Lili Ermezei

Designing for change and innovation with the combination of design, business and psychology.

MSc Organisational and Business Psychology, University of Liverpool

MA Visual Communication, MOME

Brain-based Coach Certificate, NeuroLeadership Institute

How Marty Neumeier Taught Me to Flip Brands

How Marty Neumeier Taught Me to Flip Brands

I am tremendously passionate about consuming and creating meaningful brands that build a following people want in on. As a creative and brand strategist, I am eager to belong to certain tribes and be involved in creating them, too. So when I heard that my clients and I had the possibility to attend a workshop hosted by the brand guru Marty Neumeier, I was absolutely excited. Read below my key takes on The Brand Flip workshop.

Marty Neumeier at the Brand Flip workshop in Helsinki, 2016

Marty Neumeier at the Brand Flip workshop in Helsinki, 2016

1. Simplicity Rules

At first it felt surreal to meet Marty in person after having read, used, and shared his books, methods and ideas in my daily work. He however is laid-back and easy to approach, so you get used to his presence quite quickly. The best thing about his approach is the authenticity and clarity he applies in everything. Much so that my immediate reaction was: "Oh, this makes so much sense that I wonder how come I didn't come up with it myself." 

2. Workshopping Builds Empathy

I have partnered with one our clients to codesign their brand strategy.
With this particular client we already have a well-developed, agile working culture, and a strong relationship. However, the two days we spent together gave us the possibility to learn more about each other's way of thinking more in-depth. We argued, agreed and disagreed. We stopped existing as agency and client and became one team where the brand, and most importantly, its customers played the main role. 

3. Brand Flipping is Hard Work

Work and keeping focus is an unsurprisingly crucial element of a brand workshop. Distractions are everywhere, so you need tools and specific outcomes and objectives to keep the group engaged. Marty has his own tools and frameworks that allowed us to stay committed and focused. He introduced the Brand Commitment Matrix from his new bestseller, giving us experienced brand-people a new and fresh approach to reimagine the brand we were working on and “flip” our thinking with the new framework. (To find out more about the Brand Commitment Matrix, read Marty's newest book, The Brand Flip)

4. From Chaos to Catharsis and Empathy Again

There were six brands that took part in the workshop. We worked in teams to develop the brands and present the findings to others. Marty was very hands-on with all teams, asking the right questions to have us see the brands through the customers' eyes. The teams opened up about their concerns, questions and problems, creating a trusting and honest atmosphere, where everyone could approach and give feedback in a constructive manner. We were all active participants. This collaboration between different brands helped to build empathy and to switch the lenses from "what we think" to "what they think".

Marty talks about the "No-process process" as the real process of team work where he breaks the linear phase-by-phase structure to simultaneous collaboration. What I enjoyed the most, was the variety of our participating brands: it brought together diverse thinkers who were enthusiastic about helping each other tackle various issues. Many good ideas came from the teams, but the best ones were inspired by people who looked at a given brand from the outside.  This again proves the main branding principle of Neumeier: brands are defined by individuals not companies.

Your brand is not what you say it is, it’s what they say it is
— Marty Neumeier

5. You Think You Know...

Having been involved with the brands previously, I came to the workshop confident I already knew a lot, and I believe the other participants believed that too. However; it's not enough if you think you know... When you are midst a (productive) chaos or crisis state of the real process, having someone ask the right questions can make magic.

+1: It is Possible

It was Marty's second time in Helsinki. He'd been invited by Wonder Agency's Founder and Managing Director Tobias Dahlberg both times, because he wanted to learn from Marty in person and share his immense knowledge with his company and clients alike. That is what I call a real growth mindset, kudos to that.

What Would I Change?

I would skip that 5-minute break I took to reply some urgent emails. It still bugs me to think what I might have missed...


About Marty Neumeier
Marty Neumeier is an author, designer, and business adviser whose mission is to bring the principles and processes of creativity to industry. His series of “whiteboard” books includes The Brand Gap, widely considered the foundation of modern brand-building; Zag, named one of the “top hundred business books of all time” for its insights into brand strategy; and The Designful Company, a guide to building a culture of nonstop innovation. His latest book, The 46 Rules of Genius, lays out a universal map to innovation mastery.

In 1996, Neumeier founded Critique magazine, the first journal about design thinking. He has worked closely with innovative companies such as Apple, Netscape, Sun Microsystems, HP, Adobe, Google, and Microsoft to help advance their brands and cultures. He also served on the AIGA national board and developed its first mission statement since it was founded in 1914. Today Marty serves as Director of Transformation for Liquid Agency in Silicon Valley, and travels extensively as a workshop leader and speaker on the topics of innovation, brand, and design. (source:

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