Patrick Hanlon Featured As Brand Expert In 10-Part Documentary Series

Thinktopia CEO Patrick Hanlon is featured in the documentary “The Kennedy Files” that premieres Tuesday, November 10 on REELZ network. The documentary flanks the network’s Emmy award-winning
series “The Kennedys” which also lunches this month.

“The Kennedys continue to be one of America’s greatest brands because there are so many avenues into their brand,” says Hanlon. “Whether it’s political power, Hollywood, Camelot, American rags to riches, Jackie O, or conspiracy theories, anyone can find a connection point into the Kennedy narrative.”

The ten-part documentary produced by Aspyr Media runs thru April, 2016 and covers the Kennedy fortune, family secrets, the family curse, the brothers, Jack & Jackie and, of course, conspiracies.

“The Kennedy narrative is a long, wide river,” says Hanlon. “It is no longer solely about how the next generation of Kennedys prolong their legacy, but how the next generation of storytellers move it forward. They can put their canoe in just about anywhere.”

Those who do not have REELZ on cable can stream “The Kennedy Files” on Netflix, also available on DVD.

Thinktopia Explains ‘The Cult Of Cool’ On Australian Prime Time TV

Australia TV The Cult of Cool copy
In a six-minute segment on one of Australia’s most popular television shows, Thinktopia founder Patrick Hanlon explains The Cult Of Cool: how ‘fandom’ and community create beacon Brands. Using the primal code of creation story, creed, icons, rituals, lexicon, nonbelievers and leader create a belief system that attracts others who share your beliefs. It can be complicated, says Hanlon, but so are human beings. Because companies and brand managers don’t take the time and energy to fill in all the pieces of code, is why there are so few really great brands like Apple, Nike, Google, and others. People don’t want to simply buy you these days, they want to buy into you. The way to turn meaningless products into meaningful Brands is to help people feel so passionate about your success that they are willing to create it themselves.

Brands Move From Great To Good

Last week, Starbucks launched another probe onto the corporate responsibility landscape by announcing an initiative to help 100,000 Millennials land jobs. Their “100,000 Opportunities Initiative” (teamed with 17 other companies including Target, Taco Bell and Walgreens) hopes to aid the 5.5 million between ages 16 and 24 who are not working.

Lots of companies today are branded to be good and socially conscious, including TOMS, Warby Parker, The Container Store, Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company and Ethos water, among others, contribute to cause-related efforts around the world. For companies like these, the claim is an integral part of their selling proposition.

It’s not enough for brands just to be Great these days, the evolving challenge (with apologies to Jim Collins) is also how to be Good.

A reflection of this trend is that Los Angeles creative agency 72andSunny has just added its first brand citizenship officer, Jim Moriarty.

“We are proactively calling it brand citizenship,” says Moriarty. “A lot of social responsibility has been inward facing, which is amazing and great, but it’s not what we’re talking about.”

Even though corporate clusters have become more sustainable and active, it’s not enough. As Moriarty points out, there are over 2 million nonprofits in the U.S. “They are run by good people,” nods Moriarty. “But they don’t scale.” Moriarty spent the last decade bringing corporate partners to nonprofits, but at 72andSunny he can continue that role at higher altitude.

“We thought we’d have to promote the idea, but we didn’t need to. This is an aspirational piece that everyone has flocked to.”

This surge goes beyond mere goodwashing.

As you have probably noticed, products are becoming healthier and more good for you, too.

Earlier this month, Mondelez announced its new Oreo cookie. The update is now slimmer than its double-stuffed predecessor, which not that long ago came out as “double stuffed”. PepsiCo has spent the last several years reformulating its existing product line to contain less sugar and buying up healthier food contenders like Sabra, the largest hummus maker in the United States. General Mills, which for years included convenience cooking brands like Pillsbury, Hamburger Helper and Chex Mix has purchased healthier younger-Mom alternatives like Annie’s brand, Food Should Taste Good® and the organic food products company Cascadian Farm.

With organic food growing annually at 10% (versus 3% for total food sales), the billion dollar consumer packaged goods companies could no longer point to nuts and berries eaters as an anomaly. Today, they are a well-populated market.

To quote real-life MadMan Bill Bernbach, “She’s your wife.”

Product companies aren’t the only ones coming to the party. Retailers are also revealing their good side.

A report notes recent “sympathetic” pricing, including resorts offering steep rebates if a guest’s vacation is rained out. Mass transportation officials in Paris offered free rides one weekend, responding opportunistically to dangerously high air pollution levels. And a British supermarket called Community Shop sells remainder products to families receiving government welfare. Retailers like Marks & Spencer, Tesco, and Tetley provide Community Shop with surplus products that don’t meet the pricier chains’ standards—and ordinarily end up in landfill.

Good stuff.

Other companies have started offering employee incentives (including higher pay) to work on weekends or under stressful conditions. Ikea just announced it will increase British worker’s wages in 2016—to over one dollar more per hour than the mandatory minimum wage. Ikea employees in London will receive even more.

There’s no question that good intentions are in the air, and that “values” are being measured in terms of not just economics, but philosophy.

Traditionally, the patron saints of such ideological change have been companies like Patagonia, Whole Foods, Aveda, Ben & Jerry’s, Stonyfield Farms and others who, within recent corporate memory, have proven that capitalism can have a conscience as well as a bottom line.

More to the point: it’s as important for a company to be responsible, as it is to be profitable.

After Enron, AIG, BP oil spills, and other misguidance, we look for action that goes beyond bee-lining toward corporate talking points, sustainability officers, and greenwashing. These days, companies who are bringing truth and values back to iconoplastic mission statements are not only cheered, they are rewarded with blacker bottom lines.

This is not new. In fact, true social entrepreneurship supported by active values has existed in American enterprise for hundreds of years. Johnson & Johnson was founded on the notion of serving the communities in which the company operated. Henry Ford, although controversial in other ways, increased his workers’ minimum wage from $2 to five dollars a day about 100 years ago, astonishing rivals and paving the way for the American middle class. Some good has always existed on the causeways of American commerce.

As Patagonia chief Yvon Chouinard reminds us, we all have a responsibility to be citizens, consumers and producers. So every time we bring “Good” back to great, we not only serve our fan communities, we become better citizens and create a holistically better (and often more profitable) company.

That’s Good for everyone.

Thinktopia ceo Hanlon “Rocks The Hut” on CNBC

Patrick Hanlon CNBC2 Thinktopia CEO Patrick Hanlon lands a guest spot on CNBC about Pizza Hut’s innovative new branding efforts. Pizza Hut’s innovative new taste profiles and other efforts should be directionally correct to help the brand catch up to Yum! sister brands KFC and Taco Bell. Adds counter example of burger stands selling tacos–that’s not innovation, it’s desperation. It’s time to rock the Hut!!

‘The Social Code’ Follow-Up To ‘Primal Branding’ Now Available On Amazon

The Social Code_cover_HanlonThinktopia announces the release of The Social Code, the much-anticipated sequel to Patrick Hanlon’s widely acclaimed book Primal Branding: Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company And Your Future, published by Simon & Schuster Free Press in 2006.

The Social Code illustrates how to design and attract social communities in the digital age, using the underlying principles that help create viral brand communities. What Hanlon proposes is the agreeable notion that 21st century social communities are created not just from digital code, but from the emotional connections that bring us together: the social code.

YouTube, the largest social engagement platform on the planet, already promotes the construct outlined in The Social Code as their recommended method for designing and attracting online social communities. The new mission? To create a fan community that becomes so passionate about your success, they are willing to create it themselves.

A build on Hanlon’s 2006 book, Primal Branding—celebrated by marketing and branding experts as the best explanation written so far on what Brands are and how to create them, The Social Code redefines the seven elements that define belief (creation story, creed, icons, rituals, sacred words, nonbelievers and leader) in today’s digitally-centered environment. Facebook “likes,” social media clicks and hashtag counts become meaningless short-term responses unless they simultaneously build the social mechanisms that create long-term community.

Those who build social code attract others who share their values and beliefs—creating community and an unfair advantage over their competition. Those who don’t, don’t.

For the last decade, Thinktopia has been working with Fortune 100 companies honing the strategic and executional principles set forth in the The Social Code. While the cult classic, Primal Branding, anticipated social communities and looked at brands as belief systems in 2006,  The Social Code is a great leap forward and the essential guide for kickstarting entrepreneurs—as well established products and services—seeking to define their community narrative in the new social economy.

This becomes a billion-dollar equation for many companies. And we get the feeling that no one will want to be left out.

The Social Code is available now through Amazon.

Thinktopia Launches New Primal Branding™ Website

This weekend, Thinktopia® is soft launching a new site called The site is inspired by the success of the book Primal Branding. In the Fall, the site will launch a new service to help people put the Primal Code™ into action.

Primal Branding: How To Create Zealots for Your Brand, Your Company and Your Future was published by Simon & Schuster/Free Press in 2006 and has become (we are told) a cult classic in marketing and branding.

Branding legend Al Ries declared when the book was launched that Primal Branding was, “Not the same old branding B.S.”

For the last decade, Thinktopia has been using the construct outlined in Primal Branding to help Fortune 100 companies and start-ups alike define brand strategy, launch new brands, and help to re-engineer existing products and services.

The seven pieces of Primal Code™ are what move people, places and things from being meaningless (or unbelievable) to becoming meaningful enough to gather millions of fans. In fact, the primal construct of creation story, creed, icons, rituals, sacred words, nonbelievers and leader can be identified in the most popular and powerful brands that exist.

Even YouTube, the largest social engagement platform on the planet, teaches fledgling videographers and storytellers this primal construct. YouTube metrics show that the most-watched YouTube videos all include at least five out of seven pieces of “Primal Code.”

This is because Primal Code creates a system of belief that attracts others who share that belief, creating a community of believers: the tribe of people “like us.”

This also can be said for the communities that surround powerful brands like Apple, Nike, Google and Facebook as well as for the communities that surround Obama, Lady Gaga, New York City, Silicon Valley, the Civil Rights Movement and climate change.

The construct of Primal Code is even used in military intelligence and artificial intelligence.

“Until the concept of Primal Branding, marketers worked in a maze without a flashlight,” says Primal Branding creator Patrick Hanlon. “Thanks to this fresh understanding of how we can create the emotional connections that attach people to brands, we have helped brands get unstuck, and find new markets.

“Most importantly, we have helped marketers find ways to differentiate themselves and create Brand communities that surround them because they are attracted to their values, their products, and their actions. This helps move goods and services from being meaningless to becoming meaningful. It also helps people create deliberate omni-channel engagements with their Brand community.

“Every tactic now becomes a long-term investment in their Brand, rather than one-shot buzz.”

The new website which is beginning its soft launch in July, will feature articles on current events and other communications that highlight the impact that Primal Code has on Brand communities and society as a whole.

The best way to see how a community evolves is to take part in its evolution. You’re invited to come along and offer your own comments and help us make the site better for everyone at

‘Begin Again’ Director John Carney Redubs Film Ritual

Ritual is an important part of brand narrative. Relating narratives is a ritual, and rituals are also embedded in the actual production and action of narratives.

Let me explain. Going to the movies is a ritual we have all enjoyed. But what we may not realize is, that the act and art of creating a film is also a ritual: filled with moments of joy and despair. (As anyone inside the film community knows, film production is hours of sheer boredom, interrupted by moments of sheer panic.)

Characters within the plot have rituals. Jack Nicholson’s character in ‘The Shining’ for example, acted out the ritual of writing a novel. ‘Game Of Thrones’ is filled with rituals, from sword practice and beheadings to sex romps.

In the new movie ‘Begin Again’ from director John Carney, Keira Knightley plays a young songwriter who, at least in this segment of the movie, is onstage performing her new song. As Carney points out in his narration over a pivotal scene when his two main characters meet for the first time (in a video provided by The New York Times), this scene is an oft-performed movie meme. In fact, Carney points to Judy Garland playing a similar scene in ‘A Star Is Born.’ Part of Carney’s challenge, he explains, is to give this tried-and-true scene a twist that makes the rite something new for his audience.

Actor Mark Ruffalo plays the record producer and A&R man who hears something in Knightley’s music that no one else in the bar can. This is a genre piece, which, by definition, must fit a genre: a cluster of easily consumable memes whose predictability both satisfy and annoy us.

Memes are patterns, icons and actions that make us comfortable. But that comfort embraces a predictability that frustrates our lust for unpredictability.

Hence New York Times’ reviewer A.O. Scott simultaneously likes and dislikes ‘Begin Again,’ without understanding why. “I’m trying to praise this movie with faint damnation,” he concludes. “It’s not very good, but it is kind of enjoyable, at times infectiously so.”

The crowd is a fickle audience. Carney’s new film is scheduled for limited release on July 2.


Beats By Dre: Did Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre Create The Fastest Billion Dollar Brand Ever?

When an executive at Proctor & Gamble was asked how long it took them to build their fastest-growing billion-dollar brand, they answered seven years. The brand was Tide Pods.

Beats by Dre, the headphones and music streaming company, became a $3 billion brand in 3.5 years.

Full disclosure: MKTG, whose role you will hear about, has been a client. But we are not being paid to write this article. Some things just happen.

beats by dreBeats was the brainchild of Jimmy Iovine and Dr. Dre. In a world somewhere above and between Boze hypertech geekdom and simple Apple earbuds, the world of sound was ready for some cherry-red head bling.

Beats was well-funded, but clearly entered a category where they played David against two big Goliaths.

Dr. Dre and Iovine were certainly newsworthy enough. But a pivotal point in mass awareness came early on–during the 2012 London Olympics. Unwilling or unable to afford the supersmack costs of official Olympics sponsorship, underdog Beats created a lounge just outside the Official Olympics perimeter.

The Beats Lounge was a chill zone amidst the helter-skelter of the massive event taking place outside. Celebrities wandered in and wandered out. People from all over the world sprawled on couches. It had the energy of a stylish crash pad, but was more like an adrenalin pump.

It was a cool place to be, and it was a hit. (And what’s with all the crazy red headphones?)

The Beats Lounge concept was so strong, it survived the Olympics. Experience engagement firm MKTG, who had first conceived and ran the Lounge, was now in charge of prolonging the buzz on this side of the Atlantic.

Emboldened by the Olympics success, MKTG redesigned the Lounge as a pop-up in Times Square. The micro-retail concept took off again, so they moved it to another high traffic area: Soho. Staying agile, and not to burden the fledgling Beats with the headaches of managing a retailing operation, MKTG ran the entire bricks and mortar retail, from design to managing staff to turning in receipts at night. Bang bling.

The Soho shop became even more popular than the Olympics stunt. It went viral, as they say.

And the rest is big bucks.

Of course, the Brand called Beats is much more than its retail operations. It was founded by people who know something about sound, about music, about pop culture. Beats by Dre is as much creed as it is nomenclature. With three music heroes at the helm (Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails joined BbD in January 2013 when they launched music streaming), they bring street cred to a category whitewashed by engineering esthetes and plastic accessories. They have added underdog to the mix.

The question: Now that Apple and Beats have become one, will the beats go on or will their agile moxie be diffused by one of the world’s largest brands?

Stay tuned.

(And see if you can get into the Apple Corp holiday party this year. They’ll be the hottest tickets in town.)