Unbranding: 100 Branding Lessons for the Age of Disruption

October 17, 2017


Scott and Alison Stratten keep us focused on the human fundamentals of business, on what really matters, even if how we communicate them may change in the digital era.

We are living in "the age of disruption." It is, in my opinion, a fact celebrated by far too many, and not nearly as revolutionary as many evangelists for it would have us believe, but it doesn't make it any less true. But what does it mean for you and your business? Most likely, not that you need to change everything you're doing, but that you need to master some new skills while remembering not to forget what has always made businesses successful. 

Scott and Alison Stratten keep us focused on the human fundamentals of business, on what really matters, even if how we communicate them may change in the digital era. They help us spot some of the traps that the digital age has inadvertently set, while remaining delightfully and entertainingly unimpressed with wider proclamations about the wonders of disruption changing the world. This echoes the sentiment of their first book, UnMarketing, that "Everything Has Changed and Nothing Is Different." In fact, though the subtitle of their new book, UnBranding, tells us it contains "100 Branding Lessons for the Age of Disruption," they're quick to add in their (Un)Introduction to the book that:


The age of disruption means nothing at all. Good business is still good business. While news of your ethical practices or lack thereof may travel further and faster today, what makes them good has never changed. We’ve always put forward only what we feel is the best version of ourselves; Facebook didn’t invent that. “Disruption” means no more and no less than any other buzzword, and even the newest, flashiest technologies, those that change our lives from morning until night, won’t change why we love the things we do.


In short, the means with which we build our brand may change—or at least multiply—but the ends are the same as they've always been. And that brings us to the timeless lesson of the excerpt below (provided to us by our friends at the Stratten's publisher, Wiley) about…


The Moral of the Brand Story

OVER THE YEARS WE’VE READ hundreds, if not thousands, of brand stories. We do this so you don’t have to, fine reader, because it’s our job and because we absolutely love them. We’re fascinated by what makes businesses thrive, grow, and sometimes self-destruct. From all these stories we’ve distilled the four factors of brand loyalty, factors that ensure you will thrive in the face of disruption and innovation and that, given your focus, will lead to success.

A note on success before we continue. In many of the companies we look at, success has been a victim of innovation as well. As individuals we are faced with countless versions of it, and we need to remember to decide for ourselves how it will be measured and experienced. Financial success to us means having a home we are proud of; having the ability to provide safety, comfort, and opportunities for those we love; and having a little extra on the side to leave in Las Vegas a few times a year. For you, it may mean being able to quit your current job to pursue a dream, attend college, independently feed and clothe your family, or buy the car you’ve always wanted (or buy any car for that matter). Business success for us means maintaining the status quo—a life where we get to do the things we dreamed of doing, where Scott gets to be onstage, and we can have people like you read (and hopefully enjoy) our work. For you, business success may be seeing your product in a store, reaching the Fortune 500, partnering with people you respect, or getting that raise you’ve been hoping for.

As we caution you about chasing the “next big thing” in business and in digital, we also caution about chasing other people’s ideals of success. We’re here to tell you that you don’t need to be working toward someone else’s definition of the next big achievement. It’s okay to answer the question of “what’s next for me?” with “I’m going to keep enjoying what I have now.”

And that ends the self-help section of UnBranding :). Now back to loyalty.

We all want loyal customers and to become a habit in someone’s life—the golden rewards of being the coffee they always drink, the hotel they always stay at, the accountant they’ve worked with for years, the store they always go to, and so on. In loyalty we are impermeable to competition, and our business is chosen without any other choice even standing a chance. So how do we create loyalty in the age of disruption? By focusing on four key factors; comfort, cost, convenience, and convergence.

  1. Comfort. All the successful brands we’ve seen brought their customers from a feeling of need or want into one of comfort. They focused on answering a question for the market, whether it concerned a product or service. Once the need had been met, customers walked away confident that in the future the company would rise to the occasion again; this way trust was born.
  2. Cost. Until an innovation comes about where we don’t exchange currency for goods and services, cost will always be important. This doesn’t mean to create loyalty one should race to the bottom, pricewise; in fact, many of our most habit-forming brands are among the most expensive in their market. Focusing on cost really means focusing on perceived value and giving people what they paid for. Our most successful brands made it their job to ensure that customers felt their money was well spent, to explain why their products are of value, and to keep the price promise.
  3. Convenience. Products and services don’t only cost the customer’s money, they also cost time. This factor relates to all your business processes, from the number of hoops people need to jump through on your shopping cart to how far they need to drive to your store. Everyone is busy, and our successful brands earned loyalty by appreciating and saving customers’ time.
  4. Convergence. Loyal customers feel their ideals line up with the companies they work with. The most successful businesses understand their customers and what they believe in, making their products and services part of the individual’s identity. There isn’t one ideal for everyone, which is why when some people flee from a brand for aligning themselves with something, others flock to it. Our most successful brands have been names people said they were proud to be loyal to.

In the chapters ahead we will look at 100 branding stories in the age of disruption and see how creating loyalty by focusing on comfort, cost, convenience, and convergence has kept them level in the bumpy world of innovation. From established, well-known brands to the corner store, online and off, these businesses all have something we can learn from. From some, we’ll learn what to do—and from others, in true UnMarketing style, we’ll learn what not to do.


Excerpted from Unbranding: 100 Branding Lessons for the Age of Disruption.
Copyright © 2018 by Scott Stratten & Alison Stratten. All Rights Reserved.
Published by John Wiley & Sons, Inc., Hoboken, New Jersey.



Scott and Alison Stratten are cohosts of not only The UnPodcast, but five children, two dogs and two cats. This is their fifth bestselling book together, which represent their thoughts on the changing world of business through their experiences of entrepreneurship, two degrees (Alison), not lasting long as an employee (both) and screaming at audiences around the world (Scott; Alison is more polite). They were put on this earth to remind the world that not all Canadians are passively polite. Businesses like Walmart, 3M, Microsoft, PepsiCo and others have been brave enough to want their advice. They now spend their time keynoting around the world and realize they rank 10th and 11th in order of importance in their home.

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