Hugh McLeod's simple branding exercise.

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Via B.L. Ochman's Whats Next blog, here is Hugh McLeod's branding manifesto exercise for Stormhoek wines. I know some of you may still think that Mission Statements are the shiz, but... you know... wake up. Not to downplay the simplicity of a single-verse affirmation of your brand (a short and succinct mantra beats out a mission statement any day), but what Hugh has done with Stormhoek is tell the story of the brand and its reason for being: Who are we? What do we believe in? How are we different? How are we changing things? Why should we change things? Where is our place in the world?

What I like most about Hugh's exercise is that the result is simple, clear, engaging, and most of all, it doesn't start with "We shall strive to provide our customers with the highest possible level of customer service in the industry while maximizing shareholder profits and positioning ourselves for rapid growth in blablablablabla...*

This isn't the sort of thing that's likely to show up in an ad or on a bottle, but it doesn't hurt to have it show up in one way or another on a website, blog, brochure... or just on the wall by your desk if you work at Stormhoek. Here it is:

1. We're a small South African vineyard. We make the best South African wine for the money, end of story.

2. We believe in punching above our weight. In this regard, we've been pretty fortunate. We're known for trying out relatively "out there" marketing ideas. We do that for a reason. When you are a small company in a relatively isolated part of the word, thousands of miles away from your main customer base, you frankly have no other choice.

3. We believe that even a small company like ours can change the world, even in a small way. Why shouldn't a small wine company in South Africa see large international companies like Google and Microsoft as their competition? Why should the battle only be confined to other small South African vineyards? It makes no sense.

4. "It's not what you do, it's the way that you do it." There's more to life than wine. Sure, we love wine, we love making it, but it's a big world out there. We try to make allies not just with other wine geeks, but with other interesting people trying to do amazing things. This is why we're so drawn to the internet. That's where passionate people invariably head for.

5. On one level, we take ourselves very seriously. On another level, we try to keep a sense of humor about it all. We try to "keep it real", which is another way of saying, we try to keep it interesting, as much for ourselves as anyone else.

6. We believe the wine business can use a good kick in the pants. We certainly try to do our part. Burying oneself in the usual blanket of wine clich├ęs to us is not a viable marketing strategy. With hundreds of thousands of vineyards out there, and only so many distribution channels available, you face two stark choices: Either rise above the clutter, or face a lifetime of misery and woe.

7. We live in extremely interesting times. The internet has changed everything. Our story is proof of that. Get with the program or reconcile yourself to entrepreneurial oblivion.

8. It's just wine, People. Sure, we make excellent product. But let's not get too carried away. At the end of the day, even the best Bordeaux is just fermented grape juice. What's more interesting to us is the conversations people have over a bottle of wine. There's a human element to all this we find utterly mysterious and fascinating.

9. You only live once, and not for very long. Try to make a difference while you're here. It isn't just about the money, and it sure as heck isn't about making "a good product at a good price". It's about doing something that matters. It's about doing something that resonates with both yourself and the people you care about.

10. We humans are incredible beings. Doing something that continually reminds us of this simple, basic truth is where the real fun is.
You can easily see how something like this could be beneficial to your company when it comes to understanding where it stands in the marketplace, how to explain it to people without boring them to death or overpromising on what you have to offer. And it helps you define what your company actually stands for - aside from profits and sales and the maximization of shareholder whatever. The details of your business' financial goals are inconsequential. Burger King makes great burgers. Yves St. Laurent designs the classiest fashion. Specialized makes the best bicycles. Apple makes the coolest mp3 players, computers and smart phones. Stormhoek makes" the best South African wines for the money, end of story." What's your company about?

It's a great exercise. Try it.

* Spied on my flight to Philadelphia last week. This mission statement was part of a 76-page powerpoint presentation from Dilbert hell that the suit in the aisle ahead of me worked and reworked incessantly the entire time we were in the air. Scary.

And yeah, I'm nosy. Sue me.

Have a great Thursday everyone. :)

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