InboundCon 2014 – Presenation notes and resources



On Thursday, September 18th, I had the pleasure and honour to speak at InboundCon 2014, Canada’s Premier Inbound Conference. The subject of my talk was on branding, specifically identity and storytelling; topics that are extremely important to me professionally and very personally.

In 20 minutes or less

Preparing for my talk, I recognized that trying to teach tactics and techniques would be futile. For one, I’d fall short to the many great thinkers and speakers that have in many ways influenced my opinions and thoughts on the subject. So I thought, why not just provide the path to knowledge, rather than provision it? Second, how much can a person hear, learn, and internalize in a twenty minute training session? Especially given the fact that the whole day was filled with important stats and strategies to remember.

Rather than try to teach branding, identity, or storytelling – my goal was to focus on the importance of it in our lives.

If there’s only one thing the audience takes away from my talk, I hope it was the importance of always asking:


Below are my thoughts, as well as references, research, and resources.

Presentation breakdown

1.1 Stories
1.2 Assumptions

2.1 Journey through circles
2.2 A little about Kal & PD

3.1 Stories cont.
3.2 Final thoughts


There was once a politician, desperately trying to balance the volatility of food. People were risking execution over growing the government sanctioned plant.

It’s early 2000s, and Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen’s toy company is bleeding money. About $1,000,000 a day.

How do you sell shit, at the price of gold?


Let’s start by framing our conversation with five simple assumptions.

05. You would like to increase your conversion rate, referrals, and recommendations
04. You prefer not to sell, but rather, have people want to buy.
03. What you have to offer is good, not bad.
02. It’s better to be loved by a few of the right people, than a lot of the wrong people.
01. Life is better, if you could just be yourself.

Journey through circles

Pixel Dreams’ Marketing Circle

Pixel Dreams' marketing circle

We (Pixel Dreams) developed the above diagram to better illustrate the hierarchy of an organization’s/person’s marketing needs.

The center circle, the Brand Vision of an organization will help influence and direct its identity. Its identity will help influence its assets and communications.

Communication channels are channels of communication from your brand to your audience. Sales people, store front displays, websites, email communications, etc. Brand assets are things you invest in once, but provide value for a very long time. Your business cards, letterheads, email signatures are a good example. From an inbound marketing perspective, e-books and blog posts are great combinations of both brand assets and communication channels. The investment in a good blog post can be indefinite.

Again, before you can jump into all of these things, you should know your identity. Your identity is your name, your visual identity, sound, voice, character, and personality. It’s your reputation, your word, and your bond.

Most importantly, you should always start at the core. Your Brand Vision. Without it, the house is built without a solid foundation.

Jim Collins talks about the brand vision as the Core Ideology and the Envisioned Future.

Jim Collins’ Marketing Circle

Jim Collins' brand vision circle

Core Ideology: Core ideology defines the enduring character of an organization. Core ideology provides the glue that holds an organization together as it grows, decentralizes, diversifies, expands globally, and develops workplace diversity.

CV: Core values are the essential and enduring tenets of an organization. A small set of timeless guiding principles, core values require no external justification; they have intrinsic value and importance to those inside the organization.

CP: Core purpose, the second part of core ideology, is the organization’s reason for being. Purpose should not be confused with specific goals or business strategies. In identifying purpose, some companies make the mistake of simply describing their current product lines or customer segments.

Envisioned Future: The second primary component of the vision framework is envisioned future. It consists of two parts: a 10-to-30-year audacious goal plus vivid descriptions of what it will be like to achieve the goal. We recognize that the phrase envisioned future is somewhat paradoxical. On the one hand, it conveys concreteness — something visible, vivid, and real. On the other hand, it involves a time yet unrealized — with its dreams, hopes, and aspirations.

A few great links:
Vision Framework
Building your company’s vision

Simon Sinek’s Golden Circle

Simon Sinek's golden circle

Sinek does a great job illustrating the benefits of starting at the ‘why’. In his famous TEDx talk, How great leaders inspire action, he proves:

People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it… What you do simply serves as the proof of what you believe.”

We follow those who lead, not for them but for ourselves. And it’s those who start with ‘why’ that have the ability to inspire those around them or find others who inspire them.
– Simon Sinek


Product: The potato

Frederick the Great's potato
There was once a politician, desperately trying to balance the volatility of food. People were risking execution over growing the government sanctioned plant.

The politician was Frederick the Great, of Prussia in the 18th century. The plant was the potato and the people of Prussia thought it was absolutely disgusting. At least, until Frederick changed the script. He declared the potato a royal plant, only meant for royalty. He had guards positioned to keep watch over the royal potato patch from thieves. But not really. Soon an underground potato black market was created, and the people of Prussia couldn’t get enough.

Full story here

Organization: Lego

lego forgets its identity
It’s early 2000s, and Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen’s toy company is bleeding money. About $1,000,000 a day.

Amongst many variables the newly young appointed CEO listed for Lego’s troubles, he made special emphasis to identity. He said,

“It had lost its way in terms of understanding its own self identity. What is Lego uniquely about?

…So what we did was, we started with that fundamental question: Why do you exist?”
– Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO

Full story here


How do you sell shit, at the price of gold?
IKB-79 by Yves Klein

IKB-79 by Yves Klein

Yves Klein, 1959. Paint on canvas on plywood, (Photo courtesy the Tate Modern, London) IKB 15 sold for $331,283

The letters IKB stand for International Klein Blue, a distinctive ultramarine which Klein registered as a trademark colour in 1957. He considered that this colour had a quality close to pure space and he associated it with immaterial values beyond what can be seen or touched.

Full story here



Onement VI by Barnett Newman

Onement VI by Barnett Newman

From abstract expressionist painter Barnett Newman sold May 14, 2013 for a record-setting $43.8 million.

Onement VI by Barnett Newman overwhelms and seduces the viewer with the totality of its sensual, cascading washes of vibrant blue coexisting with Newman’s vertical “Sign” of the human presence, his iconic and revolutionary ‘zip.’ As a portal to the sublime, the limitless realm of sumptuous color envelops the viewer and brings life to Newman’s assertion that his monumental canvases be experienced up close rather than from a distance.

Further readings



Merda d'Artista by Piero Manzoni

Merda d’Artista by Piero Manzoni

1961, artist Piero Manzoni wanted to tell a story. A story of defiant mockery of the art world, artists, and art criticism. 90 tin cans filled with feces, each weighing 30 grams and measuring 4.8×6.5cm. The cans were originally to be valued according to their equivalent weight in gold — $37 each. In 2008, Tin #83 was offered for sale at Sotheby’s with an estimate of £50-70,000. It sold for £97,250..

Full story here


The point

It’s easy to cherry pick absurdly expensive works from the art community and take cheap shots. But that’s not the point here. The selected pieces represent very expensive art that could easily be replicated. However, art buyers are not interested in perfect replicas – but rather, capturing real and true pieces of history. Pieces that are made by iconic identities with interesting stories.

Final thoughts

Why are we all here? Really? Does any of this really matter? Be honest. Did you come here because you wanted to learn about the latest web conversion practices. Maybe new AB testing techniques? Seriously. Why are we all here? Are we all here to learn how to make more money?

No. There’s actually something deeper. We want to do better in business for deeper reasons than finances. Even the hardest Wall/Bay Street financial analyst has deeper yearnings greater than money. Reveal that to yourself first. Once you discover your true nature and fly with it, you’ll do better. Be real. Tell your story. It’s okay that some people, most people don’t like us, if the right few do. Business owners that understand this, do much better. The funny thing is, we’re always wondering, what is our target demographics. Rather, we should try looking inwards and seeing who we are people.

Tell your story

Here are the three rules to follow:

  1. Know yourself.
  2. Know your story.
  3. Tell your story.

Do you see the challenge for most? Do you see the hollow corporation with the shallow personality? Most of us are telling stories we don’t know anything about. Politicians who speak of peace but contribute to war. Or educators that don’t like learning new things. Nevermind them. Know yourself, tell your story.

Everyone here has a unique story. Everyone here has had their share of obstacles, failures, successes and triumphs. Everyone here is unique and special in their own way. Dig deep inside yourself. This is the key to personal branding. Tell your story.

Why does this corporation exist? Why does this organization, community centre, team, business, or government, exist? Why do you exist? Tell your story.

How does this organization move? How does the organization behave? Tell your story.

Who is telling your story? Are you the victim, the villain, or the hero? Tell your story.