Qualities that all great brands have in common…

First – I think it’s important to say that a great brand – an iconic brand – is one that’s built to last. It’s not a commodity or trendy product that’s hot one day then gone the next. Therefore a great brand must have a strong Purpose based upon a universal human truth that only your brand can satisfy. Simon Sinek calls it “The Why”. It’s the cause or belief that inspires you to do what you do. For example, Apple’s Purpose is to “Disrupt the Status Quo.” Lego’s is “Unleashing Imagination.” For Harley Davidson it’s “Personal Freedom.” And, for Origins – a brand I helped create – it’s “Respect.”

Your Purpose must be supported by an authentic story, strong values and an internal culture that gives your audience – internal and external – a reason to believe in and trust your brand. And these core ideals must be delivered consistently at every touch point and experience. That’s what builds loyalty and longevity.

Steps new entrepreneurs should take to develop their brand persona…

Brands are like people. And when brands take on human characteristics and beliefs we become attached to them and trust them. Like friends. When developing a brand persona, I often think about archetypes. Is your brand a hero? Or an outlaw – the rebel that breaks all the rules? A sage – or a jester who’s fun, irreverent and spontaneous? A ruler – or a magician who makes the impossible suddenly possible? Using archetypes can help to differentiate your brand voice, visual identity and message.

Top tips for choosing a great brand name…

Choosing a name may be the single most important business decision a brand can make. A great name creates awareness; claims mind share and market share. It should be both easy to remember – and hard to forget. That said, there is no one-size-fits-all method of naming. A great brand name is a reflection of the brand’s Purpose, story and values. It can come from a surprising consumer insight, a lightening bolt moment, or as an expression of your archetype.

The biggest challenges that marketers are facing…

It’s easy to fall into the trap of Educated Incapacity – knowing so much about what you already know that you are incapable of seeing things differently. We become so invested in being an expert ready with an instant answer that we stop asking questions. Unfortunately, that often leads us to the most obvious solutions. One of the greatest sources of game-changing innovation is curiosity. Constantly asking “Why” questions, as well as speculative “What if” and “How” questions.

The next big trend in marketing is…

We live in what’s been called a VUCA world (Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity and Ambiguity). And it’s producing a tremendous amount of stress, anxiety and anger across all areas of our society as we try to navigate a world that feels beyond our control because it’s constantly changing. I think empathy – understanding what others are thinking, feeling and experiencing – in other words putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes – is critical. Not just in product development, problem solving and design thinking but as a leadership skill. Using empathy is already transforming consumer relationships and going forward will have a huge impact on how we work, play, learn, socialize, shop and express ourselves.

My creative inspiration comes from…

I’m a bit of a learning junkie. I spend a minimum of two hours a day reading – from books to blogs, trend reports, magazines and newspapers across a wide range of topics. I take classes and attend lots of conferences, summits and roundtables. And I talk and listen to everyone. I ask zillions of questions. And I try to do something that scares me every day. It can be big or small. The point is to get out of your comfort zone.

I organize and keep track of ideas by…

I’m a packrat when it comes to ideas. I collect and save everything – words, articles, quotes I like – and revisit them from time to time. I find that the best ideas never seem out of date and often spark new ideas.

Advice for entrepreneurs that are in a creative rut…

Get out of your category and look at what people in vastly different businesses are doing. It’s the best way to avoid Educated Incapacity.

My favorite advertising campaigns from the past 5 years…

There are many campaigns I like a lot – Under Armor’s  “I will what I want” with Misty Copeland, Nike’s  “Find Your Greatness” and P&G’s “Thank you Mom”.

Top 3 online advertising and branding resources for entrepreneurs…

I love WGSN and PSFK for trends. Fast Company and Wired for insights. And Interbrand and The Harvard Business Review for branding, business and culture.

Advice for entrepreneurs looking for mentors…

I am currently mentoring a number of entrepreneurs and love it. When the relationship clicks it’s a win-win for both parties. I’m constantly learning from my mentees and honing my mentoring skills.

That said, mentoring is super hard. There’s a fine line between being a good advisor and being an a******. And we all cross that line on occasions. A good mentor shouldn’t come with a rulebook – “this is how it’s done.” Or a firm opinion – “if I were you I’d do it this way.” To be a good mentor, you need to put your ego aside and think what’s right for that specific mentee. Each person and situation are so different. A good mentor should be a sounding board, a thoughtful partner, someone who will ask you lots of questions and challenge you to dig a little deeper and flex your critical thinking skills. It may not always seem pleasant in the moment. Sometimes it’s downright painful. But mentoring is not about being a “cheerleader” or ego booster. It’s about helping you get things right.

My advice for entrepreneurs…

Don’t get tactical before you nail down your “Why”. Many projects get derailed because they get stuck in the “pitch phase” – “let me convince you why my idea is great.” Or the entrepreneur is in a hurry to get to the executional phase. Without a strong Purpose and belief system young brands can be at risk in this disruptive world. Spend the time upfront to ask the right questions: Whom are you targeting? Why should they trust you? How are you improving their day, their life? And while it’s important to ask lots of questions, having multiple advisors with multiple opinions can really make your head spin.