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The brand consultant, Visiting Professor (and Death Cigarettes founder) is now helping to grow Turkey’s export market and advising British consumer brands on ‘disintermediation.’ In a thoroughly entertaining speech BJ compares customer loyalty to a long-term relationship, while “discounting is little more than a one-night stand.” He argues the brand is a promise, not merely a logo: “It’s about showing the authentic soul of your organisation and your community.”
Whilst still a teenager BJ Cunningham started his first enterprise, importing classic cars and Harley Davidsons from LA to London. When the market collapsed he used his considerable debt to launch DEATH Cigarettes - positioned as ‘The Honest Smoke’. It gained such a foothold that BJ found himself taking on the combined might of the industry in the European Court of Justice.
Then, with a growing reputation for challenging norms, BJ set up a brand marketing agency and built a client list including Volkswagen, B&O and Nokia. Having sold the company and proved his credentials as a true serial entrepreneur, he and his wife created and ran the luxury shoe designer Georgina Goodman until its acquisition by venture capitalists.
BJ is a Visiting Professor at Brighton University, serves on the council of Business Superbrands and travels the world giving inspiring keynote presentations. He believes that while customers are magnetised towards ‘need’ over ‘want’ in the wake of recession, genuine premium will still remain resilient: “Loyalty in business is a long-term relationship, discounting is little more than a one-night stand.”
BJ’s message is that a brand is a promise, not a logo; it’s about depth, not awareness. A business must know what it stands for, say it with clarity and do what it says. With wonderfully engaging examples, he shows that customers want to understand the authentic soul of the organisation and become part of your community.
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It begins as a battery of anecdotes, delivered with a mischievous sense of humour. Then, amid jaw dropping and laughter, a rallying cry emerges: leap at every opportunity, don’t fear the Goliaths who obstruct your path, and always come back fighting. As well as all that, his almost spiritual distillation of the concept of ‘brand’ will have you throwing your old definition into the dustbin. JLA Agent Andy Hickman
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