The Fortune Cookie Principle

  • Summary written by:

"Every idea, every innovation, every product and service has two elements: the cookie and the fortune. The cookie is the commodity, the utility, the tangible product. The cookie is the thing you put in the shop window and it has a fixed value. Then there’s the fortune, the magical, intangible part of the product or service, which is where the real value lies in the heart and minds of the customer."

- Fortune Cookie Principle, page 5

We live in an age where it is easy to reach people, but hard to make them listen or care. There is too much noise and infinite choice. So, most brands’ messages get ignored.

The only way to get noticed and remembered, according to Bernadette Jiwa in her book, The Fortune Cookie Principle, is to change how people feel about your brand. Giving them a reason why you should matter to them.

To achieve this, marketers must stop selling the features (cookie) and rather spend their time on creating a better story (fortune).

And a better story is not done through advertising or a marketing campaign slapped on at the end of product creation. It is baked into everything your brand does and touch, right from the start.

The Big Idea

The Big Idea: The biggest takeaway from the book

Be a brand, not a commodity

"Branding might enable you to be top-of-mind. But top of-mind isn’t the same as close-to-heart."
- Fortune Cookie Principle, page 12

Just because people know who you are does not mean that they care. And the only way to make them care and feel something is to attach meaning to your product to make it a brand.

Product – Meaning = Commodity

Product + Meaning = Brand

People do not buy your product because of its features, even if they use it as justification. They buy because of how it makes them feel.

The same way we do not buy fortune cookies because they taste better than other cookies, but because of the delight they deliver at the end of a meal.

Insight #1

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

Tell a better brand story

"Every day, people who are ‘good enough’ succeed because they tell a better story."
- Fortune Cookie Principle, page 8

A brand story is more than just the written narrative. The story is a complete picture made up of facts, feelings, and interpretations, which means that part of your story isn’t even told by you.

Your audience choose the message they want to hear, and they now have the (social media) platforms and tools to spread the ideas they care about. So, give them a great story to tell.

It’s not the product with the most features and bells and whistles that comes out on top. Nor is it the top performers that get the best jobs.

Dollar Shave Club took the ultimate commodity and told a story about how you are paying too much for shave tech you do not need, which matched the worldview of their potential customers. Their $4500 promo video went viral resulting in 17,000 new subscribers. In contrast Gillette spent $185m on marketing in 2010.

It’s those who tell a better story that win.

Insight #2

An actionable way to implement the Big Idea into your life

The 20 key brand building framework

"The Fortune Cookie Principle is a brand building framework and communication strategy consisting of twenty keys that enable you to begin telling your brand’s story from the inside out."
- Fortune Cookie Principle, page 14

Bernadette gives you 20 keys to help you begin telling your brand’s story:

1. The Truth – What business are you really in? How do your customers want to feel? You are not selling cars, you are selling safety (Volvo) or excitement (Porsche).

2. Purpose – What is the reason you exist? (Hint: it’s not to make money.) Google satisfies curiosity for anyone with access the the web. Share your purpose and give your brand a reason to matter.

3. Vision  – What happens because you exist? How will the change your business brings about change how your customers feel and act?

4. Values – How are you demonstrating your beliefs to the world and to your customers? Not knowing the beliefs of the company leaves you incapable of acting in the correct way.

5. Products and Services – Most products and services can and should have meaning attached to them.

6. Your People – Whom you hire, what they stand for, and how they show up all tell a story.

7. Value you deliver – Value has very little to do with price. Yet, we keep wondering what people will pay for instead of wondering what is valuable.

8. Name and Tagline – A great name can elevate a business and build a story around it. Nike would not have been so successful if they stuck with their old name: Blue Ribbon Sports.

9. Content and Copy – Your content and copy are your voice and the way you communicate your brand’s personality. If it is not interesting and engaging then you will fail to communicate effectively.

10. Design – Design can change how people feel and interact with your brand. Think Apple.

11.Your Actions – Your actions are everything you do. From answering the phone through to support. They must be aligned with your company values.

12. Customer Experience – Customer experience is everything that happens when people encounter your brand.

13. Price and Quality – The price you charge sends a signal to the type of people you want to attract.

14. Perception – Influencing how your customers perceive your brand is about changing how they feel in every interaction, not by how you manipulate their thinking.

15. Distribution – How you get your products and services into the hands of customers sends them a signal about your brand. It can also provide a competitive advantage.

16. Location  – Location isn’t just about where you choose to do business; it’s about figuring out where your customers are.

17. Ubiquity or Scarcity – Do you want to appeal to the masses or create products and services for people with a particular worldview?

18. Community – Does the brand have a purpose that brings your customers together as a community? Could it?

19. Reputation – What does one person say to another to recommend your brand? People trust stories and reference from other people more than your own website.

20. Reaction and Reach – Are you giving customers opportunities to demonstrate loyalty to your brand?

Some of these keys will be more important than others depending on your industry and unique circumstances. Which ones are important in your business? What have you done to tell your story and turn your product from a commodity into a brand?

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