How do leading companies win by changing the game? Established businesses like Amazon, Starbucks, and Tesla and emerging players like Peloton, Halo Top, and Seedlip have a secret system for winning. These and other “transcender” companies do not play the traditional brand game that every other company plays; they create their own game and force competitors to play by their rules.

In Brands Don’t Win, Stan Bernard reveals the proven, practical three-step Transcender System™ that leading companies use to transcend their rivals and own their markets. Readers will learn step by step how to use and apply the Transcender System, considered by top executives to be the world’s most powerful winning system for companies and their products. I recently caught up with Stan to learn more about his book and this powerful idea.

Published with permission from the author.

What happened that made you decide to write the book? What was the exact moment you realized these ideas needed to get out there?

I had two moments thirty years apart. When I first became a product manager for a new product in 1990, I was told the advertising agency was going to prepare our brand plan. I was shocked! I protested that our product team should decide what game we were going to play to win versus competitors. My fellow team members responded that there is only one way to compete: branding. My team was “brandwashed.”

I knew then that I had to tell the business world that traditional branding is neither the only nor the best way to win. I wanted to help business professionals and their companies win by creating the Transcender System which I describe in Brands Don’t Win.

When the COVID pandemic hit in 2020, I had about six months when the business world stopped, and I had a unique opportunity and the time to focus on writing the book. Ultimately, the intervening three decades provided me the time to analyze competition, learn how to help clients win, and create the Transcender System.

What’s your favorite specific, actionable idea in the book?

The “Elevator Close.” In the old, Traditionalist Branding System, there is the well-known “Elevator Pitch”: a sales professional bumping into a potential customer on an elevator would have several floors to give a 30-second elevator pitch for the brand.

In the Transcender System, we have the “Elevator Close.” Now, a professional has time to say only four words as the elevator door closes: “Wait, hold the elevator!” The concept of the Elevator Close is that if you can only communicate four words to your customer on an elevator, it should be the Campaign Agenda, since it is far more important to communicate the Agenda than it is to promote the brand.

In the Transcender System, professionals lead with the Campaign Agenda (like politicians) and follow with the brand. They only use four words or fewer for their Agenda because most adults today can only remember four +/- 1 word or digit in the short-term due to our over-reliance on cellphones. The advantage of a Campaign Agenda is that is so memorable. Everyone knows and remembers Nike’s legendary Campaign Agenda of “Just Do It” and Apple’s iconic “Think Different” Agenda.

Published with permission from the author.

What’s a story of how you’ve applied this idea in your own life? What’s it done for you?

I apply the Transcender System every single day in my business. My firm Bernard Associates plays the unique Transcender game that only we can win. As I describe in BRANDS DON’T WIN, companies can use the technique of “Competitive Categorization” to win. For example, I have created two categories of competitors: the old, Traditionalist, Brand-focused companies and the newer, Transcender, Agenda-driven companies.

Bernard Associates is the only global competition firm in the world that offers the powerful, proven, and practical Transcender System for winning. Every one of our competitors—advertising agencies, consulting firms, marketing, and branding companies—only offer traditional branding. I tell potential clients, “If you want to compete, then brand. You will have plenty of competitors. But if you want to win, then transcend. Use the Transcender System to rise above competitors and force them to react to you.”

My firm has now worked with more than 150 companies across six continents involving 60 countries. Over 15,000 professionals have participated in my firm’s competitive simulations (“business war games”), Transcender System training workshops, Transcender System seminars, and speaking engagements. We are playing our game, a game only we can win.

And in the process, we have helped numerous business professionals and client companies win with their products, services, technologies, and other offerings across diverse industries and markets.

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