This week I’m talking to New York City-based brand guru Adam Hanft.

Adam has consulted for everyone from Microsoft to President Obama, and is a respected writer in his own right, so I picked his brains about brand, disruption, tech and society.

adam hanft

Listen to Richard’s chat with Adam Hanft

A former comedy writer, copywriter, ad-agency boss and now brand strategist through his company Hanft Projects, Adam has an interesting perspective on brands and how they fit in with popular culture. He’s a fascinating guy, full of wisdom and I had a great time talking to him.

We talked about:
• How brands are a reflection of how consumers are feeling;
• What Donald Trump’s rise means for brands;
• The craft beer wars in the US;
• Why bigger isn’t necessarily better anymore;
• Disruption in the FinTech space;
• Why there should be pressure on bigger established companies to innovate;
• And the coming together of startup and corporate culture.

Adam Hanft on…


Brands don’t function in a vacuum disconnected from the larger culture, brands are very much a reflection of how consumers are feeling in general about their lives and about the institutions around them.


Branding is often misinterpreted as this ornament or this veneer that goes on top of a product. But in the purest and the right sense of branding it is really inseparable from the product … Think about brand as a combination, an elegant fusion of product and experience, and value in terms of not just your value proposition but values with a capital V – ‘what is the mission of the company?’.


Language always changes fast. Technology accelerates it and I think we are going to see even more and more new language emerge. We are going to see also more tribalism because people use short-hand to create bonds and to create intimacy in groups.

Social media

I think social media is a powerful way for big brands to break down walls and establish intimacy.


Technology allows people to be identified as individuals and companies and brands that don’t identify people as individuals are in trouble long term … Individuality is very much a millennial value. Boomers also have that desire. Different generations express it or internalise it in different ways.

Corporations and customers

If you are big and powerful then you should be able to use your muscle, your clout, your resources, to make my life better. You should be able to give me better credit scoring to that point or better rates or better customer service. Better products. More imaginative, innovative products than a start-up. I think you need to focus your strength on making the lives better to consumers through your resources, as opposed to just putting a marketing veneer on something.

Gardening and start-ups

I often use the analogy of gardening. A big tree takes a long time to die but it will die eventually. A small tree or plant can go quickly. I think start-ups are like the small trees. They have got to be positioned right, quickly, they need to get traction right away. They need to establish roots and they need nurturing. Big companies have the luxury of a longer-term horizon.

People Tell Richard Stuff: Episode 12
Adam Hanft, Brand Strategist

Adam Hanft, brand strategist