Nick Westergaard

By Nick Westergaard on December 26, 2016

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Authenticity in Branding with Patrick Hanlon (Episode 100 – Part 1)

patrick hanlon

This week we have a very special episode of the On Brand podcast! Actually, it’s Part 1 of a two-episode special commemorating 100 interviews with industry-leading brand builders. To kick off Part 1, we go back to the beginning. Our first guest ever on January 1, 2015, was Patrick Hanlon, author of Primal Branding and The Social Code. A lot has changed since then and I couldn’t wait to catch up with On Brand guest #1.

Enjoy This Episode Now

About Patrick Hanlon

Patrick Hanlon is one of the leading brand practitioners in the world. He is CEO and founder of Thinktopia, a global strategic and brand transformation practice for Fortune 100 companies including American Express, Levis, Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, PricewaterhouseCoopers, Kraft Foods, Johnson & Johnson, Yum! Foods, Wrigley, PayPal, Gap, the United Nations and others. His book Primal Branding, is the seminal work that looks at brands as belief systems that people opt-in to. Hanlon’s Primal Branding construct is now recognized by YouTube, as their recommended method for designing and attracting social communities. Hanlon’s latest book The Social Code: Designing Community In The Digital Age defines how to create communities via social media: and how to attract advocates who become so passionate about your success, they are willing to create it themselves.

He has been quoted in Fast Company, Business Week Online, Advertising Age, ADWEEK, Entrepreneur, CNBC, and NPR, as well as media around the world. Hanlon is an online contributor to Forbes, Advertising Age, and others. He was also featured as a subject matter expert in the 10- episode TV documentary series “The Kennedy Files” from Aspyr Media.

 Episode Highlights

What’s changed since Patrick was last here on the show? “A lot!” Hanlon noted, talking about the results of the 2016 presidential election. “Many are wondering — is this the end of authenticity? It may be the end of the (buzz)word ‘authenticity but trust is still important. Your brand is community — what others say about you.” Trust is important if you’re building a community.

Politicians and presidents are absolutely brands. Since his first visit, Hanlon was also a part of the TV documentary on the Kennedys where he was asked if they are a brand? “Yes — brands are belief systems made up of primal code.” Hanlon then took us through all of the pieces of the Kennedy’s code from their creed (“Ask not what your country can do for you …”) and numerous icons (fashion, sunglasses).

But what about Trump? “The biggest lesson for American business in all of this is that now politics has been as disrupted as other industries have been. More than the end of authenticity, this is the end of political laundering.” Unfiltered messages (good or bad) are what resonated with the electorate and propelled both Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders to unexpected heights.

What remains to be seen is how the Trump brand squares with the brand of the United States. Hanlon’s primal branding system is so effective it can even be applied to our country with our creed (“life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness), icons (flag, liberty bell, etc), and rituals (voting, the fourth of July).

What brand has made Patrick smile recently? “I know there are brands that make me smile less today — like Apple and Starbucks. The concept that really makes me smile is virtual reality — what can be done with the technology.”

To learn more, go thinktopia.com and the Primal Branding page on Facebook.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …
Recently Conrad Chua, head of admissions and marketing for Cambridge MBA gave us a shout for our episode featuring Robert Rose (with his fun Oracle vs. Marvel fact). Thanks for listening!

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

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Until next week, I’ll see you on the Internet!




Nick Westergaard
Email Brand Driven Digital

is a strategist, speaker, educator, and author of Brand Now: How to Stand Out in a Crowded, Distracted World and Get Scrappy: Smarter Digital Marketing for Businesses Big and Small. He is the Chief Brand Strategist at Brand Driven Digital, an educator at the University of Iowa, and host of the On Brand podcast. More about Nick.


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