What makes customers take notice of a brand? How do brands make it to the top? How do they fail? Did all the top brands in today’s market start out with huge marketing budgets, unique concepts, and a pre-existing, ever-loyal customer base?

Definitely not! 

Then how do brands occupy premier market positions, bringing their companies success? 

The answer lies in telling a great story. The Fortune Cookie Principle (2013) by Bernadette Jiwa focuses on building successful brands that have a clear purpose and a compelling vision while making a brand add meaning to the buyer’s choices. 

Jiwa takes us through the art of crating great brand stories that resonate with the customer, ultimately influencing their choices.

Making A Fortune Cookie Company

Let us consider an example of Company A with a new product – a razor. It is no surprise that within a few days, there will be a Competitor B, with better features. Therefore, how will Company A, make their product a success, and set themselves apart from the crowd?

These days there’s more to marketing than selling bigger, better, and cheaper. That’s simply because there will always be a competitor waiting to outrun you.  The factor that really pushes a brand to the forefront is the story of the brand. Therefore, if we consider a fortune cookie, the service or product is the cookie, whereas the fortune inside the cookie is its story. 

The product or service comprises of the tangible aspect and the story is the intangible aspect that makes customers believe in the story of the product or service. It resonates with their values, vision, and purpose, and forges a connection between buyer and brand.

For example, Apple can be called a fortune cookie company. Their iPod revolutionized the market of carrying music in the pocket in a more compact, smarter, and stylish manner.

The fortune cookie principle is all about turning a company into a fortune cookie company by means of creating a valuable, purposeful, visionary brand story.

The Fortune Cookie Principle (2013) by Bernadette Jiwa
The Fortune Cookie Principle (2013) by Bernadette Jiwa

What’s The Purpose Of It All?

Every company should have a clear purpose. It should define the vision and the values of the company. 

Does the company exist to make money? Or does it exist for some other purpose?

This purpose – whatever it is – defines the operations in the company, right from the vision and mission, to the business model, product specifications, design, recruitment style, etc. In addition to defining a purpose, it is essential to stick to it. Many brands fail because they either set a purpose and are unable to follow it, or because they do not have a clearly defined purpose and end up with poor decision-making processes.

For example, Proctor & Gamble’s Jim Stengel, along with Millward Brown found that in the past decade, there has been fifty business that has grown three times faster than their competitors. Google and Jimmy’s Iced Coffee are examples. They found that these companies had a clearly defined, set, mission that they carried out to the tee. For example, Google gives its customers more than just a search engine; they give them the satisfaction of curiosity. The fortune in the cookie!

Lego, on the other hand, was facing a whopping $300 million budget deficit in 2003. They lost sight of their mission with projects such as the Lego Land theme park, and computer game ventures. This led to an irregularity in their supply chain and poor customer service. 

When Jørgen Vig Knudstorp joined as CEO in 2004, he managed to turn the ship around with a $110 million profit. How? By simply adhering to the mission of the company – to inspire creativity in children across the world. He stuck to his mission and carved a vision for the future from it!

Having Vision With Openness To Change and Growth

Having a strong vision makes a company strong. It powers successful marketing strategies and guides a company towards the bigger picture – how does the company/product/brand impact the world?

To understand the concept of vision clearly, companies should answer 3 important questions – 

  • How does the company/product/brand affect the future?
  • Does the day-to-day working in the organization align with the vision?
  • How will these changes impact customers?

The answers to these questions will be a guideline for making decisions that will support the vision and define the focus of the company. For example, the Californian not-for-profit company Room to Read follow their mission of ensuring that children all over the world have access to decent education, and are able to contribute to their respective communities. They help to construct schools and libraries in developing countries.

However, one should be prepared for changes along the way and make space for growth too. Airbnb’s initial vision was to create an easy way for people to book and advertise accommodation while traveling to conferences in the United States. The popularity of the website grew to the extent that they had to change their vision to include the world! Soon, anyone could book right from a bunk in New York to an exotic hotel in Bali!

Getting Those Elusive Loyal Customers

When it comes to building a strong brand story, values play a very important role. The values of the company should reflect in each and every aspect of the brand and its marketing. Values tell the customers what the brand stands for, and resonates with their own beliefs. Once they have that common connection of shared values with the brand, they start expressing these beliefs via the product or brand.

The outdoor gear company Patagonia actually urged their customers to think of the ecological implications of purchase with their ‘Don’t buy this jacket’ campaign. They resonated the values of sustainability with their customers.

However, while creating values, companies should be wary of lying to customers and of steering away from setting values. Such actions can make customers question integrity.

Consider an example of a quaint café on a street corner, catering to loyal customers. These customers come in for authentic home-baked goodies and fresh coffee, as well as to enjoy the cozy ambiance. All of a sudden, the owner decides to revamp the interiors, introduce outsourced bakery goods, and installs a coffee machine to increase the speed of service and thus, profits.

In an instant, the café loses its old-world charm. It no longer resonates with the once-loyal customers who walked in and stayed for hours enjoying the ambiance and the freshness of home-baked goodies.

Location, Location, And Content!

Let us, once again look at that quaint café. Now imagine placing that café in the middle of a swanky, hi-end mall. While the café would still meet its numbers, it would lose its story of quaintness that resonated with customers. It would lose its localness and its ambiance of having coffee on the street.

Location is essential to a brand story. It should align with the story, or ‘the fortune in the cookie’ will get lost. Similarly, the content that surrounds the brand and the story should be aligned as well. If a brand’s content – text, video, audio, etc. – isn’t in sync with the story it wishes to tell, the brand, the product, and the company won’t sell. The customers won’t resonate with it.

So if the quaint café on the street uses industry jargon for a newspaper ad, they wont be able to attract loyal customers.


When it comes to branding, having a unique selling point no longer makes the cut for success. Creating a successful brand depends on a great brand story that is intact with a resonating mission, vision, values, purpose, and clarity. It takes more than just a cookie to make a fortune!