Three tips for a more mindful approach to branding

Red Smeg fridge underneath a small table that has food and drinks atop it
Image from Virgin Hotels
Julie Cottineau head shot
by Julie Cottineau
10 September 2019

We live in a world where we are constantly bombarded with advertising. But what if there was another way for companies to get their messages across? Branding expert Julie Cottineau, founder of BrandTwist argues that there is...

I work with entrepreneurs all over the world that are passionate about their ideas, but pretty lukewarm (even shy) about promoting them. They struggle with coming across as too aggressive or too ‘salesy’. As a result, they miss out on proactively sharing their message with the very people that their product or service was created to serve, thus diminishing their impact.

Headshot of Julie Cottineau
Image from Julie Cottineau

An unfortunate Catch-22.

For many years I worked as the VP of the Virgin brand in North America alongside Richard Branson and other wonderful entrepreneurs. I always admired how Virgin takes a more ‘mindful’ approach to branding. Long before the concept of mindfulness became mainstream, the Virgin team practiced a less aggressive, but highly impactful, mindful approach to building their portfolio of life-changing brands.

The following tips on mindful branding are developed from my time at Virgin, my work at BrandTwist and my own personal journey towards  a more mindful way of living.

1) Practice, not perfection

Branding is always a work in progress. It is built over time. Taking risks (and learning from them) is a valuable part of the journey.

Mindfulness is the practice of purposefully focusing all of your attention on the current moment, and accepting it without judgment. Mindful branding is also a ‘practice’. It is the purposeful, continued activity of building a brand experience over time that leads to a deeper connection with your targets. It’s not a ‘one and done’ big splashy ad campaign. Virgin is particularly good at leveraging small moments that build an overall experience and paying attention to moments of magic. Fly with Virgin Atlantic or stay at Virgin Hotels and you will feel that love and care has gone into designing the little moments that matter – being greeted with your favourite snacks when you check in with Virgin Hotels, for example.

Having worked at Virgin, I can also say there is a huge company culture emphasis on learning from mistakes. The idea of ‘failing harder’ – taking measured risk and learning from it – is embraced as part of brand development work.

As Richard Branson says: “Every person, and especially every entrepreneur should embrace failure with open arms. It is only through failure that we learn.”

Putting too much pressure on ourselves for every brand activity, promotion, social media post etc. to be perfect can be paralysing. A more mindful approach to branding is to be less judgemental. Take the pressure off and have more fun with your branding. Realise that even the ‘mistakes’ will yield valuable information that can lead to stronger branding over time.

Two Virgin Holidays employees try out the virtual reality rollercoaster at Virgin Holidays V-Room
Virgin Holidays

2) Be present

Mindfulness is fundamentally learning how to be more fully present. This is also a very valuable lesson for branding. In my book, TWIST: How Fresh Perspectives Build Breakthrough Brands, I talk about many impactful ways we can learn from brands all around us and how to extract and TWIST those valuable lessons for your own business. 

I call it A+++ branding where the first A stands for Awareness – become aware of great brand experiences all around you (your favourite restaurant, retail experience, live performance). Then Analyse what’s specifically driving your connection. Finally, Apply those lessons to your own brand. A great way to do this is to go on a ‘brand safari’, get out of the office and experience the brand scape around you. Notice the little moments, and let them inspire your own branding practice. 

Ice cream
Image from Virgin Atlantic

3) Lead with your heart

Great brands don’t sell, they make people feel. Spend more time listening to what your target needs, explore the issues they are facing and then use that insight to set an intention on how to serve them better. 

Communicate this intention to serve your target, be more present to inspiration all around you, and remember that practice, not perfection, is the goal. Take a deep breath, exhale and embrace a more mindful approach to branding!

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