6 Branding Lessons from The Wolf of the Wall Street (Part 1)

The Wolf of Wall Street is a cinema blockbuster about the true-life story of Jordan Belfort, the investment wizard of Wall Street. What lessons can we possibly learn about branding from this movie?

A colleague of mine asked me to get Wolf of Wall Street for viewing at his office. I remembered I actually haven't watched the movie despite the buzz around it when it was released. After the download, I created time to see if the buzz was worth the watch.

Honestly, I was knocked off my feet. Wolf of the Wall Street is a totally mind-blowing blockbuster. While I am not a movie reviewer, I was able to draw some lessons that have parallels with branding and marketing from the movie. In the course of the week, I will be sharing a 2-part series on the 6 BRANDING LESSONS from Wolf of Wall Street.

LESSON 1: What is your WHY?

Jordan Belfort's primary goal in life is to be rich so that he can afford the kind of luxury his parent could only dream of. Quite a lot of brands start off without a clear understanding of their WHY except the conventional money- making WHYs.

'Your brand's purpose is the reason your company exists beyond making money.' said Marty Neumier in his book: ZAG.

Every brand out there winning and giving their competition a run for their money has a well-defined brand purpose.

A motivational speaker said: 'If the purpose of something is not known, abuse is inevitable.' If you have not spent the time to understand why you are in business beyond making money, clarify and articulate the WHY, then you are just a tad close to abusing your brand. This will translate into creating abusive relationships with your customers which will consequently result in loss of customers to competitors, revenues going south, brand erosion due to bad reputation and finally, the business is grounded! Can you see how purpose is critical to your business's survival and thriving?

Purpose is no longer just a spiritual virtue taught in churches. It is now the lifewire of every brand that want to survive the ruthless competition of the 21st century marketplace.

Your brand purpose is the compass through which you navigate thorny issues that pertains to your internal and external brand. Without it, you are as good as lost!


After the collapse of the stock market and the loss of his job at the prestigious L.F Rothschild, Jordan Belfort started off his recovery phase by selling penny stocks to low-income earners. When his wife asked why he doesn't sell the stocks to rich people, he replied: 'Because they won't buy' Too many business owners create brands (products or services) that their main target audience won't buy.

The second step in the journey of creating a winning brand is to know your audience. Crunch all the demographics and psychographics data of your target audience and deduce actionable insights from them. Use the insight to craft an experience that will burn in the minds of your audience. Don't launch a brand that wants to serve everybody. Just like the old mantra: 'You cannot please everybody.' The same goes for your brand.

Steve Jobs put this in a better perspective:

'Get closer than ever to your customers. So close that you tell them what they need well before they realize it themselves'


After doing pretty well with penny stocks, Jordan moved on to create a company called Stratton Oakmont. He wanted to start targeting 1% of the 1% of Americans. He knew he can't successfully onboard these wealthy guys with his current strategy and operation. He had to do something different. He had to re-invent the business and Stratton Oakmont was born. He ensured all the boxes are ticked to create a positive impression in the mind of the audience he is targeting. He invested in identity branding (logo design, brand systems, etc ) because there is no wealthy man that will deal with a faceless business. He trained his staff on the art of communicating like professional stockbrokers. He made sure they learned the lingos and jargons hard and cold. He developed scripts for cold calls and did demo sessions of prospecting and had his staff watch.

From Apple, Google, Coca-Cola, Starbucks, Nike... the unifying attributes of winning brands is their obsessive commitment to innovate. They rethink every aspect of the business processes: brand-building, product development, people management, customer relationship, etc. The insights obtained are used to craft improved experiences that keep their customers wowed.

Innovation ensures a brand is adventurous, vibrant and fresh in the mind of the consumers.

The 4 steps below can be employed for successful brand innovation.


What is that one thing your customers consistently complain about in their feedback?. Instead of these issues giving you sleepless nights, you can decide to solve them and make an innovation out of the problem. When brands solve such problems, it gives their customers assurance that they are dealing with a thoughtful brand: a brand that listens and cares about their challenges.


Ideas are dime a dozen but the execution is the holy grail of brand innovation. Don't just have ideas, focus on them, and develop market-based, customer-centric solutions. You can tag them INNOVATION BUCKETS. Then, focus your resources (both human and capital) on these buckets till you tick them off the list.


Once you are cleared on the ideas you want to execute, rollup your sleeves and get into the trenches. Develop products, systems, and processes through a process of rigorous iteration. Iteration helps you to optimize and improve. The more you test, the more you learn. The more you learn the closer you get to the solution.

Continued in Part 2…