What Warby Parker can teach ANY company about brand strategy

"We want our brand to be like Warby Parker!"

Heard this one recently???

It used to be, “We want our brand to be like Apple!” (then Patagonia, Tesla and Toms…), now Warby Parker are in the mix. 

It's easy to scoff at this - particularly if you're working with a long standing, firmly for-profit business with no social mission baked into their business model. But here's a thought.  Every brand CAN be like Warby Parker.

Instead of dismissing comments like these, we should be helping clients understand how.

Before you start to tell me that this is the worst advice - that brands that try to create some sort of brand purpose that is inauthentic with their business practices are brands of the very WORST kind…

I get it.

I agree!

But there’s a different way to look at this. 

If we strip out all the terminology around brand purpose and social mission and we just look at what Warby Parker say about their brand, then we have a model that ANY brand...


The 4 biggest brand strategy myths, and what you need to know instead

After 20 years working as a brand strategist, I’ve seen and heard a lot of confusion about brand strategy.  

While it’s the most desired skill CMOs are looking for this year, not many people are offering it, because it appears to be so complicated. 

But brand strategy is a really powerful business tool when understood properly.  

So here’s the four biggest myths about brand strategy that add to all this confusion, and what you really need to know instead, to help you understand how it can elevate your business.

BRAND STRATEGY MYTH 1: Brand strategy is just about guiding your ‘branding’

This view is what prevents solid businesses from building great brands.

Let’s start by being clear on what each of these things are.

Brand strategy is your decision on what you want to stand for: the associations you want to build about your brand in people’s minds. 

‘Branding’ is the process of creating distinctive signals...


Why is brand strategy important?

Brand strategy has been of great value to me – it’s been a lucrative career path for 20 years.  But - full disclosure - I suffered from 'Brand Strategy Imposter Syndrome' for a number of years.  Even when I was a senior brand strategist at one of the world's most famous branding agencies, I was always nervous I'd be 'called out' somehow.  And partly that was because I had no back-up.  Great designs and logos? My agency had these in spades.  Data, facts and research on why brand strategy was necessary for a business and how it impacted their bottom line? Tumbleweed...

So when I set up on my own I made sure I developed this back-up. Because many times on my 20 year journey I’ve had to explain why brand strategy is valuable for my clients.  Typically not to CMOs – they get how it’s critical for all branding and marketing activities (but often don’t focus on its impact beyond this). 

The challenge is...


Business strategy, brand strategy and marketing strategy - what's the difference?

Jargon and definitions can make marketing and branding feel impossible to learn.  I'm on a mission to make things clearer!  In this blog I clear up:

What is a marketing strategy?

What’s the difference between marketing strategy and brand strategy?

What’s the difference between brand strategy and business strategy?

And what’s the answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe, and everything???  (Well, we know that’s 42.  Read on for the rest).

What is business strategy vs. brand strategy vs. marketing strategy?

Business strategy identifies where an organisation wants to go.
It usually includes a hard metric vision or goal like, 'to be a $10 billion business by 2025', or 'to grow by 35% in the next 5 years'.  It also includes the operational changes required to help to get there. 

Brand strategy is really about why people should care.  Because the only way an organisation can achieve their business...


Storytelling For Brand Strategy: A Framework From Donald Miller’s, 'Building A Story Brand'

I was recently on a post where we all gave our recommendations on the best branding books to read. One book popped up a lot: 'Building A Story Brand', by Donald Miller.

It promises to help you ‘clarify your message so customers will listen.

Since bringing clarity to brand strategy is a personal mission of mine, I gave it a read and found it really useful.  

Read on for the three big takeouts that can help you improve your brand strategy work.

How stories help brand strategy

Overall, the book is a great reminder to brand strategists and marketers of the core things that can make or break strategy and messaging.  

Miller’s point of view is that having a strategy, and then communicating this clearly, isn’t the cherry on the cake.  It’s just as important as having a great product or service in the first place.

“The reality is we aren’t just in a race to get our products to market; we’re also in a race to...


Five Ways To Measure Your Brand Health

Being healthy.  Is there a better life goal than that one?

But how do you know how healthy you are?

Well, there are lots of things you can check and measure.

And the same applies to brands too.

So, how healthy are the brands you're working on? 

The five ways to measure your brand health

Measuring brand health sounds like a tricky topic so it’s easy to ignore it - to jump into tactics for growth rather than putting in benchmarks for health.  

But if you don’t know your starting point, how do you know if your tactics are the right ones?

Do this brand health check at least once a year then PLAN against the results and you’re more likely to see the progress you’re looking for.

It’s not as tricky as you’d think. 

Here’s the five things you need to cover, and you can do this in just 2 bits of research – one that’s customer-focused, and one that’s employee-focused.

  1. Funnel health
  2. Brand associations
  3. ...

Why Brand Archetypes Don’t Work

Type ‘Brand Archetypes’ into Google and you’ll find countless articles and explanations of the usefulness of these 12 categories in defining your ‘brand personality’. 

If you’ve never seen this tool – it originated with Carl Jung’s four main human archetypes, which marketers expanded into 12, as this graphic from Iconic Fox shows.

But don’t get too excited.

It doesn’t work.

Why Brand Archetypes Don’t Work 

Where it all falls down is when you try and put it into practice.  What actually happens when you try and use it with a client is a conversation along the lines of, “Well, we’re partly a Sage, but we really offer freedom so I guess that means we’re an Explorer? But we’ve always been known for our humour – so then we’re a Jester too…???”

It forces you into a one-dimensional place, and that’s not a marker of a strong brand.  



Top 3 Brand Strategy Books


I LOVE a new branding or business book.

(I warned you before – I truly am a Brand Strategy Geek).

If you’re the same, find my top 3 recommendations below. 

Best Brand Strategy Books 

1. GROW: How Ideals Power Growth and Profit At The World’s 50 Greatest Companies – Jim Stengel.

Puts stats behind the importance of brand strategy, includes big brand case studies (think Pampers, Discovery, Method) and tells you what it takes to implement a brand strategy successfully.

Here’s a few gems from this one:

“Maximum growth and high ideals are not incompatible. They’re inseparable.”

“The most powerful and profitable tools in business are ideals – ideas for improving people’s lives that speak directly to their instincts, emotions, hopes, dreams and values.” 

“The one sure mistake you can make is failing to aim high.  If you are not ambitious enough to want to make a positive difference in...


The 5 Essential Skills You Need and 4 Courses You Should Consider to Learn Brand Strategy

"I'm not sure I'm smart enough to do brand strategy."

Do you know how often I hear that?


But what’s really behind this?

Firstly - the jargon and unnecessary complexity that can make the whole area feel inaccessible.

Secondly - a case of brand strategy imposter syndrome that occurs, even among strategists with YEARS of experience, because they feel they don't really know what to do or exactly how to do it.  

Here’s two things to solve this:

  1. The 4 best brand strategy courses to give you that necessary clarity and confidence.
  2. The 5 essential skills you need. It’s not about being ‘smart’ but you do need to like doing these 5 things.

The skills you need to do brand strategy

Let's start with the skills, since if these don't feel like you - or don't feel like things you want to be good at  - you won't want to go any further.

From my 20+ years experience, and a ton of interviews with other brand strategists, there are 5 of them...


The 3 Ways To Write Company Values

Wherever you stand on the impending US election result, it’s likely that you’re emotionally invested in the outcome. 

That’s partly because, when we vote for a particular person or party, we’re casting a vote for what we believe in.  It can feel very personal – do they value what I value? Do they believe and stand for what I do?

And politicians know this:

“The character of the country is on the ballot.  Our character is on the ballot.  Look at us closely,” said Joe Biden in the last Biden-Trump head-to-head debate.

It turns out that it’s not just our politicians’ values that we’re looking at closely. 

Increasingly, prospective employees and customers are scrutinising organisations to understand their values.

“Candidates are seeking workplaces where they can intertwine their beliefs with those of the company, and work together on a common vision of purpose and success.” Harvard Business...

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