These three brand lessons from the Olympics are even more surprising

The Olympic games are now over, but the Olympic Spirit still lingers in the atmosphere. Still inspired, I dove even deeper to see what the Olympic Charter had to offer. This is a document similar to a constitution and it describes and defines the Olympic Movement, including its most important principles and values.

I had no doubt that the Olympic Movement is powerful and that it still had lessons to teach brands. Following are extracts from the Charter that stood out and to me and which I think have the power to reinvigorate your brand.

“It (the Olympic Charter) governs the organization, action, and operation of the Olympic Movement and sets forth the conditions for the celebration of the Olympic Games.”

There is a very important significance in wording here. According to the Charter, the Olympic Games are not being “held” nor “made”, but celebrated. This is a crucial distinction which encompasses the Olympic spirit and serves as a vision of how the Olympic Games should be treated as. The Olympic bodies treat the Games as more of a festival than a competition. This can be observed in reality too: from the big and colorful opening and closing ceremonies to the spirit of hope and joy the games bring globally.

This kind of wording is a very good indicator of self-awareness and self-knowledge. Traits which fundamental to any brand. They stem from careful observation of one’s own history and reflect insight of the present day. To possess this ability though, to testify about your organization’s truth takes particular will and effort not everybody is willing to make.

In my experience as a consultant, some brands try to live up to an unrealistic expectation of themselves, especially those tied to megalomanic projections of being “The biggest” and “The greatest”, but they could never escape the perceptions people had of their businesses.

Brands are inevitably tied to perceptions, but more importantly, they are tied to the truth. From a branding perspective, the first step in developing a successful brand is reality itself. It’s much easier for businesses to work with their own truths and build upon their own strengths. The only way to reach that elusive 100th floor is if you start from the ground and up.

A Brand with more than 100 floors can also suffer greatly if they don’t tune in to what their customers and press are saying. Living in the clouds, as attractive it may sound, hasn’t done businesses any good. Any leadership, new or old, experienced or not has to be prepared to look directly into the eyes of truth if they want to ensure their brand’s future.

What are the realities of your business you are not prepared to face? Do you keep finding yourself in a position to constantly disagree with your clients? Has a negative word or sentence been associated with your business? Maybe it’s time to put down those rose-tinted glasses.

The first step 2

“Olympism is a philosophy of life…”

Far from reaching quarterly sales goals, the essence of the Olympic movement is a philosophy. Moreover, it’s a philosophy of life itself. What can be more in touch with reality than this? Businesses also start as an idea, a vision to contribute and change the world in some way. This is very obvious, but some businesses can lose total track of it.

For startups, as we mentioned, it’s easy for them to get carried away with their megalomanic ideas. CEOs face the hurdle of being swept by so many different things at once that they lose track of why they funded the business in the first place. It’s especially hard to maintain a certain philosophy when it comes to high-performing managers who can perceive business principles as “obstacles to success.” Culture in higher management circles can get out of hand so quickly that a life-affirming philosophy which is set out to bring good in the world can easily be transformed into a philosophy of greed and corruption.

These are only one of the few reasons why brands should disseminate and practice their core philosophy every day.  Not only can it prevent morally questionable business decisions, but it can be used proactively too. Whether if it’s hiring the right employee, designing a new product or expanding to a new market. Having a company philosophy signifies that you know who you are and what you are about. This position is a position of stability and strength and it makes the jobs of decision makers much smoother and easier.

What is the basic idea responsible for your business’s existence? What thoughts did your company’s “founding fathers and mothers” have? How can they be reimagined to serve our contemporary circumstances? Going back to your founding roots might uncover some much-needed energy, inspiration, and guidance.

If brands want to continue

“…promoting a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.”

It seems very easy for businesses to lose track of how to treat employees and customers with basic dignity. There is something in the way we organize ourselves in a group, whether it’s the “not my responsibility” mindset or the simple fear of admitting your mistakes that brings out the worst in us. If human dignity is nowhere to be mentioned within the company’s culture, the possibilities to do wrong are plenty. Take Volkswagen and the Standing Rock incident for example. One doesn’t have to think twice that human dignity wasn’t on top of people’s minds when these events happened.

On the other hand, our human bodies react positively when we do something that’s good and positive. Research shows that the best thing you can do to boost your general wellbeing and happiness is to volunteer i.e. to do something for somebody else. While a business is a business, it can be most rewarding for employees to witness the positive impact their work has on others. Happier employees make happier customers and happy customers make more purchases. Coca-Cola’s happiness factory might have been on to something after all!

So, what kind of values, culture and policies does your business put in place to make sure every employee, customer and human being are being respected and protected? How would you approach solving conflicts with groups with different values and opinions? Do you measure your business decisions morally and what’s your company’s bottom line: is it money or making lives better?

Not obvious


I am a brand strategist, designer, and content manager. My philosophy is that brands are intrinsically human, and can’t ultimately be treated with classic business and marketing strategies. To have truly successful brands we need to know our human selves and listen to our human hearts.

You can connect with me here:

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5 Olympic Brand Commandments for Today’s Businesses

The Olympics serve as the greatest sports event and as one of the most important conferences in the world at the same time. Over the history, they have been subject to controversy, boycotts and served as squabbling grounds between countries and political blocks. Yet somehow, they managed to survive and not only survive, but thrive. The Olympic institution and brand are stronger today than ever. On the other hand, it’s extremely difficult (impossible even) to single out a company which enjoys a similar amount goodwill today or throughout any point in history for that matter.

In this regard, there is one question worth examining: What are institutions, organizations, and companies but a group of people working united under a common idea? If this were true, then what makes the Olympics brand and ideals so true, grand and worthy of pursuing? On the other hand, what makes companies and organizations struggle, stray away from themselves and even stray from goodness itself?

As any other organization, the Olympic Games have seen their fair share of struggles. First and foremost they exist within the confines of our civilization which is susceptible to misunderstandings, conflicts, and of course war. They survived our two World Wars, all kinds of regimes, terrorist attacks, all sorts of political disputes and boycotts. For example, at the 1980 Moscow games, 62 countries didn’t participate as a result of the Cold War, and this didn’t even put a dent in the Olympic spirit.

The Olympics do not only show extreme resilience in the eyes of serious adversity but as a body, they continuously act accordingly to their established values. South Africa was banned from the Olympic Games from 1964 to 1988, as a part of the sporting boycott during the apartheid era. Saudi Arabia was threatened with a ban in 2012 unless it sends women athletes to compete and this year Russia was banned to participate in the winter games due to a state-run doping program. The International Olympic Committee didn’t ban all the athletes from Russia though. It united them under its flag, as It did for the refugee team in 2016 in Rio. This shows true value-driven integrity: not to discriminate against anyone no matter the circumstances. This value is further strengthened by the existence of the Paralympic Games.

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The Olympics are consistent in practicing tolerance and inclusion. Credit Andrej Isakovic/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

The Olympic Committee is not afraid to make tough decisions and run the risk of being perceived as the “bad guy” in certain countries. The same can’t be readily said for businesses.

Business and states nowadays have almost a symbiotic relationship too. Rightfully so, since it’s in the businesses’ interest to lobby for less regulation, tax, and other breaks. We are well aware that this relationship can get out of hand though. There is daily news of big political corruption scandals involving financial “favors” from a big business. Yet, this is only one sphere where businesses can stray away from the good.

Let’s take Volkswagen as our latest example, which is an appropriate one as well. They are a well-known brand globally and have a long tradition to boot. Although Volkswagen is loved and revered all over the world for their craftsmanship and build quality, recently it was discovered that they cheated their emissions tests on a big scale. More recently even, they were condemned for testing diesel fumes on humans and monkeys!

For me, it is inconceivable that an organization can be true to their values and still manage to act in a vile way. A company that pollutes can’t say they respect women’s rights and if a company has appalling work conditions, it doesn’t get to say they value good design. What’s the use anyway?

We have to keep in mind that the values both organizations and businesses respect are first and foremost human values. As such, they are complementary and interdependent. One can’t choose to have tunnel vision, to respect one and ignore all of the rest.

What gives the Olympics a starting advantage in brand integrity over today’s businesses then? If they were still under Zeus’s patronage, he would have stated something like the following:

1. Know thyself

I remember the shock of discovering that the company I worked for, for my first rebranding project, had no idea who they were and what was their business about. I thought that this would be a no-brainer for bigger companies, but it turned out to be a very big brainer indeed. Luckily dusting off only one core value ( customer service ) was enough to give the company new life and direction. The same goes for any other business whether it’s a startup or 100 years old. They must be aware of who they are and what they are about.

2. Nothing is more important than human decency

These three words are enough to guide you through all of your business decisions, especially the ones which are on the moral fence. Nothing is more important than valuing a person’s wellbeing. But this commandment deserves attention when making simple and apparently harmless decisions too. We often don’t examine our decisions form a broader perspective and we don’t fully consider all of their possible implications.

3. Include, don’t discriminate

It is well known that companies that encourage employee participation in decision-making report having staff who has greater ownership of their workplace and brand. Especially if you include your staff in brand creation, you will get dedicated life-long brand ambassadors which will disseminate your business’s goal, idea, and spirit.  Otherwise, you might end up with uninspired employees which feel left out and forgotten.

4. Have a simple, fair and transparent rulebook

Sports are very simple to follow. That’s one of the reasons why everybody can follow them. By nature, they are open and accessible for everybody. This transparency allows anybody to witness what’s going on on the field or the track. Anybody can be a direct judge and this, in turn, creates the need for fairness.

A business is made of many individuals with varied backgrounds and capabilities. Having simple rules makes the system accessible and understandable for everybody. Fairness and transparency in employee treatment are key for achieving trust, confidence and long-term stability of your business.

5. Be larger than the sum of your parts

The Olympics aren’t organized in a traditional sense. Although they have their Committee and headquarters they appear and disappear into thin air every 4 years. They are more of an idea than a tangible “thing”. Same goes for any business that strives to be written in history and make a difference. Trough your business you realize the idea you have for the world so, to have a chance at greatness, your idea has to be attractive and universal enough to outlast you and your direct successors.


I am a brand strategist, designer, and content manager. My philosophy is that brands are intrinsically human, and can’t ultimately be treated with classic business and marketing strategies. To have truly successful brands we need to know our human selves and listen to our human hearts.

You can connect with me here:

linkedin          Twitter