Branding bridges the gap between the left and right brain.
The Marty Neumeier Level C Masterclass

This week has been pure indulgence for my mind. Between running a business, raising children, being a friend, wife, aunty, sister and daughter, I’m guilty of neglecting the nourishment I need - often sacrificing self development for live client projects or non-educational commitments. Not this week. No. This week I met one of my heroes and the man that first introduced me to the idea that design and business didn’t belong in different meeting rooms - they belonged together in the boardroom.

Marty Neumeier is an American author and speaker whose expertise has led to him writing best selling books on the topics of brand, design, innovation and creativity. He is one of the undisputed legends of twentieth century design, his books and educational programs have paved the way for a new generation of design thinkers; people like me who have a propensity for both and left and right brain thinking. Marty has worked with infamous brand leaders like Steve Jobs, and iconic brands like Apple, IBM, Adobe and Google.

This week Marty Neumeier, Andy Starr and 25 senior design professionals from diverse backgrounds came together for what was a thought provoking and creatively intense week as part of the first of 5 Level C Brand Certifications in Australia.

Here are the top 3 reaffirming messages I took out of this Masterclass.

1. A brand is driven by emotion

A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organisation. A brand’s resonance is driven by feelings because the people buying or engaging with it are humans - emotional and intuitive beings.

A brand is NOT:

  • a logo or tagline
  • a visual design system
  • a product
  • a functional list of attributes
  • a promise or list
  • an authored message by the brand owner (what THEY say it is)

2. Enduring brands have charisma

We explored the 5 disciplines of brand building that contribute to a brand having charisma (differentiation, collaboration, innovation, validation and cultivation). What struck me about this was how easy it sounds in principle but how seldom brands are able to achieve it. When I think about brands with charisma I think about Virgin, Budweiser, Warby Parker, Arnott’s, Brewdog, Apple, Cadbury, Thinx - a mix of old and new brands from different categories who share a defining attribute driven by design. Charisma is the collective outcome of strategic and creative people working together for the common good. Charismatic brands command a higher price premium.

3. Branding belongs in the boardroom.

Marty referenced a past client of his who held the position of Chief Brand Officer with Intel. Now retired, Susan Rockrise (the name says it all) held this position for 11 years and was the driving force behind Intel’s success as a defining charismatic brand with its distinctive sonic brand attribute the “Intel Inside Bong”. This was a mic drop moment for me, a career fantasy beyond agency life where one could influence a business’s profitability and endurance through design-led thinking. A collaboration between all other business units working together in equal measure and importance – a sign of things to come no doubt.

To quote Marty, “A master is a practitioner at the highest level of art and action. Someone who believes the impossible is nothing. Lives by logic and makes by magic. Goes beyond the bare minimum and the predictably generic. Sees the beauty where others can’t. Defies the status quo when others won’t. Can smell the bullshit and seize the opportunity.” This is exactly the attitude that attracted me to his first book and the reason that 15 years later, I dedicated a week of my time to learning, collaborating and reigniting my inspiration for business change.

Thank you Marty for your generosity and humility as one of the original and best creative provocateurs!

Written by Amber Bonney
Certified Brand Specialist
Founder & Head of Strategy @ The Edison Agency