All Posts By

Salim Bueno

Narrow Your Brand Focus

A brand becomes stronger when you narrow the focus.
Al Ries and Laura Ries, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding.

Keeping a brand on course is one of the most critical and difficult challenges executives face. A narrow brand focus will help keep your brand aligned with your core business and in tune with your best customers. Below are four questions that can help your organization stay focused on what is most important for the brand.

Why do we exist?

Beyond making money, it is essential to know what purpose your brand serves. Knowing what problems your brand helps solve for its customers is key to building a strong, profitable brand.

What values and beliefs unify our employees and our customers?

Recruiting a high-performance team is vital to your organization’s ability to deliver on its brand promise. Knowing the core values that resonate deep within your organization and with your Brand Lovers is essential for attracting passionate employees and creating customers who love your brand. The more you understand what your brand stands for, the better you will be at drawing in people who love working for you and enjoy doing business with you.

How do we measure success?

If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there. Having a brand promise of what success looks like allows your organization to remain focus on the big picture.

What is holding us back?

Making progress toward the brand promise of a brand is not easy. It does not come without sacrifice and a lot of hard work. To be successful, you have to let go of the norms and embrace discomfort. The solutions that worked to get the brand where it is today will not ensure success in the future.

Now that you’re in the final stretch of 2018, have you done a thorough, top-to-bottom progress evaluation on your brand? Where are the big misses? What’s behind or underneath the numbers? What needs to be done differently?

Which of these challenges will you take into consideration as you plan for 2019?  Pick one or two to bring to your next executive session.


Break Down Silos and Build Strong Teams

Breaking down silos can spark innovation in unexpected ways.
Gillian Tett, The Silo Effect

You’ve seen it before: team members thinking about themselves more than the team; Every man and woman for themselves; a business composed of silos rather than being a cohesive organization.

Silos create inefficiency, waste time, prevent the business from achieving its vision, and hinder innovation.

So, how can you help create a cohesive team?

Here are three ways to break down silos and rally your team to success.

1. Create a Unified Vision.

Create a vision for your team that ties into the brand’s overall vision. Ask your team members to be involved in this process. Inspire them to take ownership of the business. Don’t make it complicated: create a vision that team members are passionate about and where everyone buys into its success.

An inspiring vision that everyone buys into will transition people from a “me” mentality to an “us” mentality.

2. Motivate and Incentivize.

Successful leaders identify what motivates each of their team members–it will be different for different people. Incentivize accordingly.

Motivation encompasses a wide variety of tactics including shared interests, individual investment in growth, shared voice, and positive words of encouragement. Incentives and praise should be designed to eliminate the “it’s not my job” attitude and encourage input, teamwork, and productivity.

3. Collaborate and Create Using the Six Thinking Hats Method.

The best method we’ve found for facilitating collaboration is Edward de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats. de Bono developed a simple and effective way to facilitate more collaboration and creativity during meetings by utilizing different perspectives.

Each hat represents a different perspective. Each team member wears each hat in turn. For example, “Okay, let’s put on our White Hats. Jim, you’re up first.”

Here’s a brief description of each hat:

White Hat: The neutral White Hat offers objective facts and figures and is used near the beginning of the meeting to establish relevant facts and information about the issue to be discussed.

Red Hat: The emotional and intuitive Red Hat is used to get people’s gut reactions to an idea or when you want the team to express their emotions freely.

Black Hat: The cautious Black Hat is used when you want to get the critical viewpoint of an idea or situation. The “devil’s advocate” hat helps decrease the chances of making a poor decision.

Yellow Hat: The sunny and positive Yellow Hat helps identify the value of ideas and plans. The Yellow Hat helps counterbalance the judgmental thinking of the Black Hat.

Green Hat: The creative Green Hat comes on when you want to generate fresh ideas and new directions. This is a very powerful hat that each player needs to wear.

Blue Hat: The organizing Blue Hat sets objectives, outlines the situation, and defines the problem at the beginning of the meeting and returns at the end to summarize and draw conclusions.

Remember, these six hats represent perspectives, not people or personalities. For this method to be used efficiently, each person in a meeting can and must be able to wear each hat in turn.

Breaking down silos is not an easy task for any organization but avoidance is detrimental.

A unified vision, the right motivation, and collaboration provides team members with a clear purpose and means of accomplishing the ultimate goal. There is nothing more powerful in any organization than having all employees pushing fiercely in the same direction.

Consulting To Discover Ultimate Profitability

Dominant organizations occupy positions of ultimate profitability.  They do this by providing their customers what they want, even before their customers know they want it.  Whenever Apple unveils their latest iGadget, they already have legions of excited customers eager to buy.

How do they do that?  Those points of ultimate profitability are clearly out there. Apple, Harley-Davidson, and Ikea have all found them. They pointed their telescopes into the night sky of customer behavior and discovered their habitable planets, those consumer communities where their brands can live and thrive.

The tools and techniques that connect astronomers and astronauts with the final frontier can be used to connect your organization with tomorrow’s Brand Lovers.

The result? Organizations that use modeling to identify who their most profitable customers are, what they want to buy, and how they want to buy it enjoy increased—even dominant—market share, greater customer loyalty, and enhanced profitability. Knowing which way to point your telescope is the single most critical step in ensuring business success.

What insights will keep your brand relevant in the future?

Official Volkswagen Beetle Cult Brand Profile

VW brand lovers


Certified Cult Brand
We have tracked businesses with unprecedented brand loyalty since 2001. A Certified Cult Brand is a designation we hold for brands that fulfill specific market criteria, including upholding the Seven Rules of Cult Brands.

VW Beetle Quick Stats

Dr. Ferdinand Porsche (1875-1951) was the creator of the bettle

With over 21 million manufactured, the Beetle is the longest-running and most-manufactured automobile of a single design platform anywhere in the world.

Henry Ford considers buying VW, but then declined; 24 years later, Beetle would out-sell Ford Model T.

With its sealed floor pans and body, the Beetle could indeed stay afloat for several minutes, as was advertised in the Sixties.

The VW Beetle Herbie has starred in six movies.

VW Beetle Cult Brand Summary

Today the Beetle is regarded as arguably the best-selling car of all time, but back in 1948 it was unknown in the U.S., and many sales types believed no one would ever buy, partly because of its association with Nazi Germany–being dubbed “the people’s car” by Adolph Hitler–still fresh in the public’s mind.

Despite initial failures at introducing the Beetle into America, Volkswagen remained undeterred. They brought twenty Beetles to the U.S. to a private showing in New York City and then to the First U.S. International Trade Fair in Chicago. It wasn’t an overnight success, but it started to get attention from the press and generated word-of-mouth buzz.

Given the opportunity to actually see and drive a Beetle, a significant chunk of the American public soon found themselves in love with the reliable and affordable little, German car. Virtually everything about the Beetle’s design screamed it was a car like no other: its air-cooled engine was mounted in the back, not the front, like every other domestic gas guzzler of the period, a configuration that made it more adept than any U.S.-made car of the time for safe driving in rain, sleet, and snow; it’s exterior design was unique, with its egg-shaped body standing in sharp contrast to the large and sleek, chrome-covered domestic behemoths of the period. The Beetle’s appearance oozed a curious combination of personality and practicality, which quickly helped build strong affection for it among its owners.

In addition to developing a unique design (the look), Volkswagen focused on developing a unique marketing message (the say and the feel) for the Beetle. In contrast to the advertising of the Detroit automakers of the 1950s and 1960s, which was full of slick copy and boastful claims, Volkswagen’s ads for the Beetle were frank, direct, and honest. Some of the more memorable early print ads included “Think small,” “Some shapes are hard to improve on,” and the cult-branding clincher, “Do you earn too much to afford one?”

The combination of unique design elements and honest advertising became a killer combination. By the early 1960s, the Beetle became a magnet for legions of Americans who saw themselves as being different. As Bug Talesauthor Paul Klebahn summed up: “The Beetle tended to appeal to freethinkers. This was the thinking person’s car. Instead of saying, look how much I paid for my car, it was look how much I didn’t pay!”

When Volkswagen launched the New Beetle in 1998, they made a conscious decision not to show any drivers in its ads. They wanted their funky-shaped and lovable car to be the center of attention, not an actor or actress. “In the New Beetle’s initial advertising, we never included people in the ads because we didn’t want a person to say, ‘Oh, that’s who drives a Beetle,'” explained Steve Keys, Director of Corporate Communications. “We wanted you to be able to say, ‘I can see myself in that car.'”

It was a good move: everyone from teenagers buying their first car to aging baby boomers hoping to recapture their youth purchased the car. Volkswagen benefited from not shrinking its potential audience of buyers: No one had trouble seeing themselves behind the wheel of a New Beetle.

VW Beetle Timeline

Timeline provided by:

1933 – Dr. Ferdinand Porsche (1875-1951) draws first sketches of a simple little car that even the most common of citizens could own and enjoy on the autobahns.

1934 – Adolf Hitler commissions Porsche to develop the KdF-Wagen (“Kraft durch Freude” or “Strength through joy”), forerunner of what we know today as the Beetle.

1936 – At Berlin Auto Show, Hitler announces that Porsche will design “the People’s Car;” Porsche promises Hitler he will produce three prototypes by year’s end.

1937 – First road test on prototypes

1938 – Thirty prototypes (called Series 30) completed

1939 – May 28: Ceremony commemorates laying of cornerstone of VW factory at Wolfsburg (would later become largest auto factory under one roof)

1940 – KdF-Wagen appears at Berlin Auto Show. Germany goes to war.

1942 – German army vehicles Kubelwagens built; German amphibious army vehicles Schwimmwagens built

1944 – Allied bombs destroy more than 2/3 of Wolfsburg factory
1945 – May: World War II ends. British forces take control of Wolfsburg area. Porsche interrogated by Allied Forces for his alleged connections to Nazis. Porsche is cleared, but then imprisoned in France with son Ferry for two years.

1946 – 1,785 cars constructed, mostly by hand; used as army light transport

1947 – Wolfsburg produces 19,000 cars; exported to Holland. Two hand-made convertibles constructed.

1948 – 20,000th Beetle produced. Beetle modified into convertible.Henry Ford considers buying VW, but then declines; 24 years later, Beetle would out-sell Ford Model T.

1949 – January 17: First Beetle bought in USA by Ben Pon. Max Hoffman becomes first importer.

1950 – 100,000th Beetle produced. 1,000 convertibles produced. Porsche celebrates 75th birthday; finally visits Wolfsburg plant; cries when he sees Beetles on Autobahn… his dream becomes reality.

1951 – January 10: Ferdinand Porsche dies.

1952 – First official gathering of Beetle owners. Canada imports its first Beetle.

1955 – April: VW of America formed. 1,000,000th Beetle produced.

1953 – 500,000th Beetle produced. VW plant opens in Sao Paulo, Brasil.

1957 – 2,000,000th Beetle produced

1959 – 3,000,000th Beetle produced

1960 – 4,000,000th Beetle produced

1961 – 5,000,000th Beetle produced

1962 – VW of America headquarters at Englewood Cliffs, NJ, dedicated. 6,000,000th Beetle produced.

1963 – 7,000,000th Beetle produced

1964 – 8,000,000th and 9,000,000th Beetles produced

1965 – 10,000,000th Beetles produced

1966 – 11,000,000th and 12,000,000th Beetles produced

1970 – Last year convertible Beetle in standard format is available (only convertible Beetles in Super Beetle format are available). Super Beetle produced.

1972 – February 12: 15,007,034th Beetle rolls off assembly line,breaks Ford Model T record for total production.

1974 – June: 11,916,519th Beetle produced at Wolfsburg rolls off assembly line, signaling the end of Beetle production at Wolfsburg plant.

1975 – Last year for Super Beetle production

1977 – Last year for standard Beetle in USA; only Super Beetle convertibles remain.

1978 – At Emden VW plant in Germany, last official German-built Beetle rolls off assembly line

1981 – 20,000,000th Beetle produced (in Puebla, Mexico)

1998 – Production model of New Beetle unveiled at Detroit International Auto Show

1999 – New Beetle turbo available to US dealerships

2003 – July 30: Last Beetle (21,529,464th!) rolls off assembly line (in Puebla, Mexico)

2012 – New VW Beetle design is unveiled at the New York Auto Show.

Images of VW Beetle Brand Lovers

Videos Created By VW Beetle Brand Lover

Presentations About VW Beetle As a Brand

Article related to VW Beetle

Buggin’ Out: A collection of VW Owners Gather to Share Their Love

VW Beetle Related Web Sites!/VWbeetles

Facebook VW Beetle Fan Page

Browse Cult Brands

Creating Cults

Cults are all around us. I’m not talking about destructive cults that damage people’s lives. I’m referring to benign, even life-supportive groups that give people more meaning.

Raving-fan groups of Star Trek, Lady Gaga, Jimmy Buffett, Harry Potter, Oprah, American Girl, Jay-Z, Apple, Barbie, and Harley Davidson all qualify as benign cults.

Some people might judge the tens of thousands of people who dress up as Vulcan and Klingons to attend Star Trek conventions, but Paramount Pictures happily supports them and profits from their loyalty.

From a business perspective, the hard truth is that creating cults translates to greater profitability. What brand wouldn’t love to create a cult-like following?

We’ve explored the science behind cult formations for over a decade, unearthing seven core principles that operate behind this unusual level of brand loyalty.

If you’re in the New York City area next Wednesday, April 2nd, Cult Branding originator BJ Bueno will be joining an engaging panel discussion on Creating Cults. The full-day event titled The Big Shopping Shakeup is being hosted at The TimesCenter by The New York Times, McCann Worldgroup, and Momentum.

You can request an invitation here.

Watch BJ Bueno and Bert Jacob’s Keynote at NRF’s Retail’s Big Show 2014



Couldn’t make it to this year’s National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York City? No problem.

The keynote opened with SAP’s SVP of Retail Business Unit Lori Mitchell-Keller’s discussion of the millennials and how the new socially-conscious consumer has been wired since birth and is comfortably connected through social media.

In their keynote address, marketing strategist BJ Bueno explains the vital role core values plays in today’s business. He highlights three humanistic core values that are trending high among successful enterprises like Google, Coca-Cola, and many others: compassion, joy, and optimism.

Life is good CEO Bert Jacobs shares the inspiring story of how his $100 million lifestyle brand came into being and the ten core values that drive their business.

Watch BJ Bueno and Bert Jacob’s keynote address on NRF’s website >>


Recorded at Retail’s BIG Show on January 14, 2014.