Branding & Culture: The Martin Lindstrom Way

Good branding and strong culture are two integral elements that make up successful companies. Martin Lindstrom understands the relevance and importance of branding and culture emphatically from his research. If you don’t know who he is, you ought to. Taking a deep dive into his principles will help propel your business to new heights.

Many entrepreneurs still confuse the two terms even though there is a rabbit hole of differences between the two concepts:

  • Branding: Is your story about who you are. It is how the general populace, your customers and stakeholders, perceive your business. In other words, your branding is the narrative you are trying to sell to the public. 

For example, McDonald’s portrays a cheery, friendly, and family-friendly brand perfect for get-togethers and quick, laidback meals. Nike, on the other hand, makes people feel like they’re the best athletes while wearing Nike’s signature trainers.

  • Culture: Is your business’s actual character. It’s the sum total of your purpose, principles, and values. It’s what you tolerate to happen in your business, and the tribe you surround yourself with. Your culture is represented by the actions and behaviors you take and allow those who represent you to take. 

For example, if you have a a happy, cheerful, and family-friendly brand, but you treat your employees like garbage, threaten their livelihood, and cuss like longshoreman, your buying experience will reflect that. The more incongruent your brand and culture, the worse your buying experience. This will result in long term failure. 

Here’s the catch, though. Your branding can be fabricated, but your culture cannot.

Since branding is mostly external, a company can simply invent a story that appeals to the masses and favors the company. Even those with problematic cultures can sell their stories and make it seem believable (for a while). However, during these trying times, there will be disparity between the company’s branding and its true culture. Any entity that contradicts itself is bound to crumble in the end.

Culture, on the other hand, is much harder to change, but when you do so in a positive manner, its impacts are extensive. You can not simply “fake it till you make it” with culture. Culture is your identity and identity defines activity and behavior. When you rejuvenate your culture at its core, your story naturally changes along with it.

This is where Martin Lindstrom comes in. He’s a brand guru whose perspectives can help you change your business for the better. Here, we’ll explore Lindstrom’s thoughts on branding and culture to see how you can use them in your own company. Keep reading.

Who Is Martin Lindstrom_Who Is Martin Lindstrom?

Before we delve deeper into branding and culture transformation, let’s take a closer look at our esteemed branding expert first. Martin Lindstrom is a best-selling author and brand guru who primarily focuses on branding and culture in his books. As an author and coach, Martin Lindstrom has brought meaningful changes to the culture of countless household brands.

On top of those, Martin has made it to the list of top 50 business thinkers in the renowned Thinkers50 list. TIME magazine lists Martin as part of the most respected people in the world. He is also LinkedIn’s top voice US influencer of December 2021.

Martin Lindstrom’s feats are not ordinary, and for good reasons- he is the foremost authority in branding and culture. He has seven books under his belt and we’ll dissect them all to extract his principles.

Molding your company culture and shaping the public’s perception through your branding are both challenging tasks. You’ll encounter ups and downs along the way that will shake things up but also build strength. 

However, if there’s a way to skip the “downs” and only keep progressing, wouldn’t you want that? You could if you had a mentor.

That’s what Wizard of Sales® is here for. We’ll help you build the perfect culture that strengthens your entire framework. We’ll also write the perfect and genuine story that stems from your company culture. If you’re interested, all it takes is booking a call.

Lindstrom’s Best-Selling Books

Martin Lindstrom is a best-selling author and one of the world’s most powerful branding and culture transformation experts. His many works have been featured in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Fast Company, Forbes, and Huffington Post. 

Below are his seven publications and the golden nuggets readers can get from each of them: 

  • Small Data: The Tiny Clues that Uncover Huge Trends

In this book, Martin Lindstrom spends 300 nights a year living with strangers. His goal was to observe every detail and underlying desires that could help hint at a multi-million dollar product. His research allowed him to connect the dots between human behavior that industry marketers could use for businesses.

There’s no shortage of big stratified data out there. Still, learning every customer’s personal account reveals a story that large datasets fail to reveal. Shopping behaviors are influenced by layers of complex factors. This book outlined those elements to help business owners in their marketing endeavors.

  • Buyology – Truth and Lies About Why We Buy

Buyology” was a product of a three-year, seven-million-dollar study that peered into the brains of 2 thousand participants worldwide. The book aimed to dissect what truly piques the interests of buyers and what drives them to purchase. Among his findings, he found that gruesome health warnings not only fail to discourage smoking but actually encourage smoking further.

Martin Lindstrom looked into household brands like Nokia, Ford, Marlboro and Calvin Klein. Through their revolutionary neuromarketing study, readers will realize that much of what we believe in marketing is not true.

  • The Ministry of Common Sense

Do you notice that you’re a different person every time you step foot in your place of business? From humanity, you step into a persona that’s entrenched in rules, regulations and bureaucracy.

“The Ministry of Common Sense” is Lindstrom’s latest book. In it, he advocates a return to common sense in a world that is driven by data, technology and politics. According to him, the lack of common sense means the absence of empathy. We couldn’t risk this status especially since businesses deal with human beings.

The book provided useful change management techniques that could bring teams back to the state of common sense. This includes celebrating wins, showcasing value, and telling stories within the team.

  • Brandwashed

Brandwashed” is Lindstrom’s most popular book. In it, the author walks us through the dark side of marketing. He reveals how companies use underhanded techniques to get us to buy their products.

Some of these include:

    • Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP): A set of techniques that salespeople use to manipulate customers into buying something.
    • Priming: A psychological technique that companies use to influence our behavior without us even realizing it.
    • The Pester Power Principle: A marketing strategy that targets children, who then pester their parents into buying the product.

Would you agree that businesses know more about how a customer’s brain works than the customer himself? Lindstrom proves it in this book.

Lindstrom’s writing style is very engaging, and he does a great job of explaining the science behind these marketing techniques. He also offers some suggestions on how we can defend ourselves against them.

  • Brandchild: Remarkable Insights

Children and early teens, whom Lindstrom called “tweens” throughout the book are one of the biggest and most coveted markets. Why? Because they strongly influence their family’s buying decisions. They’re hard to capture, but they control an enormous amount of cash.

In this book, Lindstrom takes us on a journey into the world of children. He shows us how they think, and how they relate to brands. The most important thing you’ll learn here is the elements that matter most to kids. Martin also shared the pitfalls to avoid if you want to tap into their purchasing power.

  • Clicks, Bricks, and Brands

“Clicks, Bricks, and Brands” is perhaps one of his books that didn’t age well given the current modern business models. The pandemic initiated a revolution that pushed for online stores to thrive and brick-and-mortar stores to senesce.

In this book, Lindstrom sets out to understand how the digital world has affected our shopping habits. He looks at how e-commerce has changed the way we shop for good and bad. The book is an interesting read if you want to understand how the internet has changed consumer behavior.

  • Brand Building on the Internet

The internet demands a new strategic method on how businesses could attract and interact with their customers. “Brand Building on the Internet” tackles how companies could build an online presence. He explores the idea of how to create a brand that people will want to buy into.

The publication answers several questions, and some principles may still be relevant. Keep in mind that the book was published in 1997, which means some may not apply in today’s online climate.

Martin Lindstrom on BrandingMartin Lindstrom on Branding

Martin Lindstrom had an interesting perspective on branding. Contrary to popular belief, Lindstrom says branding begins in the womb. The sound and tastes that mothers experience are transmitted to their growing fetuses. This then translates to building their preferences from birth until maturity.

The most important books that fully capture Lindstrom’s principles on branding are “Buyology,” “Small Data” and “Brandwashed.” Knowing how people think and their internal motivations is the first step to understanding what businesses are dealing with. It’s easy to tailor your story to people when you know what makes them tick.

Remember that branding is mostly external. Frankly enough, if only money counts to you, it doesn’t matter what happens in the backend so long as the story sells. That said, here are some of the most powerful tricks that businesses use for branding purposes:

Evoking Emotions

Like Wizard of Sales®, Martin Lindstrom also believes that emotions are a powerful tool that establishes branding.

Take a look at Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like” commercial. In a 30-second clip, they manage to push the right emotional triggers while still delivering their message to a tee. Old Spice sought to establish their deodorant as a million-dollar manly scented fragrance and it worked.

Take note that the commercial was never intended for men, they targeted women. The aim was to make single and taken females use Old Spice as a “desire” metric for their mates.

Always remember that every person’s buying decisions stem from the part of the brain that exclusively feels. This area doesn’t understand words and logic. Therefore, using emotions as tools could very well be effective in any business.

Think about what emotional angles you could use for your advertising. Attack from that frame of mind.

Manipulation of Consumer Perceptions

This sounds harsh, but manipulation is often a game that busnesses play on their customers. Some are done in good faith, others are sketchy. For example, Martin Lindstrom said that businesses like Whole Foods like to display fresh fishes that are not for sale. They only serve as aesthetics to attract buyers and build the company’s reputation as a farm-fresh store.

Guess what, it works.

The goal is to find ways you can position yourself as a reliable and trustworthy brand. It’s challenging, but if you think hard enough, there are things you could do to play with your customer’s perception.

Exploit Fear

Businesses and marketers often use fear as a stepping stone to uphold their branding. In Brandwashed, Martin Lindstrom explains that in the human psyche, fear is a potent emotion for marketing.

For example, look at antibacterial gels and alcohols. During the height of the coronavirus, we saw big companies ramp up advertising on these products.

There’s just one problem: coronavirus is an airborne and droplet-spread virus. Antibacterial agents have little to do with them unless you’re sneezing into your bare hand.

Businesses are always preying on emotions. Almost every commercial out there is set on portraying their solutions as the heroes. From insurance agencies to laundry detergents, businesses will always find a way to strike fear.


Because it amplifies the branding of a company and the value of its offering. For example, let’s take a look at a plumbing commercial concept. An illustrative portrayal of a leaky pipe that disrupts a homeowner’s daily operations could plant the right amount of fear. It could push homeowners to have people into having their fixtures checked.

The thing is, consumers are getting more and more desentized to extraordinary claims and fear mongering tactics. Fear-based tactics are effetive, as long as you understand the risks and diminishing returns. 

Entices Game-Playing Instincts

Gamification is also another tactic employed by businesses to prey on customers’ addictive tendencies. Everyone is exploitable and has a tendency to be addicted to certain things. While addiction comes from constant exposure, addiction can be forced without us noticing.

According to Martin Lindstrom, companies do this all the time. For instance, exclusive store vouchers, limited-time offer discounts and sudden sales are all examples of this. Even when customers don’t want to buy or are not planning to, losing out on these amazing offers feels unbearable.

They turn business into a game. When you establish a brand that provides strategic discounts and offensively huge values, customers will inevitably play along. That’s the power of gamification.

For residential home services, you can do this by creating a perfectly fair competitive advantage. That means a value that outstrips all other competitors even if your asking price is higher. Reel them in through those, introduce your club membership and offer exclusive price cuts for members.

They play, everyone wins.

Martin Lindstrom on Culture

Of course, branding only comes second to the truly defining element of a company – culture. Any branding you fake is a fragile foundation that is bound to fail one way or another. You need to establish a strong culture first, and then branding will naturally follow.

Here’s what Martin Lindstrom discovered in terms of establishing a well-rooted company culture.

Small Data

Lindstrom’s idea of culture somewhat takes an inverted pyramid approach. That means, he likes to look at things from a larger scale, before changes could be made within the company. Take a look at his book “Small Data.” While he preaches that there are nuances to the big data reported by metrics, he still analyzes large data.  

Allow me to explain. Your goal as a company is to serve your customers at the highest level. To do that, you require a brand that is rooted in top-notch services and high-quality products. However, we also know that culture is the foundation of branding.

That said, the only way to serve your customers is by tailoring your culture to their desired preferences. For example, customers want fast and reliable services. Your solution then is to uphold a culture of quality and fast action throughout your company. This culture will emanate in every touchpoint of your business.

It always begins with the management and it trickles down to every worker, office person, or tech at your disposal.

Align Cultural Values

What makes one culture unique from another is their shared customs, values, and norms. Go to India and people share a love for the diverse use of spices and sauces in their cuisines. Why? Because it’s their culture. An American might not appreciate as much as they do, because we don’t share the same culture.

The point is that when you create a culture that everyone subscribes to, you align your company with that culture. You’ll be surprised to see that culture becomes the overarching identity throughout your business.

Given the previous point, what qualities are your market looking for in a business? Use those things as a guide to extract a company culture that will meet your customers’ needs.

Remember, identity defines activity.

Strong internal communication

Strong Internal Communication

There is a direct relationship between communication and culture. The more communication, the stronger the company culture.

However, there’s a caveat. That depends on what the communication is about. If it covers business-related subjects that aim to edify the company and point it in the right direction, it’s good. Conversing about things unrelated like gossiping or destructive comments only works to destroy a company from the inside.

The way you communicate will either support or erode your culture.

For example, imagine a company’s core values being transparency and customer service. Regular communication with employees about the company’s performance on those values will help to reinforce them.

Arguments are fine, as long as they stand on the proper platform talking about the right kind of discussions. That’s what a strong company culture looks like.

We cannot communicate effectively and sustainably to buyer audiences before mastering internal communication.” – Lateef Mauricio

Branding and culture work hand-in-hand in creating the best business that serves customers at the highest level. Martin Lindstrom offers valuable insights on how you can reinforce both fronts in your business. While this guide is short and brief, his books are quite extensive in explaining how entrepreneurs could build the two.

You are now met with three options in light of reading this:

  1. First, you do nothing about your branding and culture and let time tell you where it goes.
  2. Second, you read all Martin Lindstrom books and extract all the principles you can muster to apply to your business.
  3. Finally, seek a mentor’s help to guide you through branding and culture. One that will tailor the action plan to your specific circumstances and needs. An expert who has worked and has helped other businesses’ branding and culture in the past.

Option number 3 could be Ryan Chute, Wizard of Sales®. If you want to protect and defend a happy, healthy, wealthy culture for your business, we’re here to help. It begins with booking a free call and we’ll go from there.