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Primal.Live Event - How to Build Emotional Brands


I recently went to the Primal.Live event on November 8th in New York City, which is produced jointly by Patrick Hanlon, CEO of Thinktopia, and Entrepreneur, Joseph Perello. The branding content was largely based on Patrick's ingenious and truthful book “Primal Branding”—a book that I devoured last year. I wanted to share the main takeaways of the event.

Patrick began his presentation by explaining that as human beings we are hardwired to want to belong to a community. So if that is the case, then how do we create belonging to products and services? Primal Branding is based on defining your brand by using the 7 pieces of primal code to connect viscerally with your audience. Namely:

1. Creation story. Where you are from?

2. Creed. What are you about?

3. Icons. How do you identify yourself?

4. Rituals. How do we use you?

5. Lexicon. What are the sacred words used by your community?

6. Non-believers. Who doesn’t believe in you?

7. Leader. Who started your brand and is leading it?

Patrick continued by sharing that we live in the era of WOKE: there is a new perception and awareness in people. Nowadays, we don’t care what brands say about their products, we instead care about what other people are saying about them.

In essence, your customers are doing the marketing for you. We need to move the needle from a “Who cares?” mentally of meaningless to a “I care” meaningful perspective for the people. With social media, our fans can tell and share the brand story…but only if it is meaningful to them.

Brands can become potent belief systems, and belief systems attract communities--hence harnessing a potential fertile ground for impact.

Here are some notable takeaways from the esteemed line up of presenters of the event:

Creating impact = scale + meaning. Even though you could have 10 million followers through paid media, they all might be non-believers (ie, large scale, but no meaning = low impact). And you could have good branding and PR, but don’t have scale (ie, great meaning, but no scale = low impact). So you need both for impact: reach and meaning. – John Bond, Co-Chairman, The Shipyard

It’s all about the customer. Don’t say jargon, anything that people will not understand, or is irrelevant from your customer’s perspective. You need to understand on your customer’s terms. For example, when you say NAFTA in Canada, they think U.S.; when you say NAFTA in the U.S., they think Mexico. – Steve Schmidt, Vice Chairman, Edelman

Power to the creative people. Best practices on YouTube is to give as much creative freedom to creators. So if a brand wants to collaborate with a YouTube influencer, the influencer should come up with the creative and relate it to the brand from their own perspective. This way, the trusted authentic relationship between the influencer and its followers is respected and connection can potentially be made. – Rachel Lightfoot Melby, Global Brand Strategist, Google

Go beyond the product, and focus on the idea. When they first began the Nike Plus App, Nike found that its App users actually didn’t wear Nike shoes. Nike embraced this finding, realizing that the App was not about Nike but about something bigger... running. This was an idea and movement that they can tap into and connect to a greater audience. So the question became “how do we appeal to runners?" rather than "how can we make users buy more Nike running shoes?” – Pat Stern, Founder/CEO, Props

Lessons of Beats by Dre. There is tremendous emphasis on their customer base and building strong relationships with them. Authenticity is a central theme by making sure that the brand is the same everywhere (ie, consistency, consistency, consistency). Also, to be relevant in today’s culture, you have to ask yourself “what does it mean to be part of humanity today?” Finally, traction and success are primarily measured by brand engagement and not product sales and ROI. – Kevin Collins, General Manager, MKTG Chicago

Primal.Live is a much needed event in the sea of confusing jargon and digital marketing tactical conferences that we see today. It’s important to start right, right from the start…that is, with a true and resonant brand. Here is a short video that expands further on the 7 pieces of primal code. Enjoy!