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What “Wheel of Fortune” Can Teach You About Your Brand

Posted by on April 29th, 2015
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Branding   

I grew up watching the television show “Wheel of Fortune.” We didn’t spend every dinner in front of the TV, but when we did, I loved to solve the puzzle. I loved Pat Sayjak. I loved filling in the blanks. Now that I look back on it, I think it’s possible those early word puzzle experiences made me a better brand consultant today.

On every episode of the game show, the final puzzle is solved by the top scorer. She’s given 30 seconds to solve the puzzle. In the early days she was allowed to choose 6 letters to have filled in before she started guessing. Anyone who had ever watched the show chose the same 6 letters: The most common 6 letters in the alphabet—R, S, T, L, N, and E. In fact, it became so common that eventually Pat just started giving contestants those 6 letters as a head start.

After many years helping nonprofits of every kind make their brands stronger, we’ve also noticed a pattern. We see the same personality traits emerge in the brand strategy sessions we lead for our clients. Ask a group of board members and nonprofit executives to consider their brand personality traits, and you’ll hear many of the same words again and again.

These words represent some very important ideas, traits any nonprofit wants to embody. But they are also so commonplace that they should be considered givens in any discussion about brand personalities.

Here they are, your R, S, T, L, N, and E of brand personality traits:


Each one of these brand personality traits is an admirable quality. Who doesn’t want to meet an executive director who’s professional, give to an organization that’s trustworthy, or visit a site that’s welcoming and friendly? Everybody wants that. And everybody expects that.

It is expected that you and your team exhibit these great behaviors. You must be professional, reliable, honest, friendly, knowledgeable, and passionate about your cause because your stakeholders expect it of you. And if your stakeholders expect it of you—and of every other organization—these personality traits won’t differentiate you from others. Being appropriately good won’t help you stand out. You have to be special. And you have to make sure you do everything in your power to promote your special traits.

Think of the greatest brands in the world. Their brand personalities shine through in distinct and memorable ways. Apple: Surprisingly, delightfully, simply innovative; Nike: Elite and empowering; Chipotle: Simple, casual, and a tad self-righteous; and Southwest Airlines: Caring, funny, and human.

Great brands have unmistakable, engaging personalities. They push past the R, S, T, L, N, and E and become a unique, identifiable voice in our lives. Your brand must do the same. As you consider your brand personality traits, push beyond the obvious. Find the missing pieces. It’s the key to solving the brand puzzle.


Zach Hochstadt is a Mission Minded Founding Partner and runs Mission Minded’s Denver office, leading the company’s creative teams in the areas of message development, writing, graphic design, and web design and development.

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