• 16/06/19 Brands , Culture , People , Strategy

    Who are you?


    “Bugs is who we want to be. Daffy is who we are.” – Chuck Jones


    As a brand or business we are so busy telling people “what” we do, and trying to define our “why”, that we often neglect to first answer the “who?” questionthe crucial first tenet of any relationship.

    If you really want someone to know you, open up and share. Start with: WHO ARE YOU? Where do you come from? What are your beliefs, your values, your purpose? What do you stand for?

    If you do not communicate answers to these questions first, clearly and consistently, your audience will be less likely to engage with you or trust what you do or buy what you sell or believe what you’re pitching. Confirm your “who” with a compelling, authentic story and your “why, what and how?” will simply have more relevance.


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    Who gets it right?

    Patagonia was founded on a clear political strategy and their “who?” has fueled the massive business it has built. Ask anyone at Patagonia what he or she stands for and their confident answer is – “We’re in business to save our home planet.”and they tell us who they are in virtually all of their marketing material.


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    They understand that all life on earth is under threat of extinction and their aim is to use the resources they have—their business, investments, voice and imaginations—to do something about it.

    They clearly live by their stated core values – build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to protect nature and not bound by convention.

    These deep rooted values make Patagonia one of the world’s leading environmentally friendly clothing brands who consistently puts its money where its mouth is. Like in November 2018 when they announced that they will donate $10 million to help combat climate change – it’s how much Patagonia saved in 2017 after Trump’s irresponsible tax cut benefited among others, oil and gas companies.

    I remain inspired by how they are able to blend good business with doing good. Consider the fact that since 2014, Patagonia has seen its revenue and profit quadruple and is today a $1bn company. Proof that profits and ethical business values can go hand in hand.

    Levi Strauss & Co., the 166 year old company that makes the famous Levi’s® 501® Jeans, believes that clothes — and how you make them — can make a difference.


    Levi Strauss & Co.


    When I worked for this iconic company, I often had the privilege of telling people who we were – in meetings, in the press, through our advertising and to friends and family.

    “We are a company with a rich culture committed to a family of iconic brands and we strive to deliver value through values.”

    Like Patagonia, they also work to build sustainability into everything they do. This helps drive their purpose: To deliver profits through principles to make an outsized impact on the world.

    Despite the global challenges facing retailers and many denim brands, the company has flourished over the last few years. Not just with new products, but with a proud and proclaimed emphasis on its heritage, and a focus on putting the brand back at the “center of culture.”

    With almost $6 billion in sales, Levi Strauss & Co. listed in early 2019 and soared in its return as a public company. This iconic apparel maker’s initial public offering, with its shares jumping as much as 36% on the first day of trading, demonstrated that investors are ready to buy into a company that wants to be known for more than just denim.

    Again, proof that who you are matters more than just the product or service you sell.

    So how do you tell people “who you are?” – Start with your home page – Clear the clutter, stop the jargon and ease up on the sales pitch. Use the precious split seconds of eyeball time to engage with a simple, powerful introduction. The interest and engagement will follow.


    WWF South Africa


    A great example of an organization who do this well is WWF, the world’s leading independent conservation organization. They communicate clearly who they are across all their platforms, starting on their homepage.

    Today people demand a much more personal connection to brands: tell, don’t sell. It is also widely accepted that young people expect “meaning” when buying from a brand. The Nielsen research company’s Global Trust in Advertising Survey showed that more than 80% of millennials relate their purchasing and recommendation decisions to a brand’s purpose or reason-to-exist.

    It has become very personal for consumers. Don’t be surprised if before they act or purchase from you, they first ask:

    “Who are you?” 

    “Is your brand/product/business for me?” 

    “Can I relate to you?”


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    So, when you start your next brand or business conversation, start by first answering the most important question: “Who are you?”

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  • The quiet assassins of GREAT
    06/02/17 Culture , Leadership , People # ,

    The quiet assassins of GREAT

    “There is nothing quite so useless, as doing with great efficiency, something that should not be done at all.” – Peter Drucker

    As the pace of doing business continues to speed up, so does the rate at which companies fail. Whilst there are many reasons for the failures, a few inherent killers of company culture prevail to speed up their demise. In fact, we are mostly not even conscious of their eroding impact on our ability to function efficiently.

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  • Climb a mountain
    03/12/16 Entrepreneurship , Leadership

    Climb a mountain

    We reached the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro on 16th October 2003 after ascending the lesser traveled Umbwe route.

    The deeply emotional reward of standing on top of Africa’s highest mountain has lingered for so much longer than the brief few minutes in which we got to celebrate this achievement.

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  • Why brands should care about music.
    10/05/15 Brands , Strategy

    Why brands should care about music.

    We believe that “every brand has a soundtrack.”

    For most people our lifestyles are defined in some way by the music we listen to every day. There is in fact no denying the cultural impact and influence of music and musicians on modern society.

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  • Mind your own business.
    29/03/15 Entrepreneurship , Leadership

    Mind your own business.

    Last year I was one of the keynote speakers at the 2014 Small Business Growth conference held in Cape Town.

    Preparing for the talk, titled “Mind your own Business”, I took inspiration from the title of a book by Jack Welch, former CEO of General Electric: Control your destiny or someone else will.

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