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It was almost a decade ago when I wrote my love story about Starbucks. That book, TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE, shared lessons on the business of branding, delivering memorable customers experiences and creating a workplace you’d like to work in.

I’ve started to revisit my Starbucks love story, chapter-by-chapter, in a series of posts on LinkedIn. My hope with this posting series is to inspire more businesses to base their future growth on the endearing and enduring principles the Starbucks business was built upon.

Today’s post is on keeping your marketing authentic. Enjoy…

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Marketing messages surround us no matter where we are and what we do. It’s like we are trapped inside a singles bar all day, every day, having to endure pick-up line after pick-up line from a never-ending stream of advertisements hoping to score a one night brand-stand with us.

Starbucks marketers work under the premise that marketing has become the enemy. They believe that consumers today are savvy enough to sniff out anything that smells the least bit insincere and contrived. Marketing authenticity is the antidote to the world being perceived as a gigantic advertisement.

Starbucks marketers use a six-point unwritten code to ensure the marketing programs they create and implement are authentic, that they’re staying on message and on brand, and that they tell the story of what makes the product they are promoting Starbucks-worthy. Ideally, every marketing program created and implemented at Starbucks adheres to the following six points:

#1 | Be Genuine and Authentic

Nothing is more genuine and authentic than brewed coffee. Starbucks believes its marketing messages should be as genuine and authentic as the coffee it brews.

Starbucks has spent a great amount of effort getting to know its customers and what its customers want and expect from the company. This shows in the genuineness of one of their recent co-promotions. In the spring of 2006 Starbuck teamed with theNew York Times to offer a contest in which customers would purchase a copy of the Sunday paper at a Starbucks store, complete the Sunday crossword within the special Starbucks insert, and phone in the answer after compiling clues over a month-long period. It makes sense that Starbucks would choose to do this over, say, a puzzle contest based on Sudoku or some other super-trendy game. Doing the crossword puzzle over a cup of coffee in Starbucks is just one of the authentic rewarding everyday moments many customers enjoy. This promotion stays genuine by highlighting what many people already come to Starbucks for, and deepening their interaction with the store. Instead of going the trendy route, Starbucks stayed true to its customers.

And by staying true to its customers, Starbucks keeps its marketing authentic.

#2 | Evoke Feelings, Never Prescribe Feelings

Pedantic is not in a Starbucks marketer’s vocabulary, so preachy platitudes do not come across in the marketing messages they create. For these marketers, the words and imagery must work together to convey a sense of place, comfort, or mystique.

In fact, far from promoting its own agenda, Starbucks has gone out of its way to foster discussion and discourse in its stores. The now classic “The Way I See It” campaign, in which notable artists, activists, educators, and athletes are quoted on Starbucks cups is a prime example of how Starbucks attempts to foster discussion in its stores.

Launched in 2005, the quotes in the “The Way I See It” campaign helped to stir reflection, debate, and in some instances, controversy. The aim was to spark conversation in the old-fashioned coffeehouse tradition, which Starbucks has always embraced, and evoking the ideal of a place where ideas are shared. The campaign evolved to add quotes from Starbucks customers, that further enhanced the concept while at the same time getting loyal Starbucks fans involved in the conversation.

(The tradition of Starbucks fostering discussion and discourses continues to this day with the poorly executed and short-lived #RaceTogether campaign.)

#3 | Always Say Who You Are, Never Who You Are Not

When a business says who they are not in marketing materials, they are actually saying more about their competition than they are about themselves. You’ll never see Starbucks referring to its competitors in any of its promotional materials. The company doesn’t want to bring any attention to the competition. So while Starbucks will tout the high qualities of its newest Frappuccino® blended beverage, for example, it won’t advertise why its cold, creamy coffee drink is better than what’s being offered by other coffeehouses. While you will see Starbucks mentioning that it sources, roasts, and sells Fair Trade Certified™ coffees, it purposely chooses not to compare its Fair Trade coffees with other coffee retailers who sell similar Fair Trade coffees. By doing this, the company keeps the attention where it wants it: on itself.

#4 | Stay Connected to Front-Line Employees

Starbucks believes if an employee doesn’t respect or feel connected to a marketing program, then customers will not either. After all, Starbucks relies on its front-line employees to communicate its marketing messages to customers. And if front-line employees cannot connect with the marketing program, they will not make connections with customers about it.

Every November, when Starbucks releases its heavily anticipated Christmas Blend coffee, it’s an important time for stores and employees, who get an immediate increase in demand for the popular blend. Starbucks Store Managers can always expect a voicemail from Howard Schultz on the morning Christmas Blend is launched. He’ll leave the message from his Seattle home early in the morning, after having just brewed a batch on his French press, and share memories of what the holidays mean to him, his family, and the company.

The voicemails are one way that Howard communicates something deeper—about the coffee, the experience, and the company’s roots—to Starbucks employees. In 2002, as the company’s endeavors started embracing so many new things extending well beyond coffee, Howard took to leaving monthly voicemails to all stores sharing stories about his favorite coffees, to return the focus of coffee to front-line employees. Other company leadership in the various regions followed suit, using voice, rather than simply typing an email, to communicate the feeling and tone behind the experience Starbucks tries to impart to customers through coffee. By sharing their enthusiasm and their enjoyment, Howard and the other company executives highlight for the front-line staff the why of what they’re all doing, not just the how.

#5 | Deliver on ALL Promises Made

Nothing will turn customers off more than promising something and not delivering. Authentic marketing is strictly tied to this, and it applies to everything that’s promised, from supporting local charities, to offering benefits to all employees, to providing the perfect shot of espresso. Starbucks adheres to this right down to the photos of drinks it displays. Marketers at the company would wince seeing a pristine-looking beverage on in-store signage. Take a look at a sign next time you’re waiting for your barista to hand you your drink. For a sign featuring the Marble Mocha Macchiato, for example, even the chocolate drizzle lattice pattern on the foamed milk will be just a little bit off. The company wants its signage to look real, slightly imperfect, as if a barista just finished making it. And knowing that no human could ever perfect the chocolate drizzle lattice pattern, the sign reflects that.

Contrast that to what you see in fast-food advertising: the thick hamburger patty covered with red-ripe tomatoes, leafy lettuce, and thick-cut onions on a fresh-from-the-oven bun. Does it look too good to be true? Usually yes. But once you’ve taken the paper off and found a smashed burger with a yellowish tomato slice, wilted lettuce, scant onions, and a tissue-thin hamburger patty, you’ve already given your money to the restaurant. You could complain, but you’ll only be rewarded with more of the same. For these companies, marketing is a way to lure customers, and what happens after they’ve ordered really doesn’t matter. Sadly, we’ve come to expect this.

For Starbucks, marketing is a way to get customers to try new things and feel better about themselves—it’s the overall experience, the realness of the product, that matters most. For Starbucks, it’s all in the details of reality.

#6 | Respect People’s Intelligence

Starbucks treats customers as being interesting to get them interested. And interesting people, as Starbucks sees them, are constantly expanding their knowledge and horizons. For this reason, Starbucks uses a more educated approach when it speaks to its customers, from how it talks about itself as a company to the level of detail on its packaging. Starbucks consistently views coffee much like wine. Wine enthusiasts have acquired a palette for the various varietals and blends. They have an appreciation for the finer things, and usually are willing to put their money behind their interests. Just as a wine label will talk about where the grapes were grown and the flavors elicited in that first sip, Starbucks packaging talks about the coffee region and the roasting process.

An educated customer still has one final step to go: the ordering process. Starbucks respects its customers’ intelligence by not posting signs around the store with “Venti = Large, Grande = Medium.” While it may take a little longer to figure out how to order your double tall, half-caf, vanilla, nonfat latte, once you do, there’s a feeling of belongingness, that you’re part of the “club.”

That’s the same reason Starbucks doesn’t offer combo deals, like nearly every other quick service fast food restaurant does. It wants the customer to be able to order on her own. But no company can ever be perfect. One time Starbucks stores displayed a countertop sign at its registers promoting its version of a combo deal—“A Perfect Pair”: a scone and a cup of coffee. These signs were prominently featured in stores, that is, until Howard Schultz saw the sign in one of his stores and trudged back to company headquarters, with repulsive sign in hand, calling for the complete removal of the counter card sign. The signage creative didn’t respect customers, it spoke like a fast-food retailer, it wasn’t true to the company. The signs were pulled immediately from all stores as Starbucks marketers realized that the promotion strayed far from their unwritten rules of marketing authenticity.

Building a brand and growing a business that stays true to itself is not about perfection, but progress, about being capable of recognizing missteps and then fixing mistakes. That progress is what keeps strong companies moving forward.


Leading Questions…

  • What does your company do to ensure your marketing materials reflect the company’s mission and innate integrity?
  • How does your company address its competition in its advertising? Does it speak to the value of your product or does it speak to the lack of value from your competitors?
  • How does your company respect the intelligence of its customers?

  • note: this post originally appeared in TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE published in 2006

    Great Brands Help People Be Great

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    A core belief in our PASSION CONVERSATION book is the need to rewire a marketer’s brain to appreciate creating opportunities (online and offline) for the customers you serve to share their own stories. A lot of good can come out of encouraging people to talk about themselves, their lives, their hopes, and their accomplishments.

    Ultimately, the passion conversion (aka word-of-mouth) is not about getting people to talk about you—the brand. It’s about getting people to talk about themselves.

    Truth be told, that line you just read is a riff from a Kathy Sierra tweet I saw back in the wild wild west twitter days of 2008.

    Kathy Sierra has a knack for understanding the user experience from being a master programming trainer to co-authoring many of the influential Head First tech books. She’s just published a book that expands on what it means for brands to get people excited not about the brand, but about themselves.

    In BADASS: Making Users Awesome, Kathy makes the case for why and how a brand can benefit from helping its customers become badass.

    Kathy explains how people do not care how great a brand is, but rather, how great they are when using a brand. And when people become a badass at something, they talk about it to their friends and friends of friends.

    Context is everything. Kathy explains, “Most products and services support a bigger, compelling, motivating context.” In this context, products and services are simply tools to help people achieve badass results.

    For example, I’ve improved my presentation skills over the past ten years. There are a variety of tools that I have used to help me become a better speaker. These tools support the compelling context of me giving better presentations.
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    GIVE YOUR SPEECH, CHANGE THE WORLD by Nick Morgan is a badass book on public speaking because it helped me to become a better speaker. I’ve routinely recommended this book to people wanting to improve their presentation skills.

    The simple Logitech Wireless Presenter is a tool that helps me command a room better when giving a talk. No matter how far I wander away from my laptop, this clicker has the range to still advance my slides. Plus, the countdown timer on this device is a godsend. I never go over my allotted time because the timer keeps me on track.

    I design all my talks using PowerPoint software. It’s an easy tool that helps me create visuals that keep audiences engaged.

    And, I always love using a Lavaliere microphone when presenting. It allows me to improve my body language on stage because I can use both of my hands to emphasize key points.

    If you follow Kathy Sierra’s approach, then you’ll understand this…


    Great brands help people be great.


    As marketers we need to lose our self-interest and become selfless. The marketing game today is less about making a badass product and more about helping people become badass. When people use our products to become more skillful, more proficient, and more awesome, a passion conversation will follow because people love to talk about themselves.

    Keep the Likeables. Dump the Assholes.

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    Being a top chef is a team sport. Yet, we tend to think of it as an individual game. It’s always a team of people working together from the line cook to the sous chef to the expeditor to the pastry chef to the many other cooks in the kitchen who get the dishes out to our tables.

    On the season finale of Top Chef Boston, we saw Mei go up against Gregory for a winner-take-all culinary clash. Mei won the clash (and the cash) but Gregory won me over with a subtle unselfish move that you might not have noticed.

    As is usual with the Top Chef finale, the chefs address the diners before each course to tell them what they are eating and how the dish was prepared. Before announcing each course, Gregory went plural on us. He said lines like, “For our next course, we have prepared…”

    He could’ve easily said, “For your next course, I have prepared…” But he didn’t. Gregory knew his small team, made up of two other chefs eliminated from the competition, was responsible for getting the food on the plate and on the table.

    I nodded with approval when I heard Gregory go plural by deliberately choosing to say, “we” and not “I.”

    In 2006 I led a breakout session at a HOW Design Conference on “Growing a Brand. Growing a Team.” Besides sharing advice on how healthy brands grow, we talked about the importance of needing a healthy team to grow a healthy brand.

    The meat of that session centered on the team-building advice of Keep the Likeables. Dump the Assholes.

    (Yes. Bob Sutton’s book THE NO ASSHOLE RULE had just been published and it heavily influenced my thinking.)

    We were working under the thinking that Likeables are friendly and helpful. They are the consistent performers on project teams. They always meet deadlines. They make others look good. They hold themselves accountable. They have a positive demeanor. They would rather solve matters face-to-face than through email exchanges. They are selfless.

    On the other hand, Assholes are co-workers that no one wants to work with. These folks keep extensive CYA files. They Cc: the world on inconsequential emails. They always have excuses. They would rather engage in divisive hallway conversations than actively participate during project meetings. They are selfish. Yet, every company has them and continues to hire them.

    One participant in the breakout session chimed in that Assholes can front themselves as a Likeable in the interview process only to show their true colors later.

    So, how can you distinguish between Assholes and Likeables during the job interview process?

    Our breakout session devised a simple test called THE “I” EXAM.

    When interviewing a potential job candidate, listen for how many times they say “I did this” or “I did that” when talking about their past project/group work.

    Sure, it’s natural for a job candidate to talk about themselves in an interview. But if they routinely say something like, “In the group I led, we did this … and we did that…” then you probably have a Likeable.

    However, if the job candidate neglects to mention the “We” and only mention the “Me” … then they’ve failed THE “I” EXAM and can be considered Asshole material.

    Let’s root this thinking to firmly established business thinking. Peter Drucker, like I need to explain who he is, long talked about the importance of effective leaders needing to be unselfish. In 1973, he shared his smart take on the most effective leaders saying “We” and not “I.”

    “The leaders who work most effectively, it seems to me, never say “I.” And that’s not because they have trained themselves not to say “I.” They don’t think “I.” They think “we”; they think “team.” They understand their job to be to make the team function. They accept responsibility and don’t sidestep it, but “we” gets the credit. This is what creates trust, what enables you to get the task done.” — Peter Drucker

    Well said Drucker and well-played Gregory.

    A Goliath Can Become a David Again

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    “A company can grow big without losing the passion and personality that built it, but only if it’s driven by values and by people, not by profits.” — Howard Schultz


    Earlier this month I was talking with a regional franchise chain with aspirations to grow big… really BIG. But they want to grow BIG without losing their soul. Easier said than done.

    That conversation reminded me of the growth issue we faced at Starbucks in the late 1990s. At that time, Starbucks was fast approaching 2,000 locations. That’s BIG by most standards but Starbucks dreamed bigger and that dream has become reality as Starbucks now operates over 21,000 shops in 63 countries.

    Starbucks has truly become a Goliath’s Goliath.

    In my love story book about Starbucks, I shared the mentality of how Starbucks was able to still view itself as an upstart David even though they had become a monolithic Goliath.

    If your business is caught in the strategic crosshairs of needing to get bigger but remain smaller, the following excerpt from TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE might provide you with boardroom fodder. Enjoy…


    TRIBAL TRUTH #17

    A Goliath Can Become a David Again

    TribalKnowledge_150There is a life-cycle model called the Sigmoid Curve, an S leaning forward, that describes the stumbling beginning, fast rise, glorious peak, and slow decline of every successful business, brand, or even idea. Management guru and author Charles Handy discussed this model in his book, The Age of Paradox, and pointed out that the right time to create a new idea, start a new curve, is when you are approaching the apex, not once you have passed it—for once you start down the other side of that curve, it may be too late.

    Sounds simple, but how to do that in the real world? Once you’re on your way to becoming a Goliath, do you really want to go through being a David again? It may be more romantic, but let’s remember, David was the underdog—and for good reason. But if you settle into the summit of the curve, you’re a Goliath just waiting for the next David to come along and knock you off your perch.

    Starbucks long outgrew being the David of the specialty coffee industry and became its Goliath. The company dwarfs all specialty coffee competitors in market share and customer mind share. However, Starbucks refuses to settle into the role of being a coffee Goliath. It will not consider itself a Goliath because it no longer considers other coffee retailers as its competition.

    Starbucks began with the mission of wanting to get the world to appreciate better tasting coffee. To put it simply, Starbucks has accomplished this mission. With the popularity and sustainability of the company, the next step is to make the transition from Starbucks as coffee “brand” to Starbucks as beverage “icon.” From this perspective, Starbucks is an upstart, competing against the old-school beverage icons like Coke and Pepsi. Starbucks considers itself a David because, compared to Goliath-proportioned Pepsico’s $66 billion and Coke’s $47 billion yearly revenues, its annual $15 billion is small in the megalithic beverage industry machine.

    So what is Starbucks doing to step up to its new self-imposed competitors? One way is to look to other brand icons for ideas. Take Coke’s Diet Black Cherry Vanilla Coke® beverage and compare that to the Starbucks Marble Mocha Macchiato. Both rely on what started as a specialized drink (Vanilla Coke® and a Caramel Macchiato), and then grew into enhanced versions of themselves. And, taking a page from iconic McDonald’s and its “limited-time only” specials like the McRib® and the Shamrock Shake®, Starbucks has introduced promotional holiday beverages. Drinks like the Pumpkin Spice Latte and the Peppermint Mocha bring a higher price point and add some zest to the usual menu offerings for customers, and that translates into driving higher year-over-year sales at Starbucks.

    Sure, borrowing some sales gimmicks from the large competitors works to some extent, but Starbucks didn’t get where it is today by following. Its brand is strong because it is the leader in the specialty coffee industry, and it led because of the passion its people had for the product. To transition to icon status will take hard work, significant investment, and continued passion. Upping the ante, going up against the Goliaths on a bigger stage, gets company adrenaline flowing. It motivates employees to keep a competitive edge, especially when the competition has changed. Nobody roots for Goliath. Most everybody roots for David. The best companies have their own employees rooting for them. Getting bigger by positioning itself as being smaller can rally customers and employees alike.

    Starbucks’ success turned itself into a Goliath, and now it has redefined and repositioned itself against a bigger Goliath in order to become a David again—a position Starbucks feels much more motivated operating under.

    Leading Questions…

  • Who are the Goliaths and the Davids within your company’s competitive set?
  • How must your business change to maintain its upstart David mentality no matter how big your business gets?

  • Originally posted on December 31, 2004

    Bruce Mau, a designer, thinker, articulator, and massive change provocateur, has a lot of ideas on a lot of things. His Incomplete Manifesto for Growth is a list, an incomplete one at that, of 43 ideas to get you beyond thinking differently but doing differently.

    As 2014 turns to 2015, the message of doing differently is one we should all heed. The first incomplete ideal is featured below. Heed and enjoy.


    TOUGH LOVE | yours to read

    In 2010, I wrote TOUGH LOVE, a business book masquerading as a screenplay.

    It’s a business book but really… it’s a script that reads just like a Hollywood screenplay with standard script format, seven main characters and two plot lines.

    TOUGH LOVE tells the story of how a rags-to-riches entrepreneur finds success building a company (Galaxy Coffee) to be bigger only to realize, the hard way, that smaller is better. Inserted throughout the TOUGH LOVE script are breakout business lessons and thought-provoking business advice geared towards entrepreneurs and small business owners.

    TOUGH LOVE has been available primarily as a $9.99 digital download. However, it’s now available as a free download.

    Go ahead… download it, read it and share it. My gift to you. Happy Holidays y’all.


    PDF DOWNLOAD:

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    VIEW and READ ONLINE:

    TOUGH LOVE: Scripting the Drive, Drama and Decline of Galaxy Coffee

    Creating Difference

    the following post first appeared on the Brains on Fire blog

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    Bernadette Jiwa is a kindred sprit to us at Brains on Fire. She thinks like we think. Her book, DIFFERENCE, is comfort food to us because she understands that “marketing is, and has always been, a transfer of emotion.”

    We dedicated lots of pages in our book to explaining how the best marketing is about loving people and if you don’t love people then get out of marketing. We also make a plea for businesses to understand that the passion conversation isn’t about getting people to talk about YOU, the brand. Instead, it’s about getting people to talk about themselves and how they have become better people because YOU, the brand, emotionally connected with them.

    DIFFERENCE is of the same spirit. It’s a manifesto urging marketers to go beyond developing products and programs that are not just different, but more importantly… create a difference in people’s lives.

    Bernadette explains,

    “You can’t build a great business just by being different. You need to create ideas and experiences that give people reasons to care and to belong, not just the reason to choose.

    What makes a brand unique today is the difference it creates—how it affects peoples lives and becomes part of their story. When you are organized to create difference, not just be different, the result is much harder to replicate.”

    To help businesses develop empathy-driven strategies that result in making a difference in the lives of customers, Bernadette shares a step-by-step framework called, The Difference Map. This framework starts with finding the fundamental truth about the people your business wants to impact and finishes with a pathway to develop products and programs that matter most to your customers. Click below to get started on creating a difference with the people your business loves.

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    As this year ends and next year begins, you’d be wise to read and follow Bernadette Jiwa’s advice in how to make a difference in the lives of people who love you… your customers.


    In late October I spoke to a roomful of restaurant marketers and shared a little known story about Whole Foods Market. This story has become a Whole Foods company campfire tale and for good reason… it’s a story that helped to shape the culture of the company in its early days.

    In this short video, you’ll hear a how passion plays a pivotal role in a business becoming a beloved brand. Enjoy…

    It was October of 1994, twenty years ago, when the trajectory of my life changed.

    I was living with my parents and back in school getting a second degree, this time in marketing. College loans helped to cover tuition but I needed a part-time job to cover other expenses like food (and my bar tab at the Barley House).

    Enter Starbucks Coffee.

    As a marketing student, I had heard of this upstart coffee chain but never stepped foot in one.

    Starbucks was holding a hiring fair at their meager Dallas training office tucked deep inside an office building. When I entered the windowless office I was handed a cup of House Blend. (I still remember how amazingly flavorful that cup of coffee tasted.) I filled out the job application and was immediately put into an interview.

    For most people a job interview is not a big deal, it’s just talking. But for someone who stutters, it’s a HUGE deal because… it is just talking. Some how I managed to minimize my stutter enough that it was a total non-issue.

    I was offered a barista job at Starbucks store #677 (Preston Center). That was October of 1994.

    A year later I was out of school and working as a Media Planner at an advertising agency in Dallas but I still kept working at Starbucks with a Saturday morning shift behind the bar slinging lattes.

    Frustrated with my job at the advertising agency, I abruptly quit. I became a vagabond barista picking up odd shifts at Starbucks locations all over Dallas.

    Then fate interrupted.

    Starbucks was growing so fast they couldn’t manage all of the local store marketing activities happening in the field by the small marketing team at corporate in Seattle. They created a field marketing department and Dallas was one of the first markets to get a zone marketing director.

    This marketing director, Lisa, needed help and I saw an internal job posting for a field marketing specialist. I sent my resume in and a few days later I had my job interview at the Creekwalk Village Starbucks in Plano.

    I vividly recall that interview. I dressed in a snazzy Banana Republic suit and carried a Coach leather bag with examples of my work as a Media Planner. When Lisa walked in, she saw me at the merchandise wall talking shop with Scott, the Creekwalk Village Starbucks store manager.

    Part of me believes when Lisa saw me talking shop with the store manager, she was able to envision me as a Starbucks field marketer. Much of that position was serving the needs of store managers by designing and implementing new store opening plans and creating local store marketing programs. Seeing me interact with a store manager gave Lisa confidence that I could represent her department well.

    A few days I was hired on as a Starbucks field marketing specialist.

    From there, I followed Lisa to working in the marketing department at Starbucks corporate. That experience led me to becoming the director of national marketing at Whole Foods. And that experience paved the way for me to publish TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE, which has led to a nice career as a marketing consultant.

    It’s only fitting that my Halloween costume this year honored how my life changed twenty years ago…

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    Plato. Purpose. Profits.

    Play-To_200The ancient philosopher Plato made significant contributions to humankind. His philosophical fingerprints can still be felt today in how we think about mathematics, science/nature, morals, politics and the arts.

    Perhaps it’s time we add “brand strategy” to the long list of contributions Plato has made to civilization.

    To explain “how great companies have great purposes,” the authors of CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM draw connections between Plato’s take on transcendental philosophy and modern-day brand strategy.

    In its most simplistic form, transcendental philosophy provides a framework for understanding how we, as humankind, can live a worthwhile life.

    Plato outlined three transcendental ideals to follow in order for people to make a meaningful contribution. These same ideals can be viewed from the perspective of a how a business can live the brand in a purposeful way to become profitable.

    These transcendental brand strategy ideals, as outlined in CONSCIOUS CAPITALISM, are: The Good, The Truth and The Beautiful.


    brand ideal # 1 | The Good

    Plato believed the power of The Good happens when people are in service to others by expressing love, compassion, and empathy. Flipped to the view of business and branding, The Good is all about helping people live a better life.

    The brand purpose of improving a person’s life through products and services is an everlasting ideal.

    Starbucks is an example of a business that follows The Good ideal. Starbucks success is built upon its desire to inspire and nurture the human spirit through the connectedness that comes with enjoying a simple cup of coffee.

    The Sleep Number brand also taps into the power of The Good by improving people’s lives through a better night’s sleep. (More importantly, there is no telling how many marriages the Sleep Number bed has saved.)

    The authors specifically mention The Container Store as an enduring brand that follows The Good strategy to success because the company helps people become happier by being more organized.


    brand ideal #2 | The Truth

    The unrelenting pursuit of understanding and fighting for justice and truth is a noble way to for a person to live. It’s also a noble pursuit for a brand to follow to find long-lasting success.

    Brands living for The Truth focus their efforts on correcting marketplace injustices.

    Southwest Airlines was founded upon the principle of righting the wrongs in airline travel from making it less expensive to fly to making the in-flight experience more humane and to eliminating add-on fees.

    Whole Foods Market has found long-lasting success by bringing The Truth in the form of only selling foods that are free from artificial ingredients, growth hormones, and anything else that’s fake.


    brand ideal #3 | The Beauty

    Lives are enriched when people pursue greatness to change the world for the better. Beauty is the by-product of such a pursuit.

    When brands follow The Beauty strategy path, they embark on a never-ending journey of continuous improvement to achieve excellence. A simple way for a business to follow this pathway is to take something people perceive as good and make it better.

    The authors highlight Apple as a quintessential Beauty brand because the company is focused on making “insanely great” products. Apple succeeds by taking what is already good and making it better. It made the PC computer better through its Macintosh (Mac) product platform. It made the mp3 player with its iPod lineup. Tablets existed before the iPad but the iPad greatly improved the tablet.


    It’s amazing to think how brilliantly the ancient transcendental philosophy from Plato works to help focus a business on its higher purpose.

    By focusing supremely on its true purpose, businesses can connect more emotionally (and rationally) with consumers, leading to being a profitable and quite possibly… a transcendent brand.