Soulful Branding

Jerome ConlonJuly 7, 20153 min

Most marketing teams operate in a “rationalist mindset,” dominated by spreadsheets, income statements, reams of market data and financial feasibility reports. Similarly, most MBA programs train future business managers primarily in the rationalist worldview, but if the rationalist worldview is the primary or the only tool for processing a brand’s reality, it will likely smother cultural insights and soulful activism that can otherwise enliven the brand field.

The soulful branding mindset invites us instead to think like a mystic, an author, composer or movie producer, and also as a provocateur and cultural activist. Brand developers should treat their medium just like a novel or film project, wherein the goal is to deliver provocative information that both responds to and also triggers innate and authentic human identity needs, not trivial or destructive ones.

This distinction is reflected in the contrast between knowledge and wisdom. Knowledge is that which the head alone knows, the pursuit of which is the focus of the sciences, while wisdom is grasped by both head and heart simultaneously, and thus authentic and soulful communication and learning is only present when both the head and the heart are engaged and processing experiences at the same time.

The great depth psychologist Carl Jung taught us about the nature of each individual’s soul journey by pointing out that the unconscious is a co-determining factor along with consciousness, and if we live in such a way that both the conscious and unconscious are understood and taken into account, then the personality’s center of gravity shifts from being only egocentric to the point between the conscious and unconscious minds where a new type of awareness dwells. Jung names this new center of deep consciousness the “Self,” while others have referred to this as the “Higher Self.” This is in contract to the lower-self, which is a construct only of the ego and rational mind.

Through our years of engagement in strategic brand studies the idea emerged that a powerful and compelling brand is essentially a modern totem, a talisman, a special object that carries deeply personal meanings and energies. This is far from rationality, but enters deeply and provocatively into our conscious and subconscious realms at this deeper center of the Self. This suggests that customers choose a brand and its products, and use them, or in Nike’s case wear them, only if the essential meaning surrounding the symbolism, its compelling character qualities, matches closely with their Self identity, which is connected to their aspirations and their personal values at a deeper level.

When customers likewise sense some nobility in a company, whose purpose and products are created in a way that respects life and has innate regard for people and human potential, this is the process of curating intangible power on the brand field. If, in contrast, nobility is missing then brand soul cannot and will not come fully alive. This is the primary source of the brand gap spoken of earlier, between the current state of a brand and its potential to develop a much higher level of intangible value and power.

This totemic quality partially explains Nike’s historically strong appeal to competitive, young athletic young males, for whom the brand carried deep aspirational meaning relating to heroic feats on competitive battlefields. When Nike learned to rescript its hardcore competitive male positioning by interpreting ‘sports performance’ in new ways, a much more broadly appealing (gender balanced) presentation of authentic athletic performance emerged. Nike then beautifully captured this new brand mantra in the iconic “Just do it” campaign, with its energetic, inspirational and humorous calls to action across genders and dozens of different sport categories. Managing the energy in the brand field thus helped Nike solve the communications problem that was generating dis-appeal with women who did not respond favorably to Nike’s hardcore ethos, and in this context the point of soulful branding is to approach branding as the development of admirable character traits and communications resonance with all the key constituents whom the brand is serving. A key element in creating such a resonance is the understanding that deep within each of us there are iconic personality traits, universal characteristics and images that we have come to know and appreciate as archetypes.

Excerpted from Soulful Branding – Unlock The Hidden Energy in Your Company & Brand,  Jerome Conlon, Moses Ma & Langdon Morris, FutureLab Press. This book presents a deep paradigm shift in what the art of marketing & branding can become at the highest level. Few companies have ventured this high up the brand pyramid.

The Blake Project Can Help: The Brand Positioning Workshop

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

Jerome Conlon


  • Eric Wedemeyer

    July 8, 2015 at 10:30 pm

    It would be hard to find a brand professional these days who believes the branding process is entirely rational. And Jungian archetypes are hardly a new thing in the field. Is there anything new or interesting about “soulful branding”? Perhaps we need to read the book to find out…

  • Jerome Conlon

    July 10, 2015 at 11:08 am

    Hi Eric: The book is about much more than the excerpt covers on the battle between rationality vs. archetypes. There’s plenty of new material on what the art of brand planning entails from a practitioners perspective. For instance, how does a company locate its center, its larger purpose and its public voice, then amplify that voice with resonance using a depth campaign, over decades? These questions are covered and answered. Best, J. Conlon

Comments are closed.

Related Posts

Connect With Us