SBM Articles


Before Magic Comes the Phantom Pains

The Foundation of Your Brand Cannot Be Mechanical

by Jeremy Nulik

Confession: I have been a bit lazy as of late, and I did not write the headline for this article. It was generated by an AI called InspiroBot. Google it, and find yourself awash in the most stereotypical inspirational swill.

Click “Generate” and there appears the word, “FEAR,” in all caps between two open doors, and “there to be challenged?” in a smaller font below it. Sounds totally legit. Especially with the image.

Click “Generate” and a coniferous tree on the side of a bluff is juxtaposed with the text in a serif, academic font: “Don’t listen. Expand your consciousness.”

Another one: They who turn their backs towards friends deny pleasure. Or: Before the ambition, comes the earth. Also: Do not expect anything. Nobody is ordering you to die.

Well, maybe not all of them make sense. Or do they?

The amazing thing, of course, is that there is no human agency in the generation of these quotes, images, fonts or layouts. It is machine learning applied to the new-age-inspired culture. The same culture that brings you sayings on large pieces of wood in your aunt’s house.

When I first learned of this, of course, I was sad for humanity. It’s so formulaic, right? A machine can learn all it would need to know about us and ape our intellect and emotions. How machine-like we are. How predictable.

However, I began to lighten up. Almost all of the images and statements seem to contain profundity. So your mind fills in the gaps in logic with something that is not at all logical. It is actually how the mind works – on an analogical, metaphorical, narrative-driven framework.

It deals with the unknown. And machines cannot do that.

So what we can learn from this AI is actually something valuable for leaders working to shape a brand or a communications strategy. The experience of being human is making meaning. A good exercise in creating a brand involves going out into the unknown and returning with the artifacts, images and stories that connect to the purpose of the organization.

Often when we are shaping brand strategy, we focus on the moving parts, the mechanics of what we do. And when telling a brand story, we often focus on the creation of features and benefits statements. We do not give an audience the opportunity to interact with the most fundamental and difficult to articulate components of a brand: why you exist.

When we imagine ourselves, our brands, as machines, we have no way to deal with the unknown. With the part of our story that is harder to articulate, and, coincidentally, the part of the story that hopes to be human.

Most importantly: The unknown is where you go to find the thing that makes your brand different. The unknown is where your competitors can’t compete. You don’t have to work to make your offerings cheaper or incrementally improved. Instead, if you are brave enough to take your brand into the unknown, then you can find the people who believe what you believe about the world.

Try this: Ask your team for the stories of what happened when you brand performed something remarkable. If you collect enough of these, you should begin to see a bigger story emerge. And that story likely is a clue to the type of character you are. It will not seem logical, but that character is the foundation of how you can begin to articulate your purpose and shape a brand.

Or, you can always just go to InspiroBot for your message. And the AI would tell you: “Stories are the biggest threats to the laws of physics.”

Jeremy Nulik ( is evangelist prime at bigwidesky, a human business consultancy, in St. Louis, Mo.

Submitted 5 years 184 days ago
Categories: categoryMarketing Works
Views: 2809