Michel Hogan’s Brand Formula

‘What if everything you think about branding is wrong?’

The provocative opening line of Michel Hogan‘s keynote at Perth REMIX 2019 rustled a room full of people to whom branding means everything.

A tension washed over the room as people tried to remember the precise wording of their organisation’s mission statement and values. People sat up in their seats and Michel gave us a clinic on brand.

Her lightning efficient talk made the case that brand(ing) is not something you do in a wishy-washy hope to better define or promote your organisation’s objectives.

She argues that we shouldn’t even use the word branding, because brand is not a verb.

Publicising is not brand. Developing a style guide is not brand. And coming up with a fluffy mission statement and a list of values for your employees to memorise before their interviews and then disregard is definitely not brand.

Why not?

Because brand is an output, not an input.

‘Brand is a result of the promises you keep.’

It’s not something you can define, because it’s defined by your action.

This is severely important, and intensely motivating.

For anyone else who loves a mathematic visualisation, Michel has synthesised her thoughts on what makes a brand into the following formula, where;

  • i = Identity (your purpose and values)
  • p = Promises (what you say you do)
  • e = Experience (what you actually do)
  • b = Brand (your reputation)

Identity is important because if your brand revolves around killing puppies, it doesn’t matter how good you are at it.

It also helps if you care about whatever it is that you’re identifying yourself as. It’ll make it much easier to keep your promises.

‘When you take what you care about and use it to help shape the promises you make, you’re more likely to keep them.’

Michel Hogan

Youe p/e ratio matters because trust is eroded every time you fail to deliver on the experience you promised a user.

By this defninition, your brand is a living, breathing thing. At any moment in time it has the potential to change.

Defining what you do is important, but it’s only half of the puzzle. Fail to deliver, and all those brand meetings were for nought.

The promise of this blog is that I publish a piece of writing every day.

If I don’t deliver on that promise daily, the blog isn’t what it says it is.

It doesn’t matter whether I’ve made 50 posts or 7000. As soon as I miss a day my p/e goes down the toilet, and it’s not a daily blog.

Strategic promises inform meaningful brands.

What do you promise?

If you’re struggling to answer, perhaps Michel can help.

Be bold. Get specific. Do the work.


This is the first post distilling my learnings from the REMIX Academy Summit I attended earlier in the week. I’ll put links to all the talks I summarise in the post I made on the day of the event for easy referencing.

You can learn more about Michel and her work by visiting her website, following her on Twitter, or by picking up one of her books.

She’s a fantastic speaker and a wonderful thinker, I highly reccomend checking her out.

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