Will Burns



does your brand speak to you?


I believe all marketing activity (if not all company behavior) begins with a powerful, single-minded, truthful brand idea. For years, I've been writing on Forbes.com that the only way to get away from "random acts of marketing" is to have a well articulated brand idea.

To the point the brand “speaks” to you, tells you what it wants to do and becomes the boss. Like novelist whose characters are so well developed, the characters tell the author what they want to do. Armed with a well articulated brand idea a company can behave in truly "integrated" and inspired ways, attract more customers and grow its business.

And it doesn't just inspire the advertising, though that's an important part. A great brand idea inspires who the company hires, what charities it supports, what products it decides to make (and, as important, products it doesn't decide to make), how the company services customers, everything.

Further, and perhaps most importantly, a brand idea inspires everyone at the company behind it. For any employee, the question is no longer "What would I do?" it's "What would the brand do?" You could say employees channel the brand with every decision they make.

So if your brand isn’t speaking to you, you may want to read on.


A simple three-step process that helps a company see itself in different lights, ignites healthy discussions, helps navigate internal politics and ultimately leads to a brand idea. Your budget will determine the depth of these three steps:

Click image to read my original Forbes post on this topic.

Click image to read my original Forbes post on this topic.

  1. Immersion. I visit the client's offices and we spend a day together where the client presents an overview of the company - products, business health, goals, distribution, competition, etc. After some careful review of what has been presented, I will then personally interview employees and sometimes customers to get a well-rounded view.

  2. Ideas. Subsequent to the immersion I will prepare at least 10 completely different brand ideas that I believe could work. If appropriate and budget allows, I will tap into my idea factory Ideasicle. The ideas take the form of tag lines (though may not end up being used as such) with an explanation of the idea and rationale. This presentation is often quite therapeutic to companies as the decision makers are able to talk about the future of the company in the context of these potential brand ideas. Relevant article from the Ideasicle Blog.

  3. Manifesto. Once we land on one of the brand ideas, I will write a one-page manifesto that romances the idea and makes sure it's clear what we mean and what it means for employees. In the end, it's not about what our employees would do in the marketplace; it's about what the brand would do in the marketplace. The manifesto helps everyone internalize the brand idea so that they can channel it into what they do every day. Relevant article on the power of a brand idea from my Forbes Blog.

See below for case studies. Also, I’ve written about the importance of having a brand idea on Forbes in my “Branding Requires Character, You Are The Author.”

Brand idea case studies.

Below are several recent case studies where I’ve applied the process described above with great results. Due to the nature of the content a password is required for the case studies, so please Contact Will via to get it.


I work with clients on the following types of projects:

  • Brand ideas (as described above)

  • Brand/blog writing

  • Creative brief development (read this)

  • Communications plans

  • Presentation narratives

  • In-house agency organization

  • Idea generation via Ideasicle

  • Also, if you're just looking for a quick hit of feedback on an urgent project, consider my "When In Doubt: Run It By Will" service.


No flat fees. I typically identify what you need, prepare a proposal with the number of anticipated days and include a day rate/total. Let’s talk.