All Posts By

Aaron Shields

Brand DNA: Understanding Customer Motivation

Understanding the needs you fulfill best is important so that your messaging and strategy emphasizes what motivates your customers to do business with you.

Our approach to understanding customers is founded on what we call the Brand DNA. Brand DNA is the root of developing all long-term strategies and short-term tactics. The Brand DNA consists of three interlocking parts:

  1. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
  2. Jungian Archetypes
  3. The Cultural Story
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How To Stay Motivated By Your Company’s Vision


When you visualize daily, you align your thoughts and feelings with your vision. This makes it easier to maintain the motivation you need to continue taking the necessary actions.Hal Elrod, The Miracle Morning

Developing a vision creates energy and momentum in a company.

But, that energy usually fades over time. The pressure of the now takes over. The vision becomes something that will happen in the distant future.

The vision loses the power it was designed to have: create a passion to motivate you through anything in service of the better future you want.

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Are Your Core Values Really Core Values?

When you create a list of core values, you have to create a list of the values as they are, not as you want them to be.

Perhaps the most popular corporate exercise of the last decade is creating a set of core values, those beliefs that form the foundation of the organization.

Unless this is done by the founder early on in the organization’s life— when the organization is close to a blank slate—chances are the list created by executives aren’t really core values.

These lists usually end up being the way the executives think they want people to behave and not the values that are actually guiding day-to-day behavior.

At their heart, true core values are the beliefs that guide behaviors. The values become internalized to the point of habit. They guide the way people naturally react to situations.

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From Purpose to Brand

A company’s purpose flows expressly from its heritage and leads directly to its values. —James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine  III

A company’s purpose flows expressly from its heritage and leads directly to its values.James H. Gilmore and B. Joseph Pine III, Authenticity

A brand is a living entity with three elements: vision, culture, and customer. Leadership creates a vision that inspires employees whose behaviors—through direct interaction and marketing— translate your brand to your customers. These elements influence each other and collectively create a perception of the company. That perception is the brand.

Underlying all three of these elements is your purpose: what your brand stands for beyond profits. A purpose is why you exist.

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Advertising Isn’t Just For Customers

People must be motivated by a deeper Cause....I believe that people don’t come to work to earn money for themselves and the company. They come to work because the product does something worthwhile, and this is what gets people inspired. —Bill George

People must be motivated by a deeper Cause….I believe that people don’t come to work to earn money for themselves and the company. They come to work because the product does something worthwhile, and this is what gets people inspired.Bill George1

With increasing competitive pressures from existing businesses and industry disruptors, corporations have turned to place greater emphasis on satisfying their employees to maintain or gain a competitive edge.

This has resulted in everything from Google-esque compensation packages to creating—or more often attempting to create—cultures and business practices based around unique core values, all in an effort to engage and retain employees with more than a paycheck.

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How Short-Term Wins Can Lead To Long-Term Failures

short term wins don’t necessarily translate into long-term company health.—

Can the sum of a row of many victories over many years be defeat?General Löwenhielm in Gabriel Axel’s Babette’s Feast

New customers! More revenue! Huge ROI!

Immediate, positive results are attractive and addictive. It’s easy to understand why: People get praise from their bosses. The current market rewards quarterly capitalism with most investments currently being held somewhere between four and eight months—a big change from the average holding of over eight years during the 1960s.1 And, many people’s jobs depend on these immediate results.

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Pivot With Purpose

Purpose carries you unwavering and committed through not only the high points but also the difficult times.
Business purpose helps you get through difficult times.

These reflections have dispelled the agitation with which I began my letter, and I feel my heart glow with an enthusiasm which elevates me to heaven; for nothing contributes so much to tranquilize the mind as a steady purpose,—a point on which the soul may fix its intellectual eye.Robert Walton in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

Talk of pivoting is popular. But, most companies don’t have a place to pivot from.1

When a company only chases profits or market share, they only have the whims of the market to anchor their business. And, when those whims change, their anchors get dislodged and they have to scramble for a new spot to give them stability.

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Why Do You Choose To Lead?

What we have always done works, to some degree. But, what we have always done is not the best we are capable of being.

It is important that we know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from, then you don’t know where you are, and if you don’t know where you are, then your don’t know where you’re going. And if you don’t know where you’re going, you’re probably going wrong.Terry Pratchett1

As humans, we have the tendency to do what we have always done. What we have always done works, to some degree. But, what we have always done is not the best we are capable of being.

Over time, we develop ways of behaving and reacting. These ways are habitual because they served us at some point, in some situation. And, they are often unconscious: it’s just the way we do things. Yet, often these types of behaviors are not suited for the situations we employ them in. 

We get caught up in the constant struggle to keep doing, instead of engaging in the practice of consistently becoming better. 

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Adaptive Moves: Small Changes, Big Results

Make a decision based on your understanding of yourself, your organization, the stakeholders, and the situation. Evaluate the effects of your actions and any new information. Repeat.

Last week, we wrote an in-depth guide to leading during a crisis—how they affect an organization and strategies to get through them. The advice also applies to any business situation involving a major change as, at their core, that’s what crises are: situations of significant change.

One of the keys to navigating a crisis—or a big change—is what organizational psychologist Edgar Schein calls adaptive moves. In Schein’s words:

By calling them “adaptive,” I am emphasizing that they are not solutions to “the problem” but actions intended to improve the situation and elicit more diagnostic data for the planning of the next move. By calling them “moves,” I am again emphasizing that they are small efforts to improve the situation, not grand plans or huge intervention.1

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5 Strategies for Leading During a Crisis (or any change)

The first responsibility of a leader is to define reality. The last is to say thank you. In between the two, the leader must become a servant and a debtor. That sums up the progress of an artful leader. —Max De Pree

Circumstance does not make the man; it reveals him to himself.James Lane Allen1

We can’t tell you how you should react or how your company should behave during a crisis. Every company is different and so is every leader. What’s right for one isn’t right for another.

There’s no one “correct” response

Despite there being no universal way to lead during a crisis, there are strategies you can employ that will allow you to adapt and ignite your leadership style to effectively navigate crises and other situations that involve change.

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