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Revolutionary branding


What is it about certain ideas that makes them spread like wildfire and spur many people into taking action and instigating great social changes? How do you mobilise people to act for causes with meaning? How can we apply the principles of peaceful revolution to create global brands?  How do you capture the hearts of millions of people? How we can replicate the positive aspects of this in the world of business? Can the core ideas of political revolution be applied to consumer goods and services? Can we create a self-perpetuating driver of growth and impact?

This was the thinking that led Jonathan Fields to research, on a profound level, the steps that all revolutions go through. Jonathan researched their language, integrated it with his experience as an entrepreneur, artist and creator of communities and sought to create a framework for non-violent commercial revolution.

At the political level, the pacesetter is Gene Sharp, a Professor Emeritus and founder of the Albert Einstein Institution, who has devoted his entire life to investigating the politics of non-violent action to democratize the world. His magnum opus, 'From Dictatorship to Democracy', describes 198 forms of non-violent resistance.  However, a revolution in shopping is significantly different as there is no need to destroy the old, the narrative should be constructed with great thought so as not to appear opportunistic, and it should be adapted to consumers, not to regime change.

With these premises in mind, Jonathan has created an 18-step pathway:

1. The avatar of the revolution

Who does the revolution serve? Who is this person? Where do they live? What do they think about? What is their life like? What are their hopes and dreams?  To be able to talk to this person, you must not only know them, but also show them that they are important to you.  This is the point of departure sine qua non because a connected community is essential for moving a mission forward.

2.  Identify the shared pain

What issue would they like to be rid of? Is it keenly felt or is it latent, requiring discovery?  Build ad hoc messages to solve it in a deeply meaningful way. Understand if it is unique or shared. If it is shared, it is the kind of concern that could be the driving force behind connection. For example, one of the great sorrows of modern society is loneliness. 

3. The source of pain

Very often it is not a person but a company or institution, a paradigm, a set of traits, a social norm...or even an inner saboteur. The trick is to identify the traits that define the causes of pain.

Once identified, give your supporters a better alternative to the pain and watch them flock to you.

4.  Look for your leader

Yes, we do need leaders, even if they are introverts, and organizing it all behind the scenes. 

But not just any leader. One that connects from a position of humility, a real person with all their vulnerabilities, who shares our common cause, acts with a deep-seated desire to serve others, and is trustworthy so that we believe in them.

5. Create a trigger

Kick things off well with a trigger that spurs people into action. Like when Apple creates something revolutionary and organises a huge event to communicate it.

6. Identify the "war" cry

What are you railing against? What is the source of the pain? It should unite us in an expression against whatever it is that we want to stop.

7. Identify your unifying beliefs

You need clarity and strength to state explicitly: 'This is what I believe, these are the central values that I'm going to bring to this revolution.'  Then share these beliefs in the form of a manifesto that is clear, concise and easy to understand. It could be in the form of text, video, audio...

Revolution polarizes, provokes strong reactions. You must make people feel something deep inside in order to make them act in this way.  The trick is to find your believers, as Zappos has done for example. If you really believe in your company's values, this grounds you, and means you won't just be in it for the money.

8. Define the vision that you working towards

Create a clear vision of a new reality. Think big. People will not come out to protest over small issues. And make a commitment. Make it reality. To verbalize it, use the present tense (as in 'I have a dream')

Integrate your brand in an organic way.  A way that saves people from their shared pain. That is relevant for the community that you are serving. Never, never forget that what we are doing is to create something great.

9. Build a true story that resonates

Learn how to tell it in a persuasive and convincing way.

10. Create your manifesto

Add your call to action on the channel that you think is best suited to it.

11. Define the path

Define the actions that you want your public to take. What behaviour do we want our community to undertake so that they will be empowered, and, in turn, empower others in order to grow exponentially?

As we know where we want to get to, let’s trace our steps backwards.  We will create a simple, frictionless path that allows people to move from being an outsider to getting ever more involved.

The key is in getting to know people where they are (in both the literal and metaphorical senses). From there, give them simple instructions to take them from where they are to where we want them to be. Make your demands of them consistent but ever increasing.

12. Delve into the mindset of the tribe

They are not alone. They belong to something bigger that we are capable of creating together. Success is not yours alone. Symbolism and language will help unite the people.

13. Bring together the standard bearers

Who are the true believers? Share the manifesto and ask, how does this make you feel? Listen.

Your launch team has to buy into your reasoning and your long-term goals.

You need their acceptance and their skills.  If we don't agree on the values that unite us, we won't know how to act in difficult times.

14. Identify your key resources and your allies

Influencers, technology partners, creative partners, investors, associated organisations, legal associates, publishers, producers, journalists... How do we compensate their work?

Money is not always necessary. Because if you radiate passion, resources will come to you, giving you a huge competitive advantage. Emotion, passion and effort, in return for a non-monetary reward. People will work for a revolution in a way that they would never work for a company or a brand.

This is why the first steps are so important: plant the seeds well.

15. Surround the launch

Design the creativity and the experience to be both global and simultaneous across all relevant on and offline channels, with all the tools at your disposal, without forgetting any important points of contact. It's an opportunity to show your values, beliefs, shared sorrows and aspirations... Although many of these new channels are free, in reality nothing is free. There is always a cost attached, whether it is measured in the time, effort, heart and soul that we put into making it a reality.

16. Mechanisms and milestones

Measure what works and what doesn't, establishing milestones with confidence and transparency.

17. Design it to go viral

Jonah Berger has studied the mechanics of the transmission of ideas, what makes them social currency.  People share things because they believe they've found something of value.

18. Ultimate structural goal: the tipping point

Reach a deeper level. Give people something to believe in. We are here to make a difference, not just in our lives, but also in the lives of others. Give people something to be part of.

And so conclude the 18 steps that Jonathan sets out in 'The Art of Revolution'. So, are you brave enough to create a revolutionary brand?


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