Sandja Brgmann Thomas Kolster

Dare to stand out: Develop follow-worthy brands

Purpose, trust, authenticity and vulnerability are all key to developing and maintaining a successful brand. Learn more as Sandja Brügmann and Thomas Kolster walk us through what truly makes great brands great.

In today’s world, passion and purpose-driven brands are changing the dynamic of how consumers can (and want to) interact with companies in both the physical and digital world. Driven by an inside-out, authentic desire to improve and change the world for the better – especially when it comes to business – these types of brands operate in a ‘we’ context and understand that people are drawn to their vision of a better tomorrow. Passionate purpose, trust, authenticity and vulnerability are all key aspects of developing and maintaining this mindset.

What is your business’ purpose?

Regardless of where you are in life, the fact of the matter remains that taking a stand and living out your unique perspective – whether through your behavior, communication, or interactions with others – clearly takes courage. Leaving your comfort zone of a passive, always-agreeable view, and standing up for something you really, truly believe in may make you nervous at first, but it is the best action you will ever take. After all, courage is not the absence of fear, but the forward movement despite it

When you become visible, people can feel, identify with and see you. They’re also able to consciously choose you, and more frightening yet, reject you. This is where our irrational fears come in. As a business leader in this new day-in-age, it is integral to understand the necessary processes that are needed in order to take a stand and be recognized as an influential brand. Create engagement. Build social currency. Let it be known that it’s a given that some people will not connect with your message. Because guess what? This is okay. No brand, no matter how powerful it is, can ever be something that connects and identifies with everyone. So instead, be something that connects with, and utilizes, the core values your brand is built off of – the people who share your unique values.

“People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe.” – Simon Sinek, the popular TED speaker and author of, Start with Why. 

Where to start

All brands (and people) are somewhere on the passion-intellect continuum. It takes finding our most authentic, fitting position – which is a continued growth process – to ensure we behave and communicate in alignment with who we really are, and ultimately, where we desire to be.

The American-headquartered, Tesla, is a great example of this. On a mission to make environmentally, sustainable, personal transportation sexy and cool, they entered the electrical car manufacturing market with a passionate drive and purposeful vision that disrupted the entire industry.  And guess what? It worked.

Whether you are someone who wants to drive a model S or not, it is likely you know of (or have at least heard of) the Tesla brand name.

Infusing emotionality into a rational B2B brand

The Danish conglomerate, Maersk, recently hired a new VP of marketing – Louisa Loran – in order to integrate more emotionality into the Maersk brand. As a rational B2B container shipping business, this decision stands as a good example of how a business can move towards passion and expand its brand’s personality – all with the understanding that strong, successful brands connect with consumers on an emotional level. It also displays why embracing the process of growth and the role that new, conscious leadership can have, especially when working towards an integrated balance of feminine and masculine business skills and behaviors, is important.

Purpose – what?

Not every company is born with a burning purpose, a distinct legacy or a strong, value-led leader as its founder or CEO. You should not despair, however – even if you’re less than comfortable connecting with your softer side, the realms of corporate religion and the “why” behind it all. While your thinking might be more linear, weighed and mathematical, versus being measured in creative outbursts, doodles and emotions, there are still many ways to tap into and take advantage of the right brain, spreadsheet, analytical way of going about things – it exists in all of us!

What you cannot measure, you cannot change

Take a hard look at your business, a look that turns every stone. In 2011, Jochen Zeitz, the CEO of Puma at the time, said: “What you cannot measure, you cannot change.” As he delivered Puma’s yearly financial results, he also stated that Puma did more than €145 million in environmental damage (water use, land use, air pollution, waste and more). It was a bold, but calculated approach, and the beginning of a more environmentally friendly collection: Puma’s InCycle collection. Today Puma is showing the environmental costs in euros on the price tags of their InCycle products, and they have already succeeded in cutting down those costs by almost 30% – an approach that has been widely recognized and envied by many.

Wind Turbine

Right brain thinking

The Danish wind energy company, Vestas, is no doubt passionate about wind; however, it was an analytical and big data approach that led them to their newest innovation. They looked at data surrounding what countries are rich in wind resources, and then overlaid it with data on the countries that are poor in financial resources. With that, Wind For Prosperity was born. In Denmark, when more energy efficient windmills substitute earlier generations, these earlier generation windmills are resold to poor, but wind rich, countries that can now afford them. It’s good business for both parties. Right brain thinking can take your brand to remarkable places and create a strong, validated foundation.

Ready to get naked?

In a transparent market, brands and their emotional war on values are moving to the background, and a market where products and services are increasingly quantified and compared dominates the foreground. Price and quality no longer stand alone. Instead, social, environmental, health and other value-added factors are put into play – from the supermarket shelves to the global stock exchanges. Consumers also know what they are looking for, and through social media, they can quickly voice their concern. American writer Dale Carnegie says it best when he cautions: “When dealing with people, remember you are not dealing with creatures of logic, but creatures of emotion.”

The people’s Twitter tribunal

Finding the balance between logic and emotions can often be very difficult. As a company, you might have the best reasons in the world to do what you’re doing, all of your products might be certified, you may comply with every national law – and yet, it’s still not enough to satisfy the people’s Twitter tribunal. In the UK, a beloved brand like Starbucks felt the heat when it appeared that they had only reported a measly £8.6m taxable profit once in 15 years. Yes, they just did what any other multinational corporation was doing, but the social media blade of the guillotine was raised.

Brands are like babies on steroids screaming for attention

Look at the supermarket shelves today. The choice of different brands is beyond reason (how many types of toothpaste do I actually need?). The result is a market place where every brand screams louder and louder for attention, like a baby on steroids. It’s no wonder that more and more people are turning their back on advertising. As a matter of fact, the majority of people in the world wouldn't care if 73% of brands disappeared tomorrow (Havas Meaningful Brands) – meaning all the noise isn’t accomplishing anything. In order to be a brand that people actually care about, you need to have a message that people want to hear. 


Am I really lovin’ it?

“I’m lovin’ it.” That’s the catchy jingle of one of the world’s most recognized brands, McDonald’s, and yet less people are queuing up these days. It doesn’t seem like unconditional lovin’ anymore. At another fast-food outlet you’re met with a different story, “Food with Integrity.” Chipotle is challenging the highly industrialized food practices traditionally used by fast food chains by offering convenient, healthy food, made with respect for animals, people and the planet. Simply put, they’re walking the talk.

Be a change-maker or prepare your epitaph

It’s a different market place out there, meaning you cannot simply continue with business as usual. In today’s world, it’s not enough to be ridiculous for the sake of getting a couple laughs – you have to do things that earn people’s lovin’. You have to navigate and be comfortable walking on the passion-intellect, walk-the-talk continuum. It’s about taking a fresh look at the world around us and seeing how you and your brand can play your part. There’s no higher accomplishment for brands than to make a real difference in people’s lives. As the great scientist, Albert Einstein, once said, “Logic will get you from A to B. Imagination will take you everywhere.”



Thomas Kolster

Author & International expert in sustainable communication, The Goodvertising Agency

Thomas Kolster is an international expert in sustainable communication. He’s the author of one of the most comprehensive books about the topic: “Goodvertising”. As the Director of the Goodvertising Agency, he’s helping companies understand this new reality. Last year Thomas founded WhereGoodGrows; the world’s first best-practice sharing platform for sustainable initiatives. He’s an experienced keynote speaker featured at events such as SXSW & Sustainable Brands, a columnist for The Guardian and several other publications and a regular judge at international awards. The Huffington Post recently dubbed him “Inspirational Leader.” He’s currently sitting at the board of two non-profit organisations.


Sandja Brügmann

International expert in sustainable communication and conscious leadership, Refresh Agency – Boulder, CO, USA and Copenhagen, Denmark.

Sandja Brügmann is a successful entrepreneur, international speaker and intuitive communications & marketing expert with a passion for Authentic Leadership. Sandja mentors visionary business leaders and entrepreneurs around the world helping people manifest a passion-filled and purpose-based business and life. She has worked with the global business community to create sustainable & social-good change for the past 15 years.


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