The 5 Ways to Spiritual Branding

As you all know, the modern corporation is incentivized to kill us. The lash of short term profits and delivering increasing returns for already rich shareholders leads to decisions that are slowly crushing our planet and our souls.

But hang on a minute, the exact opposite thing is happening with the brands these same corporations make. Unlike the corporations, today’s brands can’t think short term. They have to form long term partnerships with the increasingly meaning-seeking consumers who buy them.

Brands vs The Corporations who make them. It’s the ultimate post-capitalism meta smack down!

Here’s a dirty little secret for corporations to think about: consumers are alsohumans. It’s true, we checked! And on this swiftly tilting, quickly heating, over-crowded planet, humans want brands to not only make a difference in their lives but to help them on their journey to the top of the pyramid, self-actualization.

This is the path to Spiritual Branding.

1Do Well by Doing Good. Brands on this path are changing the world for the better. From simple sustainability initiatives, living wage programs, healthier manufacturing, smarter sourcing to flat out standing up for what’s right (AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson — nice one!), it’s the path of the enlightened to take the marketing money and do something good. The world doesn’t really need another shelf talker, buy one get one free offer, or supermega-20-pack of anything. But good? Yes, it can always use that.Consumers agree! And, bonus, Smart Brands are doing it for profitAnd here.

2) Promote Intentional Consumption. The biggest angst most of us have is caused by the cesspit of marketing messages. Thousands of times a day, all day long, every year of our lives, we are told that something is missing. We will not feel whole until we have purchased that something. Then we consume that thing, and it doesn’t fix us. Spiritual brands add to the human conversation, treat people like they are complete and grow because of it.

3) Build Brand Culture from the Inside Out. Why is the most over-used word, authenticity, become so meaningful? Because humans know other humans who work for, with or around your brand, product or company. Every brand says they’re awesome. Yet, the actual experience people have with a brand might be far from that. Wells Fargo anyone? If you’re not putting as much effort into getting your own people to find real meaning into the endeavor that is your brand, it’s that much harder to get anyone else.

4) The Embodied Presence of Interdependence. Everything is connected. From the macro idea that all things are just different faces of Consciousness to the everyday reality of your supply chain, your reputation, your employees, your customers, your cleaning crew and your planet, all things are connected and interdependent. Make decisions that embody this truth and good will flow.

5) The Slow Return. You’ve heard of the slow food movement? Spiritual brands pay more attention to the long term then they do to the next quarter. We’re all guilty of the “we’re not making our numbers” panic-slash-and-burn- desperation -BOGOF to please the revenue gods. But this should be the exception to how brands act and not the rule. Build something, stand for something, act inherently valuable, take a deep breath and create a better environment for your outcomes to grow and prosper.

Have anything to add to this list? Hit me up jcstevens21@gmail.com

I Speak PowerPoint

Many of the talented creative people I admire do as well.

We often lament that the business we are actually in is making PowerPoint Decks.

If Brian Grazer and Scott Rudin produce little things like Summer Blockbusters, we produce PowerPoint decks. If they have stories of coked up actors and studio honchos ready to pull the plug, we have stories of Diet-Coked up account people and creative directors ready to pull an all-nighter.

Entire eras become defined by these decks. From the initial pitch of an idea to the 17 follow up presentations for various pieces of that idea that need to be sold and then, of course, the refresh deck to try and sell it all over again for the next fiscal, it becomes our own little Lord of the Beer Launch trilogy.

You go on portfolio sites of Art Directors, Photographers, Videographers, Editors, etc. and you can actually see their work in all its lush visual glory. Sound, motion, amazement. You are a CREATIVE!

My best work is literally in deck after deck after deck.

I’m not sure what it says after 15 years of being a “creative”, but the only answer I have for the Gladwellian question of our times are that my 10,000 hours went to: Microsoft PowerPoint.

Here are my top nine PowerPoint observations that I’ve noticed somewhere along these 10,000 hours.

1) Art Directors vs. PPT

Almost without fail, Art Directors will not want you to touch the deck — they will want to take it and lay it out in In Design and give it back to you like you can’t be trusted with laying stuff out cause you’re a writer. True. You can’t. But let me tell you this, Art Director, YOU don’t have to change things in the cab and on the elevator and in the lobby and in the room 37 seconds before the client walks in. You’re back at the ranch with your bobble head doll collection, your ironic t-shirt and Pax 2 Vaporizer and we’re in the room with our CEO who has just thrown a stapler. Honestly, I would say for the 13–21% uplift in a better-looking slide, I’ll take the PPT and 99% ease of changing the deck every time.

2) Don’t Forget: Clients Needs Them Slides

You want a seat at the Strategy table? Of course you do, who wants to be a commodity? You know you got yourself one when you see your client take your deck, Command C the content and present it to the Big Boss. Or, and don’t pee your pants here, watching the Big Boss present it at the yearly company conference to like, 500–1000 way too psyched up field staff. This is your Oscar. Design accordingly.

3) Visuals Are Best

When clients tell you they are “very visual,” they mean impatient and self-absorbed. So get to the point. Avoid death by PPT. Can you find one killer visual that makes your story go? At the end of it all you want people listening to you, not reading a slide. Here’s a slide I used to put into most every deck. Vinnie Jones at the end of Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrelssays this as the last line of the film. “It’s been emotional.” Then, of course, the work that follows, should be as well.


4) The Walk-In Slide:

Baseball players have walk up music, so have a walk in slide.

What interesting visual idea or teaser are you going to put on the screen when everyone is walking in? The suits will certainly want a title slide with a date and a logo of your agency. That’s nice. Every other agency on this pitch will have the same thing. But it’s probably a missed opportunity. Throw something interesting up there. Or something dead simple. Ben Bailey of generousitas used this one and I’ve since borrowed it on a few occasions when in a pinch.


5) Get What They Asked For Out of the Way Early:

Here’s a Big Tip: You’re an hour into a presentation and the client has notseen the thing they came to this meeting to see. They’re antsy and on their phones or about ready to jump out of their chairs. If you aren’t going to give them everything they asked for, tell them this early so they know. They can relax and listen instead of wanting to strangle you.

6) The Story

Have you seen The Prestige? I’ll wait if you haven’t…Chris Nolan, damn.

Here are the three beats of a magic trick:

The Pledge: Tell them what you are going to tell them. The logical. The roadmap to where we are going.

The Turn: Where in we take the ordinary and do something extraordinary with it.

The Prestige: Then we do the hardest part, we bring it back.

It’s a high-level way to think about your deck. We are, in many cases, performing magic, after all.

7) The Structure


Assignment: They gave you one. It’s most likely in brand speak. Repeat that on a slide. Then rewrite it so it makes some sense on the next. Get heads nodding.

Our Blather: You work at an agency, right? Your agency has a process that no other agency has, right? Using heightened language that no other agency uses, remember? People at your agency, maybe even you, have spent a LOT of time on this stuff. This goes here. Note: Self-important people at your agency will want to make this section loooooooong. Resist them. Make them get to their point. Because, and don’t tell them this, other agencies have this too.

The Blender Section: This is the section where we tell them all the things we considered and put into our metaphorical blender to make this platinum smoothie we are about to serve. In this section please include, but not be limited to:

The Target: Who are we after again?

The Insight(s): Please tell me you have something here. Good insights are harder to find than great ideas. Bad insights are everywhere. Hunt for a good one, it’s time well spent.

The Strategy: I hear this a lot. “They LOVED the strategy, but not the actual work.” It’s a bit like saying we loved the place setting, just not the actual meal. Your strategist will smile. But they’re a strategist for a reason. I like writing strategy. I like making it after the ideas. Clients do need this section. Their MBA’s need this section. Some sort of brand mapping double axis chart mixed with an action our audience will engage with should do the trick. A simple, insightful strategy can win a pitch, if they don’t like anyone’s work.


This is where the creative takes over. You’ve set the table, lit the candles, opened the wine and now it’s time to serve the meal. I might put the Vinnie Jones slide here and talk about how people buy on emotion.

The Walkup: People LOVE to know how the creative process works. What roads did you explore? What connections did you make? Why did you make the choices you made and what led you from point A to point B? Tell that tale here. The response you are looking for: ‘My god, your thinking is extraordinary!” Because if you do it right, the thing you are about to reveal is and can only be the very thing they are looking for!


Your idea(s): Go here. It’s been emotional.

The Blowout: The 360, omni-channel, multi-dimensional, trucks-to-cups work goes here. I like to leave a few obvious ways this idea blows out purposely missing. I like when the clients create them in the meeting. “And you could do this with your idea,” say the clients. “That is GENIUS!” I say.

8) The Close

Tell them what you just told them. Put a picture of their brand in the middle of the slide and then put little visuals of the work around that brand and give them the elevator speech. See, it all came together.

9) The Final Slide

Never put “Next Steps?”. Tell them the next steps. Maybe put “Questions?” or just ask if there are any.

This is a final slide from a Landshark Lager Pitch.


If you need some more help doing a properly cool and amazing deck drop me a line at jcstevens21@gmail.com.