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Brand it Like Bogie

4 Simple-as-Dirt Branding Lessons from Casablanca

How to Become Irresistible to Customers & Impervious to Competitors

Bogie & Bacall

So, you wanna learn how to make your brand both irresistible to customers and impervious to competitors? Casablanca is a great place to start.

Aside from being The Greatest Movie Ever Made, (oh, you disagree? Fight me!), Casablanca bubbles over with bountiful branding lessons. (For those of you who live under a rock, “Bogie” was the nickname of Humphrey Bogart, the actor who played Rick Blaine in Casablanca.)

For this article, you don’t have to know the plot to grasp the lessons. All you need to know is this:

  • The story takes place during World War 2 in the North African city of Casablanca
  • The main characters are Rick Blaine, Louie Renault and Ilsa Lund

Lesson 1: “Only More So” is Doomed

Our first lesson is a negative one: what not to do.

Rick Blaine: (responding to a question about Louie Renault) Oh, he’s just like any other man, only more so.

If I asked you, “why should people choose to do business with you rather than your competition,” what would you say? Would it be something like…

  • Best prices?
  • Best service?
  • Best quality?
  • Best warranty?
  • Best location?
  • Best hours?
  • Best whatever…?

If your answer is similar to any of these, then face it:

You’re just like any other company, only more so.

Only more so won’t get the job done.

If your edge can be copied, it will be copied. When that happens, you’re doomed. Your customers will abandon you faster than the French fled Paris when Nazi tanks rolled in.

There’s one way – just one – to become irresistible to customers and impervious to competitors: you must offer something utterly unique, something that cannot be copied by your competition.

The next 3 lessons explain how to do that.

Lesson 2: Fly Your Freak Flag

Louie Renault: I’ve often speculated on why you don’t return to America. Did you abscond with the church funds? Did you run off with a Senator’s wife? I like to think that you killed a man. It’s the romantic in me.

Rick Blaine: It’s a combination of all three.

Is Rick Blaine a freedom fighter? Is he a scoundrel or a hero? Is he a thief,  an adulterer, a murderer?

We don’t know for sure. He admits to nothing and to everything.

All we can say for certain is this: he’s one of a kind.

He’s a blend of qualities we aren’t used to seeing in one person. And that’s what makes him the magnetic center of the story. That’s why “everyone comes to Rick’s.”

You have only one quality in all the universe so unique it is uncopiable.

Here’s a hint:

It’s the same quality that keeps married couples delighted and devoted for decades on end.

What is it?

Each partner knows about the other, “in all the world, there is no one else like you.”

We humans all share the same basic operating system software. We tend to react the same way to the same types of stimuli. We cannot help ourselves. We are attracted to the unusual, the unique, the unexpected. Present us with something unexpected and we’re hooked. We can’t look away.

Is your business one-of-a-kind, or is it like all the other businesses, only more so?

You won’t find your uncopiable qualities in your Policies and Procedures Handbook. You won’t find them in your Corporate Vision or your Mission Statement.

You will find them in the bathroom mirror, at the water cooler in the breakroom, and in your staff when nothing is working right and the chips are down.

The chances are high that you’ve chosen to keep your unique qualities hidden. That’s a mistake.

It’s your contradictions that make you intriguing. Embrace them.

Lesson 3: Beguile with Humility

Ever made a dumb mistake, something that made you look bad?

Louie Renault: What in heaven’s name brought you to Casablanca?

Rick Blaine: My health. I came to Casablanca for the waters.

Louie Renault: The waters? What waters? We’re in the desert.

Rick Blaine: I was misinformed.

Rick has a reputation as a man of the world. Yet his response makes him appear naïve and foolish. If he was an “only more so” type of man, he’d spin a tale that made him look heroic, wise, strong and noble.

But he doesn’t do that. Instead, he’s admits his mistake. And this makes us love him all the more.

What’s your normal reaction when you or your people do something dumb? If it isn’t humility, then you’ve missed a golden opportunity to capture the hearts of your customers.

When we humans encounter true humility, it triggers something deep within our bodies, something we cannot resist. It beguiles us, often against our intention.

At the end of the day, it’s not your strengths that will make people love you; it’s your humanity. That means your failings, your fears and your flaws.

Every failure is an opportunity to show your humanity.

Lesson 4: Invest in Virtue

Rick Blaine: We’ll always have Paris. We lost it until you came to Casablanca. We got it back last night.

Ilsa Lund: When I said I would never leave you…

Rick Blaine: And you never will. But I’ve got a job to do, too. Where I’m going, you can’t follow. What I’ve got to do, you can’t be any part of. Ilsa, I’m no good at being noble, but it doesn’t take much to see that the problems of three little people don’t amount to a hill of beans in this crazy world. Someday you’ll understand that. Now, now… Here’s looking at you kid.

Rick Blaine cultivates the image of a self-absorbed narcissist who only looks out for Number One. Yet, at the climax of the movie, when Rick has the opportunity to save his own skin and get away with the girl of his dreams, he makes a different choice, a choice we never saw coming…

When people experience virtuous behavior from you and the people in your company, something irrational and unpredictable happens inside their brains: they feel a deep attraction.

Virtue – so the saying goes – is its own reward.

As true as that may be for individuals, it’s doubly true for organizations.


Ilsa: I wish I didn’t love you so much.

Rick: Here’s looking at you, kid.

Have you identified the qualities that make your business uncopiable? If not, this outline is a good place to start.

And if you need a little coaching or guidance, you can contact me or any other Wizard of Ads partner. We’ll be happy to help you become irresistible to your audience and impervious to your competition.

Dissatisfied Yet Happy: The Weird Brain Science of Customer Loyalty

Dissatisfied Yet Happy: The Weird Brain Science of Customer Loyalty

The happiest people are the least satisfied • The most satisfied are not happy.

That makes no sense, does it? Yet brain science tells us that being dissatisfied is not the same as being unhappy. People who are dissatisfied yet also see themselves making progress towards a goal are more happy than merely satisfied people. Smart marketers make use of dissatisfaction to create powerful emotional connections with their customers.

Negative Emotion Drives Desire

It’s good for your business when you allow your customers suffer. Why? I’ll explain in just a moment. First, let’s set the stage.

We all know that emotion drives buying decisions. And we know that facts kill emotion. Savvy marketers have known that’s true for a long time.

Now, thanks to neuroscience, we better understand why people are like that.

For decades, the gurus of marketing have told us to avoid negative emotions. Turns out, they’re wrong.

Negative emotion is not just the absence of positive emotion. It is its own separate thing. Positive emotion and negative emotion use two entirely different circuits in our brains.

That means it’s possible for humans to experience both positive and negative emotions at the same time.

In fact, if your target audience is experiencing negative emotion, you have a great opportunity to leverage that emotion for your own good. Push the right buttons, slide the right levers and you can increase desire.

And then – when you offer a solution to those negative emotions, you’ll create powerful positive emotions. And – if you do it right – you can turn those positive emotions into powerful, long-lasting emotional connections.

However, you gotta know how to leverage that negative emotion.

“Neurophysiologically we are constructed in such a way that we do not experience positive emotion unless we have an aim and we perceive ourselves progressing towards that aim and attaining that aim.” – Dr. Jordan B. Peterson

Negative Emotions Are Almost Always At Work

As I argue elsewhere, we 21st century people walk around with a gaping hole in our psyches. It’s there because our culture has fractured.

Strong cultures keep our deep existential questions at bay. But when culture fractures – as ours has – it no longer gives us answers to our deep questions. And that’s precisely where we find ourselves.

Almost all of us suffer from existential discontent. That’s an emotion that maps onto the negative emotional system. Unless those deep existential questions are answered, that negative emotional system is always going to be working.

The Brain Chemistry of Positive Emotion

We have two different “systems” of brain chemicals that make us feel positive emotions.

One is  dopamine. The other is serotonin.

When we perceive ourselves as making progress towards a goal, then our brains squirt dopamine. That’s a really awesome feeling. When you offer your prospect the chance to solve a nasty problem, it’s dopamine that makes them feel excited about it.

When we actually reach our goal, the dopamine turns off and our brain squirts serotonin instead. Serotonin is a nice feeling, but it’t not as intense as dopamine and it doesn’t last as long.

Dopamine makes us feel good about heading in the right direction to reach our goal. Serotonin makes us feel good about having reached our goal.

So your prospects can feel negative feelings and positive feelings at the same time. You want them to feel dopamine-feelings though. Don’t give them serotonin feelings too soon.

Amplify the Suffering First, THEN Offer the Solution

The old marketing acronym PAS is built on this reality: Pain-Amplification-Solution.

Isn’t it interesting that the old guys knew what worked, even if they didn’t know why it worked? Now we know.

Tell me what you think. Can you see how to amplify customer dissatisfaction in a way that makes them feel more love and loyalty to you? This is where Loyalty Triggers can help. I recommend you get the guide if you don’t already have it.

Learn to Use the Loyalty Triggers

Free Quick Reference Guide eBook

Haters: Your Best Form of Free Advertising

Haters: Your Best Form of Free Advertising

How did Donald Trump get $2.6 billion dollars of free advertising from the media during his 2016 presidential campaign?
Did the media want him to win?
Of course not.
Trump mastered an unusual skill: creating haters. He got free publicity from the people who hated him most.
He’s been using this technique for decades, long before he ran for president.
And you can use the exact same technique to create 100% free advertising as well.

The Donald’s Been Doing It Forever

In 1986, Trump’s company won a contract from the city of New York to repair and refurbish the Wollman Skating Rink. The city had tried – and failed – to repair the rink for years. Trump decided he wanted the contract. So he started talking.

No, let me correct that.  He started mocking.

He didn’t mock people though; he mocked the system that allowed all previous rebuilding projects to be massive failures.

He intentionally inflamed the passions of both supporters and detractors.

These tactics generated tons of free publicity. Pressure mounted on the city. He won the contract.

And once the project was done, (he completed the project 30% early and 25% under budget), he credited his success to “good management.”

Free publicity combined with a quality product is a powerful combination.

You Can Fight Human Nature, But You Can’t Win

Trump never paid for advertising. He just created some haters and let them talk about him as much as they wished. In fact, he fed them new subjects just to keep them talking.

His haters believed their words discredited him. They were wrong.

He knows his target audience. Haters are a central part of his marketing  strategy.

If Trump didn’t upset people, then they wouldn’t have been so eager to discredit him. In their eagerness to debunk him, they had to talk about him.

This strategy worked in the city of New York in the 80s. It worked in the campaign of 2016. And it works today.

Like some weird outer space creature from a bad Star Trek episode, Trump would absorb negative energy from his enemies and use it to grow stronger. And even though their efforts failed, his haters wouldn’t stop giving him free advertising.

In fact, they couldn’t stop themselves from talking about him. Why wouldn’t they just stop?

If you’ve followed me for any time at all, you know why they couldn’t stop: human beings are not rational.

Method in the Madness

The reason some people can’t stop talking about The Donald is because they can’t stand him.

It’s almost as if he makes outlandish statements on purpose.

We’re taught from an early age to play nice and not make waves. We’re taught to not make people dislike us. It sounds smart, and it’s wrong.

If you want people to talk about you, then you need haters. You need some people who dislike you so much that they can’t help but tell the world how awful you are.

I call this special class of people anti-customers.

One anti-customer is worth a hundred loyal-yet-silent customers.

Why is that true?

Because anti-customers careAnti-customers feel compelled to talk about you. Their passion drives them to speak out against you. And what happens when anti-customers rail against you?

Ah, that’s when you seize the moment and make the magic happen. Here’s how.

How to Leverage the Passion of Your Haters

Isaac Newton explained how it works:

For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.

The passionate intensity passion of your anti-customers compells an equally intense reaction from your existing customers.

Anti-customers increase the passion of Customers.

The more some people talk smack about you, the more your loyalists speak out to protect you.

“Average” customers get irritated with the antics of anti-customers. They feel compelled to speak out on your behalf and try to drown out the negative voices.

And your truly loyal customers charge to your defense like Mel Gibson attacking the English swine in Braveheart.

It’s just human nature.

You’ll reap the benefits. Customers are talking about you. Anti-customers are talking about you. Prospects are hearing about you. Interest in you is building.

At that point, all you gotta do is deliver a decent product or service at a fair price.

The Care and Feeding of Anti-Customers

There’s a right way and a wrong way to create and provoke your anti-customers. This is where business diverges a little from politics.

In politics, you can successfully create anti-customers by attacking people as well as ideas.

That’s not true in business.

Only attack ideas, systems, programs and products. Never attack people.

Your attack begins with your manifesto.  (You do have a manifesto, don’t you?)

“A manifesto is a published verbal declaration of the intentions, motives, or views of the issuer, be it an individual, group, political party or government.”

This is no bloodless corporate Vision Statement. This is your line in the sand. It is an intentional provocation. In fact, the word “manifesto” is from the latin phrase manu festus which means “struck by hand.” It implies action, passion, and impatience.

Your manifesto should be hot-blooded, full of fire and fury. You don’t have time to lay out a reasonable argument. You’re in a hurry to change the world, and you won’t concern yourself with insignificant details.

In your urgency, you “strike by hand” your thoughts, beliefs, hopes and dreams for the future.

Your manifesto is the verbal equivalent of a molotov cocktail tossed through the open window of the status quo. It is intended to explode, burn and leave a mark. It is not intended to be nuanced, reasonable or even possible.

In fact, any manifesto worth reading will be entirely unreasonable.

Build Your Manifesto and Buckle Up

A good manifesto has three parts:

  1. Denounce the Problem(s) with the Status Quo
  2. Pronounce the Glorious Future, (once the problems of the status quo are fixed)
  3. Announce the Actions you are taking to make that future vision a reality.

You must demonize the enemy, (whatever that may be). You must turn molehills into mountains. You must not worry about the details of execution. What matters is the passion and urgency of your mission. You must issue a call to all right-minded folk to join you in your glorious mission.

Do that with your manifesto. Publish it far and wide, and you will create loyal fans. Even better, you will create loyal anti-customers.


One final word: make sure you publicize all the nasty things anti-customers say about you. Send an email to your fans saying “look what they said about me”, and then copy and paste their mean words. This will galvanize your supporters to ride to your defense.

Remember to thank them – publicly and humbly – for their support. And when you are counting the additional profits, remember to credit it all to “good management.” Just like The Donald.

What’s the Best Way to Forge Emotional Bonds with Your Audience?

What’s the Best Way to Forge Emotional Bonds with Your Audience?

“I need your expertise. I’m building my personal brand and need better positioning on social media. I can’t spend 10 years touring trying build an emotional bond with my audience. Do you think you can help?”

Matthew fronts a rock band, Vinyl Station, and he thinks like a business owner. He wants to take control of his reputation. He needs strategies that leverage his strengths. Strategies that don’t demand a giant budget to execute.

I said yes. We agreed to meet the next day at Peixoto Coffee.

Peixoto is a pretty typical coffee bar in many respects. Old downtown building. Exposed brick walls. Thrift-store furniture. Pierced & tattooed baristas. Metal chairs and tables on the sidewalk out front.

Like I said, typical. As we sat down, I told him, “I don’t really like their coffee, but I keep coming back.”

Does that make any sense?

I’m a coffee lover that didn’t like their coffee. So why do I keep coming back? I’ll give you a hint:

  • It’s not the atmosphere. Plenty of coffee shops around here have the same atmosphere.
  • It’s not the people. They’re no better or worse than any other shop around.
  • It’s not the location. I actually pass a dozen coffee shops on my way to Peixoto.

So what is it?

It’s the emotion I feel.

Feelings are Stronger than Thoughts

Why do I go back to Peixoto over and over again? Because I have an emotional bond with their story. I don’t think about them as a business. In fact, I don’t think about them at all. Rather, I have feelings for them.

There’s the difference:thinking versus feeling.

Do people think about you? Or do they have feelings for you?

The smart folks at Peixoto hooked my emotions. They made it almost impossible for me to imagine going anywhere else for coffee meetings.

Now that’s some powerful brand building there.

If you’re an entrepreneur, a business owner or a personality, differentiation is the name of the game. That’s why What You Do matters far less than Who You Are.

Good Feelings Beat Rational Thinking Every Time

I didn’t like Peixoto coffee. Yet I kept going back. That is not a rational thinking.

Imagine this scenario is true for your business:

Even though some people aren’t crazy about your products or services, they keep coming back for more. They keep buying from you. And they are so happy about buying from you that they recommend you to their friends.

That’s exactly how Peixoto affects me.

You wanna talk about Branding Power? Now that’s branding power. Do you want people to connect like that with you? Of course you do.

So what is it that Peixoto did to hook me? How did they grab my emotions so strongly that I hate to go anywhere else for coffee?

The answer is stunningly simple:

They told me an amazing Origin Story – a love story. Their Origin Story made me fall in love with their little company.

Strategies that Turn Business into Pleasure

See, Peixoto is the only coffee shop for hundreds of miles in every direction that grows and harvests their own coffee beans.

The same family that grows the coffee beans in Brazil also sells me the coffee in Arizona. They plant it, grow it, harvest it, ship it, roast it, brew it and finally sell it to me.

The coffee doesn’t change owners from the time it’s planted in the ground until they pass that beautiful white porcelain mug across the stainless steel counter into my eager hands.

I love that story. It makes Peixoto completely unique. And it makes me feel like I am a small part of something amazing and cool.

And so – because I feel that way – I keep on giving Peixoto my business. And I keep on encouraging other people to give them business as well.

(In fact, I had yet another meeting there yesterday. Peixoto is also my favorite “office-away-from-the-office.”)

Brand Yourself with Your Origin Story

Every great Origin Story has three key elements:

  1. A Hero – Your brand’s story should have a hero who resembles your ideal customer.
  2. A Struggle -Your hero should find himself in a predicament that your ideal customer can relate to.
  3. A Solution – Your hero should find a solution that not only resolves his predicament, but is available to your customer today.

The heroes of the Peixoto story are the owners, Jeff Peters and Julia Peixoto Peters. They are just like me: they love a good cup of coffee. And just like me, they don’t like mass-market coffee.

They struggled to find coffee as delicious as the coffee they drank in Brazil. But not just anywhere in Brazil. See, Julia’s father in Brazil actually owns a coffee farm. They couldn’t find coffee that tasty anywhere else.

Their solution? They decided to open their own coffee shop and sell coffee from Julia’s family coffee farm.

They roast the coffee in their own shop. They grind, brew and sell it right there on the corner of Arizona Avenue and Boston Street in Chandler, Arizona.

How to Create, Attract and Keep Customer Emotion

What Peixoto has done with their Origin Story is something you can do as well. Your Origin Story will communicate your emotion to your audience. And your audience will give your their emotion in return.

Every Origin Story is a love story. Find the love in your story, highlight the Hero, the Struggle and the Solution. Then share it with the world.

A compelling Origin Story is your first best way to make yourself irresistible. It lets you brand yourself and define your identity in a way that makes you stand out from the crowd.

Whether business branding or personal branding doesn’t matter: an emotional connection beats a rational decision every time.

Love: It’s the best customer loyalty program in existence.

A related note: Peixoto’s Origin Story kept me coming back until I learned to love their product as much as I love their story. Now I buy their coffee by the bag to brew at home!

Logos vs. Faces • Science Tells Us Which is Best

So you want to create an identity for your business? Science tells us which type of images work best.

HINT: It’s not the ones most people use.


Let’s talk about how we – how our brains perceive images, words, messages.

And how that affects us when it’s time to set up our marketing, our advertising and our branding.

Neuro-scientists have established pretty conclusively – beyond any doubt – that the human brain / mind / psychology reacts to faces much more positively than to things.

Babies as early as two-weeks old show a marked preferences for faces over things.

Now, before you guys jump in and say, “awww, that’s only true for females rather than males…” No, that’s true for all – both genders – from the beginning.

It is true that males prefer “Things Over People” more than females do.

But across the board, the human brain reacts – even if it’s at a subconscious level – to images of faces much more positively, much more strongly, and much more predictably than the human brain responds to abstract ideas.

So how does that affect us?

I was looking at a potential client today that needs to update their branding. (Now I’m not going to go into what branding is and is not.) Let’s just talk about the kind of thing that they currently have.

Currently, their brand is this very abstract, geometrical, obviously very-high-tech – I don’t know – series of embedded letter “L’s”, it looks like.

Nice colors. I mean, the colors are not terribly interesting. But that’s kinda of tertiary significance.

The primary significant that you want with your imaging is something that is arresting to the eye and utterly unforgettable and completely identifiable and unique.

And they’re nowhere close to that.

Secondarily is what the image actually contains. And tertiary is the colors itself.

These folks have an extremely abstract logo. And what their brand is – is anybody’s guess. So they clearly do need help.

Were I advising them – if they hired me – I was gonna say, “Look, the first thing you’ve gotta do is, you want your image to be something that people instantly relate to. And the human brain instantly relates to faces.”

And in addition to faces – layered on top of the face itself – is a personality.

What we’ve gotta do primarily – number 1 thing – is we’ve got to connect the idea of a personality with a face and character – connect it in the minds of your target audience – with you.

So when they think about YOU – Mr. Company – what they think about is – they think about a person.

And it doesn’t have to be You the CEO or You the Founder, or You even The Spokesperson.

But they’ve got to have an image – a facial image – and a personality that they feel good about, that they can connect with your offering. Whether it’s a service or a product or a company or a club.

People will remember a person with a personality – with a distinctive look and distinctive, relatable personality – long after they’ll remember some sort of abstract image with – you know – well-designed fonts and colors and geometric logo. Those things just don’t have the same kind of cognitive power that faces and personalities have.

When it’s time to create that image for your offering – whether it’s a company, a product a service, whatever it is – rather than going first to the people who design abstract images and they worry about color, think about giving a face and a personality to your offering.

That can be someone who stands for the offering like Colonel Sanders stands for KFC. Like Jack the Clown stands for Jack-in-the-Box restaurants. Like the Geico Gecko stands for Geico Insurance.

But it’s got to be something with a recognizable face. (There’s sound neurological reasons for that.) And a personality that we both relate to and admire.

Remember, if your audience doesn’t feel it, they aren’t gonna love it.

See you tomorrow.