TWISTING to Help Causes Succeed on Selfish Giving Podcast

Screen Shot 2016-08-23 at 12.35.28 PM

BrandTwist Founder & CEO, Founderj of and author to “TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands” is the featured guest on CauseTalk Radio, with Joe Waters.  Visit the Selfish Giving website to learn more about how nonprofits & businesses can raise money & make money with win-win partnerships that change the world. – See more and hear the whole discussion HERE.

Highlights from the show include:

  • Julie’s career path to branding expert, including her unacknowledged invention of the Pet Rock and a stint with Sir Richard Branson.
  • How Julie defines Brand and a Brand Twist.
  • When is it appropriate for organizations to Twist? And why it’s okay to turn off some people!
  • How you find your twist in the marketplace by looking both within your own brand story and outside your industry.
  • The importance of failing harder and developing focus when it comes to brand development.
  • The incredible opportunity nonprofits and businesses have to promote themselves and build their brands.

Twist angle white

Finding the right TWIST can help your brand innovate and deliver. In TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands, Brand School founder Julie Cottineau provides a clear road map to build a stronger more distinctive brand – complete with examples from real life small business owners who have successfully completed our Brand School program. Pick up your copy today.

Toys With A Life Saving Twist


Organ donation can be an uncomfortable topic and for some countries, like Japan, it is a particularly sensitive area and rarely discussed. This gap in awareness means that many do not receive life-saving donations – and children, in particular suffer from a shortage of donors more than most of the population. Second Life Toys is an organization in Japan that’s using a clever and endearing TWIST to raise awareness about organ donation for children.

They take donations of loved but no longer needed, injured, used plush toys and perform “transplants”, making them whole again. This campaign not only raises awareness in general, but also helps children gain a better understanding about transplants in a way that they can instantly relate to, with the comfort of new-found toy friend.

When you become a “donor” and donate your own unwanted stuffed toys you’ll receive a letter of thanks from the “recipient” telling you how your donation has helped them.

Second Life Toys took a painful, taboo topic and TWISTED with a beautifully simple idea – re-furbish donated toys to explain and promote organ donation – to make a big impact and lessen the information gap.

Is there an information gap preventing your customer from understanding what your business or non profit has to offer? What beautifully simple item could you TWIST with that would make your customer feel more at ease?

Twist angle white

Finding the right TWIST can help your brand innovate and deliver. In TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands, Brand School founder Julie Cottineau provides a clear road map to build a stronger more distinctive brand – complete with examples from real life small business owners who have successfully completed our Brand School program. Pick up your copy today.

Promoting Pet Adoption With a Tennis Twist


Stray dogs are problem the world over. Shelters are overflowing and animal rescue organizations are desperate to find ways to increase pet adoptions. How could a completely outside of category business lend support? Take the USTA (United States Tennis Association) and TWIST it with the SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). That’s what The Brazilian Tennis Confederation (CBS) did when they created the “Ball Dogs”  campaign – an entertaining and fun initiative that demonstrates how smart shelter dogs can be.

Debuting at the Brazil Open tennis tournament, four stray dogs abandoned in Sao Paulo slums participated in the match demonstrating their newly learned skills as ‘ball dogs’ – and captivated everyone’s attention and hearts.

“The idea is to show people that a well-fed and well-treated animal can be very happy. We have more than 1,000 dogs in our care,” Marli Scaramella, the organizer of the ball-dog initiative, told the Associated Press.

Successful businesses promise to solve problems, make lives easier, better and more fun. When the CBS partnered with the shelter dog initiative, they showed the world they have a heart, are willing to help, and that they care – creating a deeper and more emotional connection with their audience.

What pro-social cause should your brand TWIST with to add impact?

Twist angle white

Finding the right TWIST can help your brand stand out. In TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands, Brand School founder Julie Cottineau provides a clear road map to build a stronger more distinctive brand – complete with examples from real life small business owners who have successfully completed our Brand School program.

Sweeten Your Brand’s Impact with a Meaningful Cause

Can a product brand have a higher purpose and not seem like it’s just jumping on the “cause” band wagon? Well, we believe that sweetriot has made the cut with grace and impact.

sweetriot makes chocolate candy. Sounds simple enough, but they have taken their brand to another level altogether. They are a mission-based business that wants to “create a more just and celebrated multicultural world for our next generation”. They embrace this idea throughout their company and in every area of brand expression.

How do they succeed in clearly defining their brand promise to make their product and purpose stand out?

Their name says it all. sweetriot immediately implies they are making their voice heard, that they welcome others into the process, and they do it while creating a sweeter place, literally and figuratively. In their own words: “A sweetriot is a joyful celebration of culture, diversity, and understanding — it is the opposite of a civil riot, which is dangerous, violent, and oppressing.”

They are consistent and creative with their use of verbal identity. CEO, Sarah E Endline, calls herself the “Chief Rioter.” Customers are asked to “Join the riot.”  Their chocolate treats are called “peaces.” Their copy reinforces their dedication to fair-trade and social causes that better the communities from where their materials are sourced.Their tagline is “Fixing the world one ‘peace’ at a time. Sweet for the world & sweet for you.”

Their mission is integrated as a part of every aspect of their business – it is not an add-on. It is integral to their products, partnerships and people. They walk the talk.

Their logo helps tell their story. Their logo is a thumbprint and also the globe. Immediately we know sweetriot is aware that they are leaving their personal mark on the world and it serves as a reminder to us that we are, too (everyone has a thumbprint and everyone lives on Earth).  Based in NYC, USA, sweetriot’s brand colors of red, white and blue reflect their company’s origin.

Their packaging is social and unique. sweetriot supports the emerging artists community by featuring works that embrace sweetriot’s culture on the candy wrappers. Works of art to be featured are selected by votes from website visitors.

sweetriot put a creative twist on their brand by directly involving their market and community and by consistently reminding their customers that when they purchase a sweetriot product they are doing more than simply satisfying a chocolate craving.

If executed with authenticity and care, your customers may respond with loyalty and enthusiasm when they realize that by connecting with your product they are in turn contributing to a larger community. Identifying associations that resonate on a meaningful level with your target market takes strategic thinking. Incorporating your promise into your brand identity takes planning. At Brand School, the highly effective, premier branding program, we deliver the tools and steps you need to sweeten your brand and its connection to your market. Receive more information about Brand School’s next session and get free brand-building tools and tips when you join our mailing list.

This post is part of our Brands That Twist series celebrating innovative brands. Read about other breakthrough brands and more ways to grow your business and brand here.

“I’ve taken quite a few courses on branding and marketing overall. However, what attracted me to Brand School was Julie’s experience with branding from a corporate level.” - Barbara Wanzo, Non-profit Homeowner Services.

Make Your Brand Personal

This post is part of our series, “Thirteen Tips For Stronger Branding.” See the rest of the series HERE.


Most successful entrepreneurs – think Richard Branson, Steve Jobs, or the founder of TOMS shoes, Blake Mycoskie – started their businesses because they were trying to find solutions to issues that were personally meaningful to them. I’m going to tell you something that may strike a cord with some of you. If you’re not working at that something that really matters to you, then stop doing it. Seriously, just stop.

There will be a limit to how much you can solve issues for your customers, if you just don’t care that much. Conversely, if you have something that really bugs you as a consumer, think about creating a business or product that can solve this issue. This is a key sign that it’s time to turn your pet peeve into a business. Read more about how to make your hobby your business here.

Successful entrepreneurs also spend time managing their personal brands and leveraging them to support their professional credibility. Richard Branson’s daring stunts (like crossing the Atlantic in a hot air balloon) help re-inforce the image of Virgin as a challenger brand. Like professional brand building, your personal brand needs management. Figure out what you want to achieve for yourself and your business and then create a plan for how to get there. Do you want to have more exposure? Boost your credibility? Gain more confidence to speak in front of larger audiences? Feel more comfortable charging more for your services? All of this takes deliberate effort. Perform a careful analysis on the brand of YOU. Identify your strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats and create a plan on how to continue to build your assets, close any credibility gaps and personally support your business.

Check out tip #10 in the series, Hone Your Elevator Pitch.


Brand School is the premier program that teaches you how to grow your business by growing a stronger brand. Brand School takes best practices of beloved brands such as Virgin, Apple, and Zappo’s and brings them to life in engaging videos, interactive  exercises and exclusive access to a private community of other entrepreneurs. Learn more about Brand School and receive updates when you sign up for our newsletter HERE

“Motivational! I’ve given recommendations to several clients about Brand School.” –  Liz Osting, Founder Herculiz Design

Time/Bentley Accountable Leadership Videos

As many of you know last week, I had the privilege on Earth day of speaking at the Time/Bentley Forum on Accountable Leadership.

I enjoyed talking about Virgin’s approach which I summarized in my post  last week.

But I especially enjoyed hearing the other speakers such as Dr. Oz, Majora Carter- an environmental justice activist and terrific speaker and Margaret McKenna, the relatively new President of the Wal-Mart Foundation.

My point of view about Wal-Mart (particularly moving forward) was turned around by Margaret’s passion and commitment and belief that as the world’s largest grocer, Wal-Mart should be doing the most to stop the issue of hunger.

I think she’s really going to shake things up over there.

You can watch videos of the presentation here. I think you’ll find them pretty compelling.

Accountable Leadership is a critically important topic. Especially now, when so many of our business leaders seem to be letting us down.

That’s my point of view. What’s your twist?
Who do you think exemplifies accountable leadership?

Let’s Make Money Like There is a Tomorrow

It’s Earth Day and I am speaking at Bentley Time Leadership Forum on the topic of  Accountable Leadership and the business of healing our world.

This is the first time I’ve spoken explicitly on the topic of Virgin and Accountability and it coincides nicely with the publication of Virgin Group’s Corporate Sustainability and Social Responsibility Report.

In case you are not in Waltham today, here are the highlights of my talk. I’m looking forward to some healthy debate on the topic.

Big Caveat… I am not a sustainability expert (and was not intimately involved in writing the Virgin report), so I am attacking this from more of a branding/marketing angle. If you are looking to discuss carbon footprint, greenhouse gasses and the benefits of local vs. global sourcing… you may want to move on.

If you are curious about what guides Virgin’s approach and could be applicable to other brands looking to build, beef up or benchmark their efforts in this area of “green,” please read on.
Keep reading »