if you’re struggling with any hint of personal brand anxiety, this is for you!

(PS Yes. Indeedo. Those are my red toenails up at the top!)

OK. I’m writing about self confidence, creative issues, self esteem and general anxiety and, of course, how to get the work you love to do – out there in the world. It’s all about how we can challenge ourselves every day so nothing – absolutely nada – will get in the way, and stop us. Of course, I happen to love examining this, looking at this … because it’s something I struggle with and deal with. Constantly. Believe. Me. It. is. true.


You might already know about the American marketing genius, entrepreneur and author Seth Godin. He often talks about: Go. Make things happen. Dare to Ship. Sounds easy enough. (Check him out:

Well, the expression Dare to Ship comes from Steve Jobs who talked about ‘real artists ship’ at an off-site retreat in Carmel, California in January 1983. In fact, Jobs also talked about ‘it’s better to be a pirate than join the navy.‘ These expressions were meant to set the tone for the meeting, clearly. They also reveal much about Job’s mindset, intention and what made him tick. For sure.

Dare to Ship has always struck a chord with me. Because, believe me, I can have a tough time getting things out in the world. But today I’m wearing the hat of Brand Provocateur, and keen to offer a few challenges –  they certainly work for me. So see if these will help boost your self confidence and allow your creativity out into the world…

Challenge #1: Dare to ship

(Note: When Godin talks about artists, he is talking about everyone. Absolutely everyone.)

In his book Linchpin, Seth Godin urges all artists to push past their fear and resistance and just “ship.” Get the job done. Because if you have something to say, it needs to be shipped. If not, your creativity – ideas, message, products, services – are not being landress3shared with the world. And that means, of course, your creativity is being wasted. (Not a good feeling.)

Please Note: If you’re shipping out and it feels too easy, it’s not considered shipping. You need to push yourself and get outside your comfort zone. (So. Know that feeling? So. What are you going to ship today?)

OMG. What’s that voice you’re hearing in the back of your head? Or the one sitting on your shoulder! Let’s face it, most of us (no, all of us) experience a desire to do something – plan something, launch something, finish something – but something gets in the way, right? Resistance gets in the way. The fear of not getting it perfect. Not getting it right. Or, worse. What will people say?

The one way to overcome that resistance? Ah ha… we’re moving onto the second challenge.

Challenge #2: Identify & defeat the resistance

Resistance is the enemy within. Do you know best-selling author Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art, Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battle? In his book, Pressfield says:

“Most of us have two lives. The life we live, and the unlived life within us. Between the two stands Resistance.”

I’m going to quote directly from Pressfield’s chapter, Defining the Enemy, listing his first 10 pointers. (Pressfield’s words are in bold.) FYI This makes so much sense to me. Because guess what? Almost every day, I have a chat with my Resistance. We work out a couple of things. Negotiate. Just so I can move forward on my business as well as my creativity, producing my work Black Line Crazy — and other things, along the way. Sound crazy? Well, I do whatever it takes. Take a look…


1. Resistance is Invisible The first thing to remember is that your Resistance has a job to do.Clearly, that job is to stop you from doing your work and whatever truly drives you. Understand that and do the job — anyway.

2. Resistance is Internal You can’t fool yourself into thinking Resistance comes from the outside. It’s the enemy within. FYI You can’t blame anyone else here.

3. Resistance is Insidious Your Resistance is seductive, fickle. It will do whatever it takes to trick you into not doing your work.

4. Resistance is Implacable It has one job to do: To get in the way of what you need to do.

5. Resistance is Impersonal Never forget for a minute that Resistance is not out to get you personally. It just has that job to do. (It’s just in its nature, so to speak.)

6. Resistance is Infallible
 Again, its job is to get in the way of whatever calling or action you most desire. It’s that simple.

7. Resistance is Universal Remember everyone struggles with Resistance. You’re not the only one.

8. Resistance Never Sleeps In a nutshell, you’ll never see the back of Resistance. That fear is here to stay.

9. Resistance Plays for Keeps Resistance plays dirty. Our most unique and priceless gift is its most favorite target. Nasty business.

10. Resistance is Fueled By Fear Resistance is not fueled by its own rocket fuel. It comes from one source: You.

The best way to embrace your creativity and feel confident? Examine your resistance. (Check out Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art (Grand Central Publishing.) Then, ship.

Wishing you mindfully shipping….


  • Blog
  • November 16th, 2014

23 crazy (but true) things about the branding challenges in business.

NY brand Lab logo





Not sure how long ago it was. In any case, I was once dubbed Brand Provocateur. Probably because I have a tendency to dare people to get out of their own way. Out of their comfort zone, etc. Why? It just makes it that much easier to see what’s really going on around their business and brand. And of course, that extends to what’s going on in their life, relationships and all the other good stuff. Right.

In the spirit of the brand provocateur on this Monday in Sydney 73F/22C,  and after years of throwing out some crazy maxims, I want to share some with you: Short and pithy mostly. And generally true. They’re here to remind you what you already know – or just to challenge yourself.  I promise that your brand (personal or business) and your business are going to be the beneficiary of 21 Crazy (But True.) Here goes:-

Please, I invite you to add your pithy maxims to the list at the bottom. Make them crazy. Make them a little weird.

1. Yip. Lighten up. Wear the hat of Master of Serious Play. (Because laughter sends endorphins to our brain.)

2. Think about whatever it is you take for granted. Now turn that around & upside down. (Yep. Topsy turvy.)

3. Be the visual storyteller in your biz. (Unsure about that? Ok. Take it one day at a time. Creativity needs coaxing.)

4. Play being the innovator in your space. (Dare to dream. Not many people do.)

5. Go ahead. Do great stuff. Just make sure it satisfies a specific craving, desire. (It’s what we’re all longing for. In fact, we’re waiting for it.)

6. Offer huge value.  As often as you can. (Never worry about over delivering.)

7. Mix up your own potent brand cocktail. Say, strategic acumen with creative inventiveness. (OK Your special recipe?)

8. Lessen the gap between where you are right now and where you want to go. (Do this. It will make you gasp…)

9. Work collaboratively = More joy.  (Remember, we’re tribal at heart.)

10. Dare to disrupt your routine. It might take you out of your comfort zone. (Challenge the same-old-same-old route. Please.)

11. Take risks. (Especially when you least feel like it.)

12. Play Brand Detective. Track down the subliminal mixed messages you’re sending out to the world 24/7. (PS I can see them.)

13. Excite your world, customer, client, colleague, friend, boss, loved one, you get the idea. (Do it often: for starters.)

14. Listen more. Focus on the tone of of the conversation. (Much more important than you think.)

15. Be grateful. About everything. Every day. Por favor.

16. If you’re not communicating you are who you say you are, you might as well go home.

17. Regularly check the pulse of your brand. (You don’t want to fall into the Dead Brand Walking trap. Ever.)


18. Be vulnerable. No, that doesn’t mean spilling your guts. (FYI Your vulnerability is your biggest advantage.)

19. Remember your brand is just a feeling others have about you, what you do, why it matters and why they should give a damn. (That’s a very good thing to remember.)

20. Your values shape you. Know what they are. (Please. Don’t keep them on a piece of paper stuck in the top drawer.)

21. Embrace the reason why you get up every day. Meaning and purpose count. More than ever. (Seriously.)

22. Flexing your creative muscle is the best thing you can ever do for yourself. Then, your business. BTW My world, life and business changed the moment I started painting larger-than-life BlackLineCrazy abstracts in 2012. (But that’s another story:)

23. Dare to live out loud. Be the tall poppy. Shake things up. Get unstuck. (Otherwise, you’re toast.)van_sign_big


  • Blog
  • October 20th, 2014

Start-up Branding: 6 questions you should ask yourself.

branding startup 6 questions  - Mary Van de WielFor start-up entrepreneurs looking to get their business up and running, imagine this scenario:

You’re agitated about many things but there is one thing in particular: It’s about your brand.

You can’t quite get your head around it.

Your  launch date is getting closer.

And you find all that jargon irritating ––jargon like brand loyalty or brand extensions.

Sound familiar?

OK In Full Disclosure: This is really about getting you to fall helplessly in love with your brand. It’s really that simple.
Here is a glossary of terms, prods, probes and 6 questions that will give you fresh new lens through which to re-imagine your thinking!

Question #1:  What is BRAND ESSENCE?
Or, All Good Brands have Heart

You are the vision master of your brand, without a doubt. At the heart of it, you are the beat and soul of your brand, and its driving spirit. The term brand essence refers to the core of your brand and what you & your business stand for: That’s your values.

Ask Yourself: Does your brand have heart and soul? Real people, you know, respond positively to heart and soul because it tells them you’re real too. It’s that simple.  Articulate your real spirit and the core essence of who you are, what you stand for, why it matters — and why anyone should give a damn. If you communicate with that kind of intention, it will resonate clearly with your audience. In fact, it’s going to attract new customers, for sure.

Question #2: What is BRAND RECOGNITION?
Or, All Good Brands like to Stand Out

Clarity is key here. Why? Being clear about your brand positions you in a different league. It sets you apart from the rest of the pack. What’s more, your world will perceive you through a clearer lens. (This is a critical factor in your new business launch or in landing the next job or the next big client.)

Ask Yourself: How much attention have you spent recently on giving your brand absolute clarity? Are you soaring ahead of your competition? (Clue: Brands prefer living out loud. They prefer sitting in the front seat. Not the back seat. You?)

Question #3: What is a BRAND AUDIT?
Or, All Good Brands Prefer an Excellent Report Card

As a Brand Auditor myself, I’m talking about a comprehensive, unbiased and systematic evaluation of your brand to assess its ‘pulse,’ vital signs and general overall health. This is about uncovering what your brand is really all about. The last trap you want to fall into is a Dead Brand Walking. Not a smart business strategy. PS If you get this bit right, it can be the most exhilarating aspect to bringing your brand to life.

Ask Yourself: So when’s the last time you took an unbiased look at your brand strategy, brand story and style of communication? (Are you aware of the invisible clues embedded in your brand? Believe me, there are many clues – whether you know it or not.) Because your brand is communicating to the world 24/7 via whatever marketing you are doing online, social media, blogging –– the lot.

Question #4: Who is the BRAND CHAMPION?
Or, All Good Brands Adore a Champion

If everyone is raving about you, it tells me you have an enthusiastic, loyal, dedicated and supportive fan base. By definition, that makes them your brand champions. Guess what? They’re your best advocates. They’re the ones spreading the word about you, your brilliance, your capabilities and everything you stand for. We all need engaged, committed and passionate brand champions. In fact, on today’s New Brand Landscape, it’s tough doing this alone: You need fans, a following, support, a tribe. You get the idea here, yes?

Ask Yourself:  How easy do you make it for your tribe of fans to spread the word about you? And, how can you best help your brand champions support you? (Just as importantly, how can you reciprocate and support their efforts? This is a key to your success. This is give and take vs I give/I take. See the difference?!)

Question #5: What are BRAND GUIDELINES?
Or, All Good Brands Need to Stay On Track

Absolutely, some rules are destined to be broken. Other rules, however, come in handy and do make the world go around. In a nutshell, Brand Guidelines are designed to keep your brand on track, inspired, aligned and motivated. But they have to work for you, and match your values, vision and sense of the future…

Ask Yourself: So what kinds of guidelines are in place across your brand? Remember, consistency is key. Take a look at everything: From your brand’s positioning, language, design, identity to your strategic guidelines, tone, behavior, attitude, even your brand voice, yes. (Do you know what’s the sound of your brand voice?)

Question #6: What is BRAND REVITALIZATION?
Or, All Good Brands Need a Bit of Shaking Up

You know all those healthy drinks that promise to revitalize you when you’re, say, hung over? Well, if your brand is starting to look pale or act listless or bland  (yes, it happens), you might want to think about a bit of brand revitalization. Try looking through a different filter. Take a fresh look at the kind of language you’re using. Rethink exactly what you want to be communicating. What matters to you – and why? What’s the emotional quotient behind your words? Remember, people do not want to be kept at arm’s length anymore. They want transparency, upfront and person. Willing to do that?

Ask Yourself:  What is your message actually telling your target audience? If eyes are glazing over, it’s time to inject a big healthy dose of energy to refresh your brand. How do you really perceive your brand? (This is not a simple question. It’s not a trick question, either. But perception stands for a lot so spend some time working on this one.)

If you’re having problems here, reach out and think about a Brand Audit. Email

So are you finding yourself falling madly and helplessly in love with your brand yet?

Clue: This is really about emotional branding.If you’re a start-up entrepreneur, just remember your brand is just a feeling the world has around you and what you do. If you can get insert that in all your brand messaging on all the multi-channels out there, you’re going to be ahead of the rest of the pack. Seriously!

  • Blog
  • October 8th, 2014

8 reasons why Word-of-Mouth should be on everyone’s lips.

geno_churchMeet Geno Church: He makes for a potent mix: a highly-acclaimed author with an eclectic personality, a Southern drawl and a brilliant shock of hair. What’s more, his reputation precedes him particularly when it comes to the wonderful world of Word of Mouth.


Dubbed the WOM Inspiration Officer of Brains on Fire, a South-Carolina-based agency best known for their own highly-individual spark in helping organizations ignite powerful, sustainable word of mouth marketing, there are some of his insights for marketers today from his book,  Brains on Fire: Igniting Powerful Sustainable, Word of Mouth Movements. It’s a great read. Ditto a great read for people searching for successful strategies that hit home and, of course building an authentic brand identity.

geno book1. We’re living in a new world of marketing.

There’s a paradigm shift happening right now. There’s a new 21st Century brand landscape and it’s not just about technology. It’s about people. We have to put people first and create real relationships with people.
PS: Marketers don’t get to decide on what gets talked about today. People do.

2. There’s a problem with today’s technology. Passionate conversation is missing.
It’s no longer about making a transaction. It’s more about creating a more meaningful exchange with feeling. We have to know our why. Why we do what we do and why it matters. Not the what or the how. It’s part of the passion conversation. What’s more, your brand is a lens through which people get to see what you stand for. Make sure there’s something people can believe in when they come looking…

3. Too many businesses are too fixated on mimicking. It’s not about doing what other companies are doing. You don’t need to post on Facebook every second. Pin on Pinterest. Or Tweet on the hour. WOM marketing is not about social media. It’s about any business action that earns a recommendation from customers. In full disclosure: A relationship has to exist before that happens.

In other words:
No passion? No conversation.
No conversation? No word of mouth.
No word of mouth? No successful business.

4. The best WOM marketing is really how a company does business every day.
Marketers have a love language problem. They get too caught up with obsessing about ROI and not enough about motivating or inspiring people. The passion conversation is not something you own: it’s something you pass along and pass forward.

5. There are three kinds of motivations that spark conversations about brands and organizations:
Functional. People engage in functional conversations about brands to get information needed to make decisions and to better interpret the world around them.
Social. People engage in social conversations about brands to impress others, to express uniqueness and to increase their reputation.
Emotional. Brands that invoke strong emotional feelings are more likely to be talked about. Make sure your brand is evoking a strong emotional trigger. It hits home the most.

6. Research shows that brands are talked about in two types of conversation channels:
Online. The more public platform (also, voyeuristic) where people feel they have to show how brilliant, unique and special they are. This is called a ‘discontinous conversation’ because you can actually decide when to respond, and you have the time to determine how you want to respond (depending on how good you want to look.) This is about making a social connection. Not an emotional one.
Offline. The more personal space, where you have more instantaneous, face-to-face conversations. This is called ‘continuous conversation’ because it is naturally more emotional, more spontaneous, authentic and real.

7. Emotions tend to trigger passions.
Take Rob Morris, for example. His organization, Justice for Children International needed to change its name – and its mission was to end child sex slavery and trafficking around the world. After working together, the name was changed to Love146. It was based on a heart-felt story about a 12-year old girl who was in a Philippines brothel. Her number, 146, was pinned to her dress. Rob noticed that there was still fight in her eyes! Long story… but now has thousands of people around the world making a difference to help end child sex slavery.

8. Advertising only prompts 22% of all conversations people have about brands, products and services (Source: Keller Fay).
So marketers have a job to do in the new economy: Find ways to share ideas and information with people that will inspire them. They need to be the advocates and the living messenger. Therefore, focus on making a difference but not from the doom-gloom perspective. This is about finding solutions for people to believe in.

An example of a favorite brand of the millennials? Warby Parker. They are a hugely successful startup in the eyeglass business. No stores. Just buy a pair of vintage-inspired prescription eyeglasses online starting at $95. And for every pair they sell, they give one pair away. This is the kind of cause millennials care about. Warby Parker have a purpose, a passion for what they do and so millennials have become their best brand advocates.

When we met in Sydney last year, I asked Geno what he’d dare us to do to get out of our comfort zone: “Make sure you know what your customers really think. Try walking in their shoes. Guess what? We think we know what they value and care about… but we don’t really know. Go find out.”

This was first published online October 29, 2013


  • Blog
  • September 14th, 2014

3 good reasons to use brand storytelling in your business for exponential growth.

logo-TheArtofBrandStoryAre you struggling with capturing the true essence of your story? Read up on three of the most overlooked reasons for telling and sharing your story – and why it matters.

The business of storytelling is your most competitive advantage.

I have a hunch the art of brand storytelling is going to be top priority for businesses next year. After all, it’s the best positioning strategy for any business. Particularly for those whip-smart leaders who want to land a spot on the 21C New Brand Landscape.

Unless you’ve been living with your head in the sand, today’s brand landscape has changed. Why? Because we’re living in unprecedented times.  All the rules are changing in this digital world, and your brand is now your most valuable asset.

What’s more, people (your customers, clients – and, you too) are demanding more transparent conversations, meaningful interactions, and longing to connect with others. The best way to connect with people is by sharing your story.

After all, what do you think 1 billion people are really doing on FaceBook? They’re craving to connect with others via words and pictures. It’s that simple: They’re sharing their stories. To get the ball rolling? I dare you to wear the hat of Chief Brand Storyteller every day for the next week. Because your interest, willingness and capacity for storytelling is going to make the difference to your bottom line. Watch what happens when you start sharing your story…

In full disclosure: If you’ve been keeping your customers at arm’s length, and not sharing anything about you, what you’re doing – why it’s important and why anyone should give a damn – that’s a strategy that’s doomed for failure. It’s a strategy that holds no brand promise. Translation? There’s no magic that will keep anyone’s attention for too long.

If you’re wondering how to bring more meaning, more value and stay relevant and visible on the 21st century new brand landscape, here’s what I’ve discovered in the process of using storytelling to amp up brands.

 1. Without a story that touches and moves people, you’re not offering them the opportunity to understand the core brand value you bring to the table.

Once you get your story right and it resonates with your audience, your customers are going to pick up on the kind of core value you bring to the table. They’re going to look at your brand through a different lens, thanks to your story, and they’re going to be thinking  — ‘I like this person. I can get a sense of who they are. I want to work with this person.‘ It will feel real and true. That’s the idea, after all.

And guess what? That’s exactly when your customers are going to open their wallets. Ka-Ching.

Where to start? Start by 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. And it will help you leverage your energy, creativity and courage that will define you – and everything you do. This is about making human connection through your story. The businesses that are willing to tell their story are going to see how that story sharing impacts the bottom line (sooner than you think.)

On a personal note: When I started sharing my own story of being a Dutch sea captain’s daughter, I was amazed at the reaction. People seemed to have trouble remembering my name but they had no problem remembering the Dutch sea captain’s daughter! What’s more, when I shared the story that my mother was a naval nurse, and my parents were married both wearing their naval uniform, it would stop them in their tracks! Why? Well, for whatever reason, they were ‘seeing a picture in their mind’s eyes’ – and it landed a spot in their psyche. That’s where the magic lives.

2.) Without a story to tell, you’re not allowing others to to experience your exuberant voice.

Passionate about your business? Tell it from the heart, and your story will turn into one irresistible magnet. People will start to pay more attention to everything you’re doing, and before you know it, your business brand will soar (no, catapult) above the new 21st Century brand landscape.

Understand why you do what you do, why you care and why you’re so invested. Weave that story  into your narrative.

Where to start? It doesn’t matter whether you’re looking for small business branding ideas or you’re a corporate brand guardian. Just start raising the emotional intelligence (EQ) around your brand. Remember, you’re not the rational being you thought you were. We make our decisions to work with you, buy from you – based on how we feel. So allow others to pick up on what drives you, what you’re most passionate about. FYI We’re talking storytelling but not every story needs to be told using language.  Think visuals, instead.

Take a look at this ABOUT page for a hugely creative tribe of storytellers based in NYC. One look and you get an immediate sense of what each person is like – what they love most. What they care about. Hugely powerful stuff. If this visual storytelling resonates with you, then make this part of your brand strategy. Then see the kind of response you get. Ka-Ching!

PS Just go to and scroll down until you get to this image. You’ll find it’s very hard to ignore the energy around a visual brand story like this.  The energy is pumping. That’s exactly what makes us lean in, hearts beating a little faster. Ka-Ching!

For the skeptics or conservative people reading this: If you’re thinking to yourself, ‘hey, I could never do anything like this for my business’ – think again. Of course Co:Collective is a creative agency and one of their clients is Google. So your clients are not creative and wouldn’t appreciate getting a real sense of the real you? Or, a real sense behind your executive team? (Think again.) After all, this is about creating human connection in today’s world. How well are you managing that in your business?

ty3. Without a story, your business can’t show up – and live out loud. (This is about brand inspiration).

Living out loud is about allowing people to see that twinkle your eye, and that spring in your step. It’s offering people the chance to get a sense of who you and what makes you tick. Your story is the key here, and it’s the piece that inspires others to keep following you, trusting you and eventually to buy from you. How inspiring is that?!

Where to start? If you understand that your customers are craving real, authentic messaging from you – a sense of who you are – then make sure they know you have blood running through your veins! When is the last time you put up a video of yourself on your home page?  OK. Create a series of 90-second videos where you talk directly – upfront and personal.  Offer valuable content, tips, solutions, strategies, ideas – all told in your own idiosyncratic voice and highly-personal way of doing things. It’s never been easier, and it’s just a matter of putting yourself in front of a camera and start talking. If you have a sense of humour, be funny. If you’re earnest, be serious and intentional.

FYI People want to get a sense of you. Don’t keep them waiting. This is all about creating your brand story — and positioning yourself and your business at the forefront of everyone else in your industry. Story is the key. It can be stories in words and pictures. Or it can be just visual branding and visual storytelling. Or mix and match. Where to start? Just get started! Then send me your story — I want to see the shift in your thinking around brand storytelling…

  • Blog
  • August 28th, 2014

Give your brand a human face. – Australian Financial Review

Love this intriguing headline! The eyes have it: Give your brand a human face.

The credit goes to writer & editor Rachel Nickless from The Australian Financial Review. Kudos Rachel! It appeared yesterday (August 27) in the AFN, and it all came about because I’d been invited to speak at The Australian Institute of Human Resources Convention (AHRI) in Melbourne last week. I was talking about how to create a leadership brand for the 21st Century, and the implications around the New Brand Landscape, emerging trends and neuroscience. So I was thrilled to talk with Rachel about brand intelligence, what it means, why it matters and why anyone should give a damn. Check out her Workspace page in or follow her @nicklessrachel.

To read article, click on the Financial Review icon below and it will open actual size.