This is how branding icon Marc Gobé kicked off my career

Branding is my passion. Creating a clear value proposition and an irresistible brand story is what drives me, what makes me come to work excited every day.

The meaningfulness of creating distinction and looking for a profound relationship between a brand and an individual struck me in 2000 when I was listening to the late Marc Gobé, a renowned brand strategist and creative director of d/g worldwide.

Marc’s lecture in Helsinki made such an impression on me and my business partner Anna that we immediately decided to fly over to New York to meet up with him again. And Marc didn’t let us down: he generously devoted his time and explained more in detail how meaningful brands leverage human beliefs with powerful emotional associations to express who they are, and how they want to be perceived by others. In order to put some flesh on the bones, Marc took us to experience some of the most exciting and well-branded bar and restaurant scenes of NY.

As Marc’s guiding principles on emotional branding have had a great impact on my work ever since I first met him, I felt they could also add value to your work. So, here we go:

Consumers buy, people live. Marc emphasized the importance of talking to people, not to consumers. He believed that it is crucial to create a partnership approach based on a relationship of mutual respect instead of trying to ”break down the defences of the consumer”. People insight is the key to success.

Products fulfill needs, experiences fulfill desires. Marc explained the importance of sensorial experiences that awake people’s curiosity and sense of adventure. Buying just for need is driven by price and convenience. A strong brand travels beyond pure need. Creating desire is the key to success.

Honesty is expected. Trust is engaging and intimate. It needs to be earned. Marc brought along the example of a “no questions asked” return policy when explaining the importance and power of building trust. This policy gives people the upper hand in their choices. Brands should treat you the way your best friend treats you. Building trust is the key to success.

Quality for the right price is a given today. Preference creates the sale. Marc stated, quite rightly, that quality for the right price gives us a right to play in the markets but they do not generate preference. Preference derives from an emotional connection. Striving for preference is the key to success.

Identity is recognition. Personality is about character and charisma. Marc made a clear distinction between a brand’s identity and a brand’s personality. Brand identity is connected to the visual appearance of the brand – how the brand looks like. Brand personality is about how the brand makes people feel about themselves and about the world around them. Provoking emotions in people is the key to success.

Communication is telling. Dialogue is sharing. Marc talked about two-way communication when the internet was only just about to break through. I had actually just opened my first company website. And still, almost 20 years later, many companies struggle to establish a true dialogue with their customers. This point cannot be over-emphasized. Fostering a rewarding partnership with people is the key to success.

By implementing these commandments of emotional branding, as Marc called his principles, he created breakthrough emotion-driven brand strategies for world-class brands such as Coca-Cola, IBM, Gillette, Victoria’s Secret, Godiva, Versace, Lancôme, Starbucks and Abercombie & Fitch.

I feel that Marc was in the vanguard of strategic branding in the late 1990’s. Actually I would call him the ”Steve Jobs of the branding industry”.

Marc passed away in 2014 but his legacy continues in many people’s work, including mine. “Where does the brand hit the consumer most? Through the head, the heart, or the gut?”, I hear Marc whisper to my ear whenever I am working on a brand strategy for my client.

You can be further inspired by Marc’s ideas by reading his books Praise for emotional branding or Citizen brand. And see Marc speak:



You might also be interested in reading my previous posts:

Warm, competent brands win big. Social psychologists explain why
Why a great brand story is just as important as a great product

More about my thoughts on branding at or on twitter @co_founders.
Happy to co-create and co-operate!

Recent Posts

  1. Event recording: Artful Leaders in Times of Transition (3rd edition, Company Culture)

  2. Event recording: Artful Leaders in Times of Transition (2nd edition, Ecosystem Relations)

  3. Additional Q&A: Artful Leaders in Times of Transition (1st edition, Company Culture)

  4. Event recording: Artful Leaders in Times of Transition (1st edition, Company Culture)

  5. Tech policy will play a role for your business, too

  6. Z-sukupolvi vauhdittamaan bisnestäsi

  7. Art as a Method to Revive Organisational Culture

  8. Brändijohtaja 2.0

  9. Arts and Business – A conversation between Ben Hartley and Alexandra Marila

  10. Taide, humanismi ja pandemia

  11. Sonja Lahtinen at SHIFT Business Webstival 2020

  12. The Impact of Hybrid Work for Organisational Culture

  13. Arts and Business – A conversation between Dr. Thomas Girst and Alexandra Marila

  14. Arts and Business – A conversation between James Hill and Alexandra Marila

  15. Sonja Lahtinen & Gofore

  16. The Rise of the Life-Centric® Approach

  17. Arndt Pechstein

  18. Dr Arndt Pechstein on Hybrid Thinking

  19. Doreen Lilienfeld

  20. Ben Hartley

Get inspired