By Mark Natale

At Smarthinking Inc, our love of creating remarkable brands is only trumped by our collective lust for great bands. We are all fanatics (in the truest sense of the word) of bands who have carved out a position within their respective culture, and consistently demonstrated their compelling musical point of view. So much so that we see great brands in a very similar light - a commanding point of view that makes one want to be a part of it all.

Recently I was watching an old interview with Gene Simmons from the band KISS. In that interview, Gene was talking about the importance of soulful playing vs. technical proficiency and he undoubtedly made the distinction that playing from your heart makes a greater impact on the audience. Yes – technical proficiency and command of one’s instrument are vital, but the most critical aspect is how you approach the music, your point of view.

This is evident if you look at KISS’ early evolution. Before they were “The Hottest Band In The World,” they were Wicked Lester, a free spirit act that mimicked the popular folk bands of the time. Their sound was more peace, love and harmony than the pyro, punch and growl that would later become signature Kiss. But beneath all the grooviness of Wicked Lester there was a point of view waiting to escape and make itself known.  Shortly after disbanding Wicked Lester, KISS was born with a definitive perspective and style. Essentially they stopped imitating the others and started being themselves.

We often see this same approach happen when building brands. Too often, the people involved come to a project with preconceived notions of what something “should be.”


A luxury residential building? A ship full of the finest Calacatta marble just left the Carrara Region and is headed directly to us.

A Miami hotel? A poolside DJ everyday!

A world-class spa? Can I get twenty tons of bamboo, please? And don’t be shy with the Zen!


My point here is that too many projects are predetermined by the team based on what they think the market wants rather than their unique point of view. The result? At best, a me-too brand that matches your competitors’ offering. At worst (and more probable), a completely forgettable product that no one truly remembers. They’ve seen it before.

In order to fully maximize your investment, the power of your brand, and therefore your project’s long-term success, before you start any work, ask your team the following three questions:


1. Who Are We?

2. What Is It That We Do?

3. Why Does It Matter?

If you cannot uniquely answer question #3… keep working. Once you have defined it, measure all of your efforts against it. Does this fit what we are trying to accomplish or is it simply what the status quo would be?  Your dedication to creating a truly unique offering has a direct correlation to your project’s success.

Are you sure you want to be “Wicked?” I’ll bet you have more to offer than that.