Recently I toured The World of Coca Cola in Atlanta. Since I rarely drink soft drinks, my interest was in their brand philosophy and marketing approach.

The Coca Cola Company is the master of product marketing. The tour celebrates the secret formula for Coke and the experience of sharing it with friends. There is a film at the beginning of the tour that associates warm, sentimental feelings with drinking and sharing a Coke. It is very effective.

Coke is selling a brand experience. The drink is associated with the experience. They want you to believe a serving of Coke is a vehicle for creating a happier, more peaceful world. Other beverage companies, like those who sell beer, market their products in a similar manner. It is about the experience of the drink, not the drink itself. It is a very clever, sophisticated approach that has made happiness synonymous with having a Coke with a friend.

As I walked through The World of Coca Cola, I kept thinking about my brand in comparison to Coke’s. Like many people who speak, write, coach and consult, we also provide a brand experience. We have stories. We have brand colors that are intended to associate our brand with the experience of working with us. As I wandered through the exhibits, I wondered if I needed to change things. Later, I reviewed my brand design using the Circle of Impact model. Here’s what I learned.


The Circle of Impact Brand

My brand is not a soft drink. It is not a consumer product. Even my book is not a commodity that gets cheaper the more people buy it.

My brand instead invites a personal engagement with the ideas in the book and with me its author. This engagement is an investment in becoming a person of impact. The engagement happens with each of the three dimensions of the Circle of Impact.  There is engagement in discovering the values and purpose that define a life of impact. There is engagement in building relationships of respect, trust, and mutual support. And there is engagement in developing that structure for our lives that fulfills our potential for impact.

What is true for the individual is also true for businesses. The engagement across a company allows for everyone to embrace its purpose for impact, work together as teams of respect and trust, and develop the whole of the company for leadership impact.

This engagement shares some similarities to Coca Cola’s customer experience focus. Both are intended to transform a person’s self-understanding. Sharing a Coke with a stranger can be an experience of friendship. Engagement with the Circle of Impact is an experience seeing oneself as a person of impact. The first experience lasts for a moment. The second can transform a person’s life or their company or, even their community. As a result, the marketing of these brands is different.

The difference is how we understand our relationship with our customer. Coke’s customer is a consumer. A buyer of the product. The question they ask is “What does it take for one person to buy one bottle of Coke?” Then they scale that insight to sell to more servings to more people. The brilliance of its marketing has produced one of the most successful brands ever created. The World of Coca Cola is a testimony to how to sell a non-essential food product to billions of people.

As I learned through the marketing of the launch of Circle of Impact, my brand demands direct engagement by me with people. My customers are not consumers buying a product. Instead, they are people in transition engaged in letting the message of the Circle of Impact become embodied in how they live. They become the viral carriers of a belief that anyone can become a person of impact. My engagement is with the people. The book, the coaching, the training webinars, and consulting projects are vehicles for communicating this belief in people as persons of impact. As a result, marketing is a conversation that the value of the Circle of Impact model. It is spelled out in the brand philosophy that I developed two years ago.

In these portions of my brand philosophy, personal engagement is essential to communicate the value of the Circle of Impact.


The Circle of Impact Brand Philosophy

Circle of Impact Purpose

Inspire and equip people to take personal initiative to create impact that makes a difference that matters in their local settings.

Circle of Impact Strategy

Believe in people so that they will believe in themselves for the purpose of taking personal initiative to create impact.

Circle of Impact Challenge

Believe that you have an undetermined and unrealized potential to make a difference that matters with your life, through your work, and in your community.

Circle of Impact Promise

Regardless of who you believe you are, or what challenges you have experienced in life, or what obstacles you face right now, I will never stop believing that you can be a person of impact who can make a difference that matters.

Circle of Impact Guarantee

My guarantee is that you will gain the clarity of purpose to act on the belief that you can make a difference that matters.

The whole of the philosophy is summarized in these five principles.

Circle of Impact Guiding Principles

1. ALL leadership begins with personal initiative to create impact.

2. We are ALL in transition. Every one of us, all the time.

3. The greatest change we go through is in our self-understanding.

4. In taking personal initiative, start small, then grow big.

5. Act locally, then tell your story globally.


The Branding Lesson

In reflecting upon my brand description, it reinforced the importance of being absolutely clear about what is our impact. We have to be able to say, “this is the change that matters.” The clearer the understanding of the impact, the greater the value. Without a clear perception of the impact of your product or your life, the greater the risk that the product gets commoditized and our lives get marginalized.

If you are a fan of Coca Cola, ask these questions.

What is the change that matters to me when I have a Coke?

What does refreshment mean to me?

How does sharing a Coke with a stranger create sustainable value?

My conclusion is that Coke is on the right track, but their product line is limited. They need a deeper level of engagement with consumers about the social benefits of sharing their product in local communities. This is true for Coca Cola as a consumer brand as it is for any consumer products company. They need the engagement of the Circle of Impact to fulfill the potential of the Coca Cola experience.

In creating a sustainable, transformative brand experience, we need to start small. Focus on local impact. Then let the impact can grow organically as people become more engaged with the impact we bring. This is how we can take the complexity of personal engagement and replicate the brand experience on a global scale.

To engage more about the Circle of Impact philosophy and programs for impact development, reach out to me at

Dr. Ed Brenegar is a Leader for Leaders working with individuals, their teams, organizations and communities who find themselves at a point of transition. Ed has developed an innovative leadership model called, Circle of Impact, that clarifies what the impact of their life or the work of their organization can be. From this perspective, impact is the change that makes a difference that matters. Ed. for over 30 years, has inspired and equipped people and organizations to practice this fresh understanding of leadership. All leadership begins with personal initiative to create impact that makes a difference that matters. Everyone within an organization or a community can, therefore, practice leadership initiative. In so doing, they turn what were once leadership-starved organizations into leader-rich cultures that make a difference that matters.

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