Episode 69 | Posted on

Branding With Heart and Integrity: Brian Richards

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This Week’s Guest:

Brian Richards, an internationally recognized expert on branding, is based in New Zealand — but his team does work all over the world. Over 20 years ago, he founded New Zealand’s first full-service consultancy specializing in brand strategy and design. Since then, the company has grown to a capable team with dozens of staff.


Brian’s unique methodology has been recognized by universities and marketing circles internationally. In this conversation, he shares it with Marketing Speak listeners as well, offering a high level of insight into what goes into successful, compelling branding.


Find Out More About Brian Here:

Richards Partners
Brian Richards
Brian R. Richards on LinkedIn


In This Episode:


  • [01:41] – What is — and isn’t — branding?
  • [02:47] – Brian offers Red Bull as an example of a company that does branding well, then offers a current case, of resin, as a business-to-business example.
  • [04:14] – Brian moves onto talking about cement, specifically Holcim, and how he found that cement is what dreams are made of, not just a powder.
  • [08:18] – We learn about the process that you need to go through before you start designing a logo or tagline.
  • [10:59] – Brian talks more about how he works with senior management teams on defining the vision, values, and purpose.
  • [12:00] – What makes Brian’s method unique and special?
  • [13:04] – We hear more about the difference between large consulting firms and what Brian does (which involves more intuition and imagination).
  • [14:20] – Brian shares his opinions on customer research and surveys.
  • [15:56] – Is Brian a fan of net promoter scores?
  • [17:58] – Brian talks about the work that came out of Stanford regarding rapid innovation, and explains what he finds interesting about it.
  • [19:09] – New Zealand’s relatively small population has made it energetic and inventive, Brian says.
  • [20:58] – About two-thirds of the work done by Brian’s company is for export clients.
  • [23:42] – Brian walks us through a project to illustrate how his process works.
  • [31:20] – We learn about how important it is to avoid superlatives and words like “leading” or “leader,” and why it’s a benefit to acknowledge the downsides of your brand or product.
  • [32:58] – Stephan talks about an example of brutal honesty in marketing: a girl scout who sent out an email with frank reviews of each kind of cookie.
  • [33:46] – Brian responds to Stephan’s story, pointing out that we’re all humans and like to be treated with respect.
  • [34:35] – We hear Brian’s thoughts on brand anthems.
  • [36:15] – What’s the difference between an archetype, a persona, and an avatar?
  • [38:00] – It’s essential to write brand stories as part of the branding process, Brian says.
  • [39:07] – Where does the brand guidelines or brand standards document or manual fit into this process?
  • [42:00] – Brian talks about what makes a brand infections.
  • [43:36] – Stephan shares a story about Zappos and the type of unsolicited extras that make the brand infectious.
  • [46:18] – Brian and Stephan talk about the definition of a brand.
  • [48:57] – We learn more about Holcim, the cement company Brian had discussed earlier.
  • [52:42] – Brian explains how he created the tension of opposites in the case of Holcim.
  • [53:59] – Does Brian have an example of a case in which he changed the company culture because of his branding exercise?
  • [56:42] – When asked about “sticky content,” Brian talks about Icebreaker Clothing.
  • [59:00] – Brian offers ways to get in touch with him and his company.


Links and Resources:

Richards Partners
Brian Richards
Brian R. Richards on LinkedIn
Red Bull
Girl Scout cookies review
Sally Hogshead episode on Marketing Speak
Icebreaker Clothing
Sticky content
Zappos Story



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