Bill Fasig is chief operating officer and managing partner at TopRight Partners. Previously, Bill was president and chief executive officer of GameTech International, senior vice-president of worldwide marketing and corporate affairs for VeriSign, and vice-president of global communications at Compaq. He was also chairman and managing director of the technology practice of Burson-Marsteller/Young & Rubicam, and held various management roles during his 10 years at Apple.

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I invited Bill to Marketing Smarts to discuss the "six-second brand story," and how distilling your company's narrative down to its essence makes your marketing—and your organization—work more effectively.

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

You have just six seconds to capture your audience's attention (03:38): "When you interact with people (could be on a website, could be in a conversation)...because of the bombardment of information that [people] get and [because] they're used to tuning things out, we've seen that you have approximately six seconds—maybe it's 5.8 or 6.4—but in six seconds you have to give them a reason to care, an interest in responding, and spark their curiosity. Give them a reason that they want to engage with you. Today, because of the saturation and the brevity of the messages that are coming at you all the time, if you don't do that in the first six seconds, you've lost them, and you've likely lost them for a good while if not permanently, because they're not going to come back."

Marketing does not close the sale: it opens the conversation (04:54): "The six seconds is not obviously telling your whole story, but it is reaching a potential customer or an audience member and saying, 'Listen, I've got something to say that you might actually care about.' And if you can't do it six seconds, they're not going to care. That's unfortunately the time that's allotted today.... I think what's happened is that it's forced companies to go through this exercise of 'can we really peel back the layers enough to make sure that we have a story that we can convey within those short increments?' Think of it this way: the point of marketing is not to close the sale, it's to open the conversation. Well, to open the conversation, you've got to give them a reason to care and you have to do it very efficiently and very, very fast."

A great brand strips the complex narrative down to one simple, clear brand story (08:29): "We have three words that we preach religiously, and they are 'simplicity,' 'clarity,' and 'alignment.' Every great story, every great brand is built around simplicity, clarity and alignment, and you either have that or you don't. It's not like you sort of have it. You literally either have it or you don't. And getting to that within the story of an organization or a company is extremely difficult. It sounds easy, but it's not, because people tell their own story in their own way. Companies tell their own story in their own way. Different [executives] tell it in their own way. Different board members. Different individuals in the company.

"So peeling back the layers repeatedly and getting to the point where you can actually say: 'Do we pass this test? Is there simplicity in our core purpose and why we do what we do? Is there clarity in the strategy of how we deliver and what we actually deliver, what we actually do? Is there alignment around how we take that to our customers, what tools we need. What organizations we need to shape? What do we need to look like as an organization? And then, ultimately, what's the destination? What's the end point? What's the impact that we want the customer to achieve because of this?

"The end part of the simplicity/clarity/alignment model is we go through a process we call a 'destination narrative.' What is the destination you want to write about? You get to write a headline, but it's literally one headline, and that's what we want to aim at, internally and externally from a customer point of view. And if you do that, it forces you to keep peeling back layer after layer after layer about 'why are we doing this, what is it we're actually doing, how are we doing it, and is there alignment internally?' Because if you don't have alignment internally around your story and how you're organized, you will struggle greatly. That has often been the undoing of many organizations."

To learn more about TopRight Partners, visit

Bill and I talked about much more, including how to discover your six-second brand story, how to communicate it effectively within the organization, and how to ensure your story's resonating with your brand's audience, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode!

This episode brought to you by Experian Marketing Services:

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.

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