How to Make Yourself Stand Out with a Compelling Origin Story

How to Make Yourself Stand Out with a Compelling Origin Story

“I need your expertise. I’m building my personal brand and need better positioning on social media. Can you help?”

Matthew is the front man for a rock band, Vinyl Station, but 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.

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.

How To Turn Enemies into Free Advertising

How To Turn Enemies into Free Advertising

Make Enemies and Get Free Advertising.

Question: What is the most valuable asset any brand can possess? If you answered, “loyal enemies,” you go to the head of the class. 

And if you didn’t know that enemies are your most valuable asset… Well…

Look what enemies did for Donald Trump. The mainstream media gave him $2.6 billion dollars worth of free publicity when he ran for president. He was able to get free advertising from the people who hated him the most. (Source: The Street and the New York Times.)

How did that happen?

How To Win Enemies and Influence Friends

If Trump didn’t upset so many of the “right” people with his words, then they wouldn’t have been so eager to discredit him. They thought they were working to discredit them. But he just used them to get free advertising.

Like some weird outer-space creature from a bad Star Trek episode – he seemed to feed on their hatred and grow stronger with every attack. And – even more fascinating – they continue doing it even now.

The media almost uniformly hate the man. Yet they can’t stop themselves from talking about him. It isn’t very rational on their part to keep giving him so much free publicity. Why won’t they just stop?

As you’ve learned if you’ve been one of my readers or customers for any time at all, human beings are not rational.

Donald Trump inflames their hatred with his outlandish pronouncements. The reason they can’t stop talking about The Donald is precisely because they hate him so much.

It’s almost as if he does it on purpose…

Keep Your Friends Close And Your Enemies Pissed Off

We’re taught from an early age to play nice, turn the other cheek, don’t make waves. So you’re surprised – maybe even a little offended – when someone turns on you. We’re taught not to make enemies if we can help it.

Well, as nice as that sounds, it’s lousy advice. At least for business.

If you want your business to boom, you need to cultivate the anger and hatred of your enemies. The more public their hatred, the better it is for you. And if you don’t have any enemies, then you clearly aren’t doing the right thing. (How else do you expect to get free advertising?)

Loyal enemies are worth a hundred passionless customers. They’re worth ten loyal customers, for that matter. Why? Because loyal enemies care enough to hate you. Their passion compels them to speak out against you. And when they speak out against you, that’s when the magic happens.

When your enemies speak out against you, that’s when the magic happens.

The intensity of their hatred provokes your fans. Your average customers will get irritated with the enemy. They will feel compelled to defend you to their friends. And your truly loyal customers will charge to your defense like St. George rescuing the damsel from the dragon.

Your fans will take up your cause and try to shout down the haters. It’s… human nature.

You’ll reap the benefits. People are talking about you. Haters are talking about you. Fans are talking about you. Interest in you is building. At that point, all you gotta do is keep delivering a decent product or service at a fair price. Oh, and one other thing: keep inflaming the haters.

The Donald’s Been Doing It Forever

Donald Trump used this technique to great effect long before he ever thought about running for president. For example, in 1986, his company won a contract from the city of New York to repair and refurbish the Wollman Skating Rink. He used these same tactics to win the contract and garner tons of free publicity as well. (Source: Forbes online.) (Oh, and he completed the contract 30% early and 25% under budget.) He didn’t shame people. He just shamed the system that allowed all previous rebuilding projects to be massive failures. And then – once the project was done – he credited his success to good management. He didn’t publicly shame anyone, (other than Mayor Ed Koch.) Still, he intentionally inflamed the passions of both supporters and detractors. Free publicity combined with a quality product is an unbeatable combination. No wonder he was able to get free advertising. With skills like that, it’s easy to understand how he was able to make a ton of money. He wasn’t paying for advertising. He let the people who hated him do the  advertising for him.

The Care and Feeding of Enemies 101

So is there a “Best Practices” method for creating the right kind of enemies? Absolutely. There is a right way and a wrong way to go about making and provoking enemies. This is where business diverges a little from politics. In politics, you can successfully create haters by attacking people as well as ideas. In business, don’t attack people. Only attack ideas, systems, programs and products. Never attack people. And the attack starts with your manifesto. (You’ve got a manifesto, don’t you?) What exactly is a manifesto? According to Wikipedia:

“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 passionless, soulless corporate Vision Statement. This is a line in the sand. 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 must be hot-blooded, full of fire and fury. You don’t have time to lay out a reasonable argument. You’re in hurry to change the world, and you won’t be bothered with insignificant details. That’s why 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 window of the status quo. It is intended to explode, burn and leave a mark. It is not intended to be subtle, 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 clarion 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 enemies. Make sure you publicize all the nasty things people say about you. Send an email to your fans saying “look what they said about me,” and then copy and paste their insults. That will galvanize your supporters to ride to your defense. Remember to thank them – publicly and humbly – for their support. And then get ready for the  onslaught of business. It will come as surely as day follows night.
The “Jack-in-the-Box Experiment” Shows Why Your Business Needs a Personality

The “Jack-in-the-Box Experiment” Shows Why Your Business Needs a Personality

If you own your own business, what does it cost you NOT to be the face of the business? In this video, we look at how one big company screwed themselves out of market share by removing the personality from their business.


If you own your own business, what does it cost you NOT to be the face of the business?

Consider the company Jack in the Box. Back in the early 80s, the company decided that they needed an image makeover. They were losing market share to McDonalds, Burger King and Wendy’s. So they decided as part of the corporate makeover that a new logo would help.

Their old logo featured the clown head we know today as Jack. Back then, Jack didn’t have a personality; he just had a face. The company didn’t just replace Jack. They assassinated him in a series of pretty famous commercials. They literally blew him away. It didn’t help though. In fact, it hurt. Jack in the Box continued to lose market share to the other burger slingers over the next decade.

Then in the mid-90s, the company changed direction again. They brought the clown back. They gave him a voice and a personality as well. Almost overnight, the company became synonymous with the personality. And the rest is history.

Today, Jack in the Box is an undisputed leader in the space. And it all goes back to their decision to give the company itself a face and a personality embodied in the person of Jack the clown.

Talk to you next time.




 The company didn’t just replace Jack.

They assassinated him…

They literally blew him away.

It didn’t help though.

Over-Simplify: A Branding Strategy for Savvy Marketers

Over-Simplify: A Branding Strategy for Savvy Marketers

Strategic over-simplification is a way to differentiate your brand identity and communicate your personality to your target audience. When you are building a brand, it lets you define your own business as well as your competitors’ according to your own rules. It’s one of the most compelling branding tactics available to the savvy marketer.

A good place to start learning about the awesome power of oversimplification is Roger Dooley’s interview with Andy Cunningham. (Dooley is the brains behind the brilliant website Neuro Science Marketing. I’m a huge admirer of his work.)

Cunningham made her bones as part of Regis McKenna’s marketing agency. They were the team behind Apple’s famous “1984” commercial. That’s the ad that introduced the Macintosh to the world. And it’s probably the most famous commercial in TV history.

Cunningham’s new book is called “Get to Aha!” Her book was the excuse for this interview. Really though, listening to these two brilliant people discuss influence and persuasion is a reward in itself. And they offer unique insights into the power of strategic over-simplification.

If You Can’t Find an Enemy, Make One

One of the most compelling corporate branding campaigns in history was Apple’s I’m a PC / I’m a Mac campaign. Here’s how Roger described it:

“(Steve Jobs) created a social identity for Mac owners, and employed an “us and them” strategy in a lot of his marketing. The Mac person was young, cool, creative, and the people who used competing technology were, at best, boring and nerdy, and at worst, mindless lemmings walking off a cliff. That theme continued with the “I’m a Mac” campaign that was really a brilliant campaign too. …that tribal grouping caused people to make Mac part of their personal identity, and they became really quite religious in their defense of the brand.”

As Cunningham notes during the interview, Steve Jobs did not set out to make the Mac “the computer for the rest of us.” His original intent was that Mac become the business machine of choice. However, when the creatives of the world glommed onto the Mac, the smart folks at Apple, (or maybe Andy), realized they had stumbled into something extraordinary: the power of enemies.

To their credit, the Apple marketing team seized on that Us vs. Them mentality. They cranked it up to 11 and propelled the Apple brand into the stratosphere.

black spy vs white spyWas that Us vs. Them dichotomy strictly accurate?

Of course not. But strict accuracy holds no appeal to the monkey brain. Strict accuracy requires concentration, focus, analysis and – most of all – hard work.

Those things the monkey brain avoids. Those things require energy.

Plausible-sounding over-simplifications are better perceived.  And offer the benefit of being fast, consistent and “accurate enough.”

You can use the same strategies to boost your online identity and reputation in your target market.


You gotta make some enemies. (Or at least invent some.)

Draw your “line in the sand.” Declare that anyone who isn’t with you is against you. Identify your “enemy” and then conduct a single-minded and unrelenting attack.

(As a rule, you should target a thought leader you consider a competitor. Does this take big brass cajones to succeed? Of course it does!)

This is the tactic Saul Alinsky advocated in Rules for Radicals. And – as the last 50 years of American political history has shown us – it works.

Plausible-sounding over-simplifications are better perceived.  And offer the benefit of being fast, consistent and “accurate enough.

Black & White Choices: The Evolutionary Advantage

The human brain is a pattern-recognition machine. Any simple black/white dichotomy is a pattern. It’s the kind of pattern our brains are very good at recognizing.

Human brains prefer simple choices. This bias gives us an evolutionary advantage: it allows for lightning-fast decision making.

black & white chess pieces

Is that new person a friend or an enemy? Is that a poisonous snake in the path, or just a crooked stick?

The speed of such decisions often meant the difference between survival or death. Those who made fast decisions tended to be the ones who survived. Those who stopped to think carefully?

Well, they’re not around to tell us what happened.

This simple black/white pattern-recognition heuristic allowed our ancestors to survive. Speedy decisions were better than accurate decisions when survival was on the line. So our brains evolved to make quick decisions rather than accurate decisions..

And that’s why the Us vs. Them approach works. It might be inaccurate,but it’s fast and simple.

When you clearly identify an “enemy” for your customer, you appeal to your customer’s biological biases.

PRO TIP: When you identify a human tendency that has its roots in thousands of generations of evolution, it’s better not to fight it.

Apple saved its customers the effort of thinking by creating an over-simplification that worked: Us vs Them..

That’s why the market responded so positively to Apple’s oversimplified 1984 ad, the lemmings over a cliff ad and the I’m a Mac / I’m a PC ads.

Apple gave us over-simplified black-and-white choices that appealed to our built-in pattern recognition biases. They made us feel safe. They made us feel like buying a Mac was the “right” choice.

At its root, buying a Mac was the choice for survival vs extinction.

Powerful stuff.


When you identify “the enemy” for them, you save your customer effort and energy. (That’s good.)

If you do your job right and do it well, then your customer will accept your definitions for “friend” and “enemy” without being conscious of having done so.

They will almost automatically put themselves either “with you” or “against you.”

The one thing they won’t do is remain neutral.

And that’s kinda the whole point of designing a brand and defining the essence of your brand image, isn’t it?


How to Get More Sales From Existing Customers

If you’ve ever wondered how to get more sales from existing clients, maybe ask yourself this question: What is my most valuable asset? Noah Fleming wrote an article titled “Don’t Tell Me Your People Are Your Most Valuable Asset.” He’s one of very few people who is laser-focused on the issue of customer loyalty. And he asks a terrific question:
What’s the most valuable asset you have in this business right now? I don’t mean this in a hippy dippy way, but as an actual, concrete question.
What would be your answer? Do your actions match your words? Fleming follows up with an observation:
…we often spend more time nurturing, training and developing the talent than cultivating the customers that make having people possible.

The Common (and Wrong) Answer

Almost anywhere you go in the modern world, HR directors mouth the same tired platitude: “our people are our most valuable asset.” Fleming calls B.S. on this. And I agree. I see a huge disconnect between words and actions. When I talk to business owners about the importance of loyal customers, they always agree with me. Yes, of course it’s more profitable to keep existing customers than to find new ones. But when push comes to shove – in business after business – actions and words don’t line up. They design sophisticated marketing plans to find new customers. And yet they have no coherent plan for how to keep them once they find them. Does that make sense to you? It doesn’t make sense to me, and it doesn’t make sense to Noah Fleming. Let’s think a moment: Why do we spend money on marketing?
  1. To find people who want what we sell
  2. To persuade those people that we can be trusted
  3. To sell something to those people
So, in light of that list, listen to Fleming again:
With very few exceptions, there is no asset more valuable than your customer list, and specifically their purchase history & contact info.
That bears repeating: there is no asset more valuable than your customer list. Why? Because these are people we have already found. These are people who already trust us. These are people who have already bought from us.. In other words, existing customers don’t need your marketing dollars. They need your loyalty dollars.

Are You the Exception?

Now, maybe this doesn’t apply to you. Maybe you’re the only game in town. Maybe you have an ad budget that would make Proctor & Gamble salivate. Maybe you dominate your market. If so, I’m sorry I wasted your time. But if you’re none of those, then let me ask another question: How much do you spend on customer loyalty? A recent Bain & Co study found that a mere 5% increase in customer retention can nearly double profits. That should be sufficient motivation to invest in customer loyalty. Noah Fleming one last time:
“…you can’t afford to ignore your list. Ever. It’s the most valuable thing you’ve got.”
So how do you get more sales from existing customers? Make ’em more loyal. One way to boost loyalty is to give them a persona to love.