WOMMA Summit: John Moore, Tribal Knowledge

by Marianne Richmond on December 20, 2006

Full disclosure, I am a huge John Moore fan…..this presentation only confirmed this.

John began by explaining the meaning of his lab coat and his company, Brand Autopsy….of course it was a live demonstration of branding.


"The Brand Autopsy Marketing Practice helps businesses to a live happier, healthier, and more remarkable life by serving as their Primary Care Marketing Physician, conducting Marketing Physicals, and or providing Second Opinions."

John’s book, Tribal Knowledge, was the topic for this lunchtime session. He went through some of the 47 Tribal Lessons that are discussed in detail in his book.

Tribal Truth #1 is: Building the business creates the brand ….a strong brand was a by-product for Starbucks; this approach is "inside out"; they spent their money and time creating an environment and a product that became a brand. When you are busy working on your business, you will create a strong brand.

He used Burger King as an example of the opposite, "outside in" approach: .making up a story and telling the story that is not connected with the brand.

John highlighted the book, Zag to demonstrate that branding is getting your customers to understand your brand. .

This illustration is part of a set that John posted about on Brand Autopsy. In branding,  "I understand that you are a great lover" is the outcome. In advertising the message is "I am a great lover, I am a great lover, I am a great lover;" in PR, it is "Trust me, I am a great lover." This is a great illustration.

Tribal Truth #3...Making the common, uncommon; Coffee is a cup of hot liquid; it is a commodity. Prior to Starbucks the common coffee experiences was in a diner. Starbucks made the common uncommon.

John asked, What are you doing to make the common, uncommon? Other examples of this are the Mini-Cooper. It made the compact car uncommon. Whole Foods, made grocery stores into a place to explore vs. a chore. Method...brought design to hand soap

#4 Remarkable things get remarked about…this it he bottom line of word of mouth.

Scott Bedbury lead Starbucks from brand creation to a Brand.

Tribal Truth #45: Brands have two sets of customers: employees and customers. Your customers rely on your employees; He suggests that you ask them their opinions and earn the opinions.

Starbuck has marketing programs aimed at employees.

For instance, recognizing sampling programs need passion, Starbucks developed Bingo cards and made an engaging game for their employees: example: Welcome a customer back by name from their vacation.


The overall concept? The passion that goes into a business can inspire the passions of those who work for the business. The passions is passed on to the customer experience.

Tribal Truth #35:  Make the company something to believe in.

Takeaway? Choose 3-5 areas that your company will never compromise on and make a list. Then, don’t compromise.

John states that earned opinions trumps bought impressions and turns attention into intention…it is an especially important point in a world where it is getting more difficult to buy impressions.

Tribal Truth #47…Be mission driven to change the world…make the common uncommon, be remarkable.

How do you do that? Check email, go to meetings, change the world.

Takeaway: If you business went out of business tomorrow would anyone care?

If you can answer with conviction that, " yes it would matter and people would care", then go back to doing what you are doing.

All and all, this was an awesome presentation. There was lots of talk at WOMMA about marketing to algorithms and no doubt about it, that is real.  But, algorithms do not build brands….they lead you to products. Marketing to algorithms is not the same as branding….and marketing to algorithms does not make brands obsolete.

And buy John’s book, Tribal Knowledge and visit the Tribal Knowledge website.

For further studies on Starbucks, John has a post on his blog, Brand Autopsy, with an interview with Howard Schultz that John says "is one of the most honest and informative pieces" he has ever read.

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