Telling Them Where to Go: Brands, Movements and Having a Point of View

Stephen Denny, branding, marketing, Killing GiantsStephen Denny is our guest on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz this Friday, September 27th. He is an author, speaker and competitive strategy + marketing consultant. He is the author of  Killing Giants: 10 Strategies To Topple the Goliath In Your Industry and a mini e-book, The Killing Giants Framework: 3 Areas of Excellence That Define How Davids Topple Goliaths.

“There are two kinds of warfare: asymmetric and stupid.”

I had the good fortune to interview Dr. Conrad Crane of the US Army War College in Killing Giants: 10 Strategies to Topple the Goliath In Your Industry on the subject of finding and nurturing “defendable ground,” a concept as familiar to marketing strategists as it was to Mao’s doctrine of guerilla warfare, and it’s as good place to start any discussion on how to approach your market as any I can think of.

This is an important topic. Far too many companies get substandard financial results from their marketing efforts because they don’t follow Dr. Crane’s somewhat backhanded advice. They follow a somewhat Cartesian “I think therefore I am” branding philosophy that suggests that being available is good enough. It isn’t.

We need to lead with a point of view.

This simple idea should color your branding, your marketing communications, your go-to-market strategy, and virtually everything you do that is visible to others.

One of the first real “live fire” exercises that I personally took part in after the publication of Killing Giants was helping a mid-cap multinational brand in the technology space figure out its point of view – and one that was fighting an uphill fight against an incumbent nearly twice its size. By elevating the narrative in the market above the speeds and feeds – and even the specific product’s perceived benefits – we found a new higher ground that spoke to shared needs and a much bigger picture.

“We really found ourselves in a position where having that point of view gave us the opportunity to get in front of our targets, whether it was partners of customers, in a way that no one had ever done before,”  Jabra North America president Peter Fox said in a recent Brand Fast-Tracker interview we did together. The “Devices Make Experiences” program we developed repositioned Jabra’s headsets as more than just accessories – they became enablers, a critical part of a total product solution that completed the Unified Communications platforms its strategic alliance partners were selling. Together, we were far better for the customer – and far easier to sell. The program thus far has been credited with an eight-figure increase in the brand’s pipeline revenue and an ROI north of 20 to 1.

Have a point of view

I point this out for a big reason. When we talk about “having a point of view” or “seizing the narrative,” we’re not talking about fluffy soft concepts that are nice but have no role in a serious discussion in the board room. Having a point of view and implementing it rigorously drives top line growth. It makes money. And if your marketing isn’t making money – big money, not small incremental gains – you’re in trouble.

To get your point of view on paper, start by asking yourself these questions:

  • If we launched a movement today, what would it be about? (Grassroots movements that galvanize people and seize their imaginations have little to do with features).
  • What would our movement be called? (Giving it a label is important – you need to brand it and make it personal).
  • How is our movement a definition of our brand? (Remember “Eigen Values”? “This sentence has five words.” That’s an eigen value. It’s self-defining. Saying it defines it. Does your movement define your brand? Does your brand define your movement?)


We’ve gone well past notions of being simple for simple’s sake at this point. We’re adding a new layer of “interestingness,” nuance and good complexity.

“Brands are like people,” 42Below vodka brand founder Geoff Ross told me in Killing Giants. “You would far rather spend time with a person that is many things… clever, witty, is sound and dependable, a joker… this is in contrast to a lot of old brand thinking that states a brand should only be about one thing.”

So let’s not just be about one thing. Let’s start a movement. Let’s have a point of view that tells our market, “This is what we believe, this is where we’re going and we want you to come along with us.”

Are you with us?


  • What’s our ultimate business goal when we talk about “leading with a point of view”?
  • How hard is it to shift to a more “point of view” centric footing? Is this a big change – or a subtle one?
  • What branded POV’s have you seen that you think are powerful?
  • How do we take a strong POV-driven brand and drive results from it?
  • So many fervently believe branding needs to be about “one big thing” – is this at odds with the POV idea?
  • If we’re supposed to be all about “one big thing,” what is the role of complexity? Is it good? Bad?
  • What’s the difference between “experts” and “fans”?  Why is this important?

To learn more about the Jabra “Devices Make Experiences” story, download the mini-e-book, The Killing Giants Framework: 3 Areas of Excellence That Define How Davids Topple Goliaths in the Kindle storefront – you can also download the full transcript of the Pete Fox interview on my website at

About the author: Stephen Denny is our guest on the Twitter chat, #KaizenBiz this Friday, September 27th. He is an author, speaker and competitive strategy + marketing consultant. He is the author of  Killing Giants: 10 Strategies To Topple the Goliath In Your Industry and a mini e-book, The Killing Giants Framework: 3 Areas of Excellence That Define How Davids Topple Goliaths.


Transcript June 15, 2012 KaizenBiz Chat with Judy Gombita

Below is the transcript from the June 15th, 2012 #KaizenBiz chat on Twitter. Our host is @3KeysCoach, this week’s guest was @JGombita and the topic was: Working Towards Incremental Respect For PR. this week, due to a glitch in our regular transcript program, we used to create the transcript. The first link is to the framing post for the chat, then the rest of the chat is in reverse chronological order, so you will have to scroll/click to the end to see the start of the chat and read back to follow the chat questions. Sorry folks, the only one I could make work was the slideshow version. Bear with our technology issues this week.

Try this slideshow version of the transcript


How Marketing Frames Perception

TED talks are fascinating moments of ideas. The speakers often pull ideas from different disciplines to present their findings or a theory about the world. In a recent TEDxAthens talk, Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Olgivy Group, presented his thoughts about how “Perspective is Everything“. His basic thesis is that our perspective, how we see things, is much more important the reality of our lives. He goes on to say that when we feel a sense of control, this perception really determines how we see reality. The facts don’t change, our experience of the facts predominates.

“The power of reframing things cannot be overstated.”

Reframing is the practice of taking the experience of a situation and changing the description so it feels different. For example, you might experience buying a new laptop as expensive but change the experience so it feels like an investment.

Marketing is often about telling a story in a particular way to reframe the specific product so it seems more appealing than its competitors. A great example is Febreze, a household odor eliminator. In their most recent US marketing campaign, they create a situation where people tell the story of what they’re experiencing until the blindfold comes off.

We are led to believe that the people think they are experiencing someplace lovely. The intent is that we become impressed with the product’s ability to mask and/or eliminate foul odors. While there are other products that do also mask or eliminate odors, marketers want us to have a psychological shift here.

“Hidden shallows”

In Sutherland’s talk, he reminds us that our perceptions frame our interpretation of reality. He says, “Impressions have an insane effect on what we say and what we do.” This seems in synch with Malcolm Gladwell’s book, Blink in which he proposes that we make judgements in a very rapid fashion. So, are we really operating off of our cognitive biases? (Cognitive biases are distorted thinking patterns that cause perceptual distortions, inaccurate judgements or other irrationality.)

Marketing and the message

If perception is how we make decisions to a new product or continue our consumer relationship with a particular company, marketers have to understand where psychology and economics intersect. Cause marketing is one way that a for-profit company can introduce the perception that its products and/or services are better, It goes beyond “I just bought a widget.” The reframe the customer has now is the feeling that they are getting something more. They not only bought a great widget but they did some good in the world. They perceive that they have created some change in the world by using their money to buy that particular widget. Some will even pay a premium because of their perception that their money is doing humanitarian work.

“Perception is leaky”

Sutherland’s point about leaky perceptions is that we cannot tell the difference between the quality of the item and our environment. The perception of Apple products is that having an iPhone or iPad or any of their other products makes us hip, innovative and tech-savvy. It makes us part of a club, so to speak. There are things about their products that do not work well but somehow that is less important. The way they have marketed their products reinforces this perception. If you have SIRI, you can talk to your phone about the weather, food, music or your to-do list and your phone talks back to you. With the iPad, you can present on-the-go to your clients with all kinds of amazing applications that provide a “wow” factor.

It could be chicken and egg

We recognize the facts of a situation but we add our psychological twist to them. That iswhere the reframe comes in. Reframes are not always inaccurate. They can help us understand our circumstances or mislead us. Marketing has used this behavior to guide our reframes for years.

How is marketing really changing reality?

Do companies who do cause marketing understand the intersection between psychology and economics?

When reality and perception are completely asynchronous, how can a company connect with its customer?