A Transcendent Brand cannot be commoditized. Even when a competitor has superior products at lower prices, a Transcendent Brand’s customers remain loyal, because their connections are deep and emotional.

From the way it embodies purpose, to its strategic approach to the market, a Transcendent Brand does things differently. The 7 Disciplines are the playbook, but they cannot be executed in isolation. The Disciplines build on each other—interrelated, multi-disciplinary and fully integrated.

What Are the 7 Disciplines of Transcendent Brands?

Transformative leaders like Steve Jobs and Gandhi used these levers to create massive social change.

Our 15-year study of social movements and brands such as Apple and Nike revealed a pattern to scaling human behavior change.

We’ve codified this pattern into the 7 Disciplines of Transcendent Brands. These counterintuitive disciplines help small entrepreneurs create iconic brands — like Apple, Coca-Cola and Harley-Davidson — to eventually “transcend” global culture.



Understand human aspirations, not just motivation!




Leverage innate empathy to design holistic human experiences, not just products




Ride the innovation adoption curve, do not fight it




Build a purposeful business model, don’t copy market leaders




Develop marketing that inspires people to change behavior, don’t just sell your product/service




Build a team around purpose, not just skills




Champion holistic sustainability, not just shareholders


1) Clarify Your True Purpose

Ask the employees of any company what their organization stands for, and they will most likely say, “We make the best computers, or shoes or (insert your product/service).” This is conventional management doctrine – “be clear about what you do.” In stark contrast, a loyal employee of a Transcendent Organization like Apple or Nike is more likely to say “we help people unleash their creativity” or “we inspire people to be more athletic.” The key difference is that Transcendent Organizations have an audacious point of view on things. Nike’s point of view is that anyone can be an athlete. Apple’s is that everyone can be creative. This purpose opens the mind to creating transcendent innovation.

A great True Purpose combines a passionately held point of view of founders, leaders, and employees, with a deeply empathic insight for what humans (consumers/customers) aspire to. In this way both the organization and those it serves find fulfillment in a long term relationship.

A critical success factor to clarifying your True Purpose is understanding how “universal” insights are most powerful when they connect to the highest order needs of people.

2) Craft A Holistic Value Proposition

In reality, emotional experiences are far more powerful than logic. Once the right feelings are authentically evoked in your stakeholder, the desired behaviors, thoughts and words soon follow. This is the secret to why Apple’s success confounds its competitors who often sell superior features and attributes at lower prices and still lose market share.

The science behind this phenomenon is based upon how the limbic system of the human brain creates “feelings” in response to brand/product stimulus that lead to involuntary reflexive actions. It is these actions or urges that play a predominant role in influencing decisions. And it is only after this that post-rationalization takes place in the neo-cortex. The limbic system has zero language capability, so the only things articulated clearly are the thoughts that the neo-cortex creates, thus misleading traditional researchers.

Transcendent Brands intuitively or serendipitously developed Holistic Value Propositions that deliver emotional outcomes equally if not more powerfully than tangible outcomes from innovation.

3) Transcend Your Adoption Curve

Most business plan processes taught in leading institutions and Fortune 100 stage-gate processes promote the management doctrine of finding the “largest possible market” and evaluating ideas based on this metric first. After all, if there isn’t a market, then why bother? Right? Wrong.

By definition, transformational innovation doesn’t target the biggest market – it creates markets. And, big things start small – the bigger the eventual market, the more focused your launch needs to be.

By this time you have identified a game-changing opportunity, developed a transformational solution. Now you have the minor problem of achieving universal acceptance for your solution!

Again, big things start small. How your brand makes a first impression, with whom and where has a profound impact on how difficult it will be for your brand to become transcendent.

You can substantially increase the odds by targeting who needs you most (and will be the most forgiving of cost and performance) where their “first date” will create the best first impression. Being the “firstest with the mostest” is highly over-rated when it comes to value creation and preservation.

If you are smart, you will find ways to connect with consumers where your product/solution truly stands out – ideally because all your competitors are competing for the mass market in the mass channels and ignoring the fact that first impressions are humongously more important than mass distribution.

4) Build A Purposeful Business Model

All things considered, once you know who to target and where, it is a matter of building the right infrastructure and business model to achieve that objective in an economically sustainable way.

Most organizations assume that they must leverage existing infrastructure, assets and core competencies, even when they seek to create transformational change. This prevailing doctrine is one of the biggest reasons why so many Fortune 500 companies fail to create transformational change, and become irrelevant, or worse, obsolete, as smaller firms overtake them in value creation because they are unencumbered by legacy systems.

5) Communicate Your Highest Truth

This is potentially the most unintuitive of the disciplines. The advertising industry has spent trillions of client dollars helping to rapidly commoditize their brands.

Ironically, advertising executives understand that change is emotional more so than most technocrats that lead large organizations in the for or nonprofit sector. However, they add emotion to a rational message, instead of supporting an emotional message with rational back-up. They have it backwards. Which is why only a tiny handful of companies in the history of commerce have built truly transcendent brands.

6) Develop Transformational Leaders

It is a fairly well understood fact that when a visionary founder/leader leaves an organization because of retirement, death or being forced out by shareholders, many great organizations see an alarming dip in their fortunes. It happened to Starbucks until Howard Schultz returned to the helm. It happened to Apple when Jobs was forced out, and might be happening now after his death.

It is critical to decode their decision making processes, their vision and cascade these through the organization at all levels.

Additionally, most big organizations have the ability to attract great talent. The question is, how many of the potential change-makers inside these organizations are truly being empowered and enabled to fulfill their highest potential? Why wouldn’t an organization want to identify and create more transformational leaders? It can be done. Gifford Pinchot, Blue Earth’s Intrapreneurship mentor, has seen it and helped nurture intrapreneurship inside incredible organizations like Dupont, 3M, GE and others. He is credited with coming up with the term “intrapreneurship” and wrote a seminal book on it in the 1970s.

Management doctrine is obsessed with things like control, tracking, resource management and incentives. What is needed is alignment of purpose, skill and freedom. Contrary to conventional wisdom, transformational intrapreneurs don’t need more resources – they need to be trained in the skills and given the freedom to operate with minimal resources and bureaucracy.

7) Champion Holistic Sustainability

Conventional wisdom talks about the triple bottom line. This ignores some critical nuances. For 9 billion people to enjoy the basics of life within the known limits of the planet’s resources, to reverse ecological degradation, and to survive the increasing pressure for transparency and conscious business practices, Transcendent Organizations of the future need to integrate sustainability into every aspect of their business. The Blue Earth Network imbeds all five domains of sustainability as espoused by Michael Ben-Eli into our processes of discovery, invention and adoption.

The five domains of holistic sustainability (as adapted from Michael Ben-Eli’s work):

Economic: There has to be real value creation to make transcendent organizations and their stakeholders viable. A vast majority of S&P 500 companies are creating less than 1% real value after deducting the cost of capital. Finding ways to innovate with lower upfront investment and risk is crucial.

Social: With more of the world’s population increasingly armed with multipurpose communication devices, the day is not far when the impact of an organization’s value-chain on its global stakeholders will be instantly visible, available and usable by people who make decisions on whether to engage with you or not. Sooner organizations take the lead in making their valuechains sustainable and above reproach from concerned citizens the better.

Bio-diversity: With science beginning to catch-up with nature’s sophisticated and delicate ecological balance, it may soon not be enough to use a catch-all phrase like “environmentally responsible.” Putting in place steps to get ahead of the curve on ensuring an organization’s impact on the increasingly visibly interconnected ecosystem is the wise way to go.

Materials & Energy: This is the more obvious aspect of environmental sustainability. Use as little as possible in as renewable a way as possible. This is critical to safeguard an organization, and ultimately the planet, from potentiall fatal shortages.

Personal: This is the invisible elephant in the room. Sustainability programs focus so much on community that they often ignore the fact that individual humans play a disproportionately large role in all the other aspects of sustainability. For transcendent organizations of the future to succeed, they need to remember that humans are feeling animals that think. Millennials, in particular, are unwilling to sacrifice their values as they make purchases or make a living. Helping all stakeholders live a better, more fulfilled life, is the hall mark of success for the best organizations on the planet.