Unlocking Brand Ideals to Grow


There is nothing like some summer holidays to catch on reading the books one has accumulated. Grow, by Jim Stengel, is one such book. It is a book based on 10 years of research into more than 50,000 companies to identify the things that the fastest growing companies have in common. Stengel found the common denominator to the 50 brands that rose to the top was great clarity around their respective brand ideals.

I am not particularly concerned with how rigorous or not Stengel’s research was, or the fact that I found some of the content of his book a little ho hum, but I did like his interpretation that the ideals that drive these brands could be grouped into one of just five fields of what he calls “fundamental human values” that improve people’s lives by:

Eliciting Joy: Activating experiences of happiness, wonder and limitless possibility.
Enabling Connection: Enhancing the ability to connect with one another and the world in meaningful ways.
Inspiring Exploration: Helping people explore new horizons and new experiences.
Evoking Pride: Giving people increased confidence, strength, security and vitality.
Impacting Society: Facilitating people’s desire to live, work, and play in more effective, efficient, harmonious and sustainable ways.

What I find appealing about the five fields above is that they provide a very useful framework for steering internal conversations about the aspirations of brands. They provide a fixed point for exploring the extent to which a brand wishes to position its offering around one or more of the dimensions framed by each of these themes.

However, it is important to recognise that the five themes are not necessarily exhaustive and by no means mutually exclusive. For example one would expect to evoke a sense of pride if a brand is able to deliver on ‘inspiring exploration’ in a meaningful manner.

Finally, what I like about Stengel’s approach is his focus on the concept of brand ideals, as it has the potential to reflect a more noble aspiration for a brand.

What are some other books that have made you rethink your view of or approach to branding?

Peter Singline
Brand Scientist


  1. Wow, I cannot shake the ho hum comment from my mind. Having read the book: I totally, totally disagree. I have read countless academic texts and third party case studies on all things brand, I found Jim’s first hand experience and approach totally refreshing and critically relevant to my own and my clients work. This is a guy who had the courage and vision to implement a very risky and counter intuitive strategy (to the corporate world) to the front line, make it work , research it across multiple benchmarks and then document it to provide enlightenment and an an evidence base for his approach.

    Strange how you orientated to the codification of the “fundamental human values”. For me this is helpful, but very much secondary to the power of the brand ideal as a game changing approach, the cultural challenges involved and the invaluable insights that Jim gives.

    I realise that you are writing a positive review of Grow, but ho hum. Really?


  2. Peter Singline

    David, pleased you liked the book and the concept of brand ideals. I too think the fundamental construct of the book provides a refreshing framework in which to explore the aspirations of a brand. In fact I think the ‘ideals’ concept of a brand will increasingly provide a means of differentiating brands and truly offer something positive to the world.
    Your comment on codification is probably a reflection of the fact that I am attracted to content I can employ directly in the many different ways we may choose to explore the possibilities of what a brand could choose to stand for. And as I said in the review the five fields provide great topics for exploration.

    In terms of the ho hum comment, it was simply how i felt at times when reading the book. Nothing more, nothing less. But there was no ho hum feeling about your comments as they have provided additional stimulation to reflect what Grow as a book has to offer.


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