(More) brands that I like – expanded edition, part two

Last week I published a bit about what I think made the first five on my “Brands that I like list” work. The second five from my original post being deconstructed today are: Cochlear, Hub Melbourne, Hepburn Wind, Deck of Secrets, and Broadsheet.


Because they continue to be trailblazers for Australian innovation.

What started in 1967 when a young Graeme Clark, inspired by his relationship with his deaf father, began researching possibilities for an electronic implantable hearing device, proved to be the beginning of a great Australian innovation story that has since spanned the world.

It wasn’t a journey without setbacks and Clark has been quoted as saying: “In spite of the problems and criticisms, I just had to go on. A cochlear implant was their only hope of ever hearing.”

Fast forward 1978 and the first cochlear recipient received his implant standing delightedly to attention upon hearing the national anthem.

Today, Cochlear is the only publicly-traded company on this list. Not because it is the only one to admire but they do stand out for continuing to be guided today by the principles that started it all: technical product innovation; world-class design; and life-long commitment.

These principles show up in more than the products – by providing a road map for the future it seems their “tagline” might hold up as more than the usual spin. Hear Now. And Always.

Hub Melbourne

Because people working for themselves need a better place to collaborate than the local coffee shop. (With apologies to Benjamin Franklin.)

It began as an idea for a place where people who didn’t want a big formal office could work and connect with others. The idea became a place, and the place has become community – world domination must be next!

It might have started with a trickle of interest, but today “Hubbers” (as members of the community are called) flood to the space and events that now comprise Hub Melbourne, with connections to local hubs around the globe.

Part chameleon, it’s strength is found in its diversity. Proving once again that the secret sauce of any brand recipe comes from the people, Hub Melbourne attracts a cross-section of people looking for a space and connections that can be what you want it to be.

Start with entrepreneurs of many ilk; add established consulting types who have opted out of the mythology that you need a “Collins Street” address to be taken seriously; a dash of corporate refugees looking for a more inspiring place to be; and finish with a scattering of drop-ins from around Australia and around the world and you pretty much have it.

Hub soup!

Hepburn Wind

Because building consensus and investment for renewable energy generation for a community takes lots of cups of tea.

Hepburn Wind stands proudly as Australia’s first community-owned wind farm. But getting up and running had its share of challenges, not the least was the $13 million needed to be raised mostly from community contributions amid the GFC.

Support among local residents was critical to success, with education and engagement happening the old-fashioned way. Kate Redwood, volunteer director with the project in 2011, noted in an article that since the project kicked off in 2005: “We’ve had over 135 street stalls, and seven bus tours to other sites.”

Since getting up and running, the community spirit that is so much a part of the project has continued via a community fund that donates a percentage of proceeds back into other sustainability projects in the area.

At every level, the Hepburn Wind organisation and brand is an example of what community ownership really means.

Deck of Secrets

Because no matter where we live or visit we all love a good secret spot.

Back in 2003, Michelle Matthews saw an opportunity to turn her fascination with the good spots she found during her travels working for an airline into something to share with others. And Deck of Secrets was born.

Originally (and still today) a printed deck of cards, the deck has also gone digital with the popular iPhone app even nabbing a spot in an Apple ad campaign here in Oz.

In an interview with me a couple of years ago Matthews said: “I like good ideas and publishing is a great way to make ideas come to life… we focus on quality content in a manageable quantity.”

And while the spots that make it into the decks are a diverse bunch, what was true in the first guide remains true today – quality marked by a sense of the unique and passionate.

And the library keeps growing – with 25 titles and counting there is sure to be a secret spot to grab your attention whatever you want and wherever you are.


Because there is lots to love about a magazine that cares about content not controversy.

Unabashedly local in the best sense of the word, Broadsheet writers shine a light on what, who, and where is happening in Melbourne or Sydney.

Founding publisher and editorial director Nick Shelton is a quietly deliberate guy who believes the only way for the content of the magazine to be relevant to their growing audience of readers is to stick close to those values of knowledge, insight and credibility.

So coverage can’t be bought. What’s in the publication starts and ends with what interests the team. And random commentary by the masses is left to other pubs.

In today’s media climate where clicks and controversy rule it seems downright old-fashioned to care about things like content relevance and sticking to your values. But in true cultural traditions everything old is eventually new again and it seems to be an idea whose time has come again.

Even the name harks back to an earlier time – somehow I don’t think that’s a coincidence.

So to recap – what lessons can we take from this five on what it takes to build a great brand (SME or otherwise)?

1. There is no substitute for a passionate purpose
2. The people in your community are the key to making (or breaking) it
3. See #2 and add communication and engagement go hand-in-hand
4. Keep your eyes open – ideas can come from lots of places
5. Be deliberate about what you do and why you are doing it

When you combine that with the lessons from last week, I think you have a pretty good road map of what it takes to build a brand!

See you next week with more on brands and promises.

Michel is an independent Brand advocate dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at michelhogan.com. You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.


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