Preparing Your Brand for Wilderness Survival with Jonathan David Lewis

jonathan david lewis

“Research shows that our psychology is very similar in situations where we’re struggling with branding and marketing challenges and when we’ve crash-landed on a mountain.” Today’s marketplace is chaotic. Jonathan David Lewis, partner at McKee Wallwork + Company, calls this new normal we find ourselves in “the wild.” This is the focus of his new book, Brand vs. Wild: Building Resilient Brands for Harsh Business Environments. We chatted about survival, leadership, and how your brand can avoid walking in circles on this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast. 

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About Jonathan David Lewis

The author of Brand vs. Wild: Building Resilient Brands for Harsh Business Environments, Jonathan David Lewis is an engaging and authoritative speaker on shaping a brand that can survive—and thrive—in today’s tough, uncertain world.

As partner and strategy director at McKee Wallwork + Company, Jonathan led his firm to be recognized by industry purveyor Advertising Age as a national leader in branding and marketing, winning the Southwest Small Agency of the Year, national B2B Campaign of the Year, and national Best Places to Work awards.

A branding and business strategist, Jonathan honed his skills during the lean years of the Great Recession, helping brands navigate today’s unforgiving new business paradigms. Jonathan’s opinions are highly sought by numerous business and marketing publications, including Forbes, Digiday, and Advertising Age, where he explores the factors that lead to stalled growth and the principles proven to help companies navigate the ambiguities and dangers of the brand wilderness.

Episode Highlights

What happens when we find ourselves and our businesses in this chaotic wild? “We’re overwhelmed. There are seven factors that affect business growth. Three are external — the economy, aggressive competition, and industry disruption. The other four are internal factors.” These can be especially damaging for brands today.

“The wild turns brands wild.” We get erratic and inconsistent. “What used to work — things like size — are a vulnerability today. And when you’re lost, you lose your confidence and increase your fear.”

What do most of us do when we’re lost in the wild? Lewis pointed us to the research of Dr. John Leach, one of the world’s leading experts on survival psychology, noting the 10-80-10 theory. This states that in survival situations, 10% are prepared, 80% are paralyzed, and 10% panic. “Fight, flight, and freeze. You see this in brands too — especially recently with United and Pepsi.”

So, what do you do when you discover that you’re lost as a brand? “STOP. It’s the hardest thing to do. It’s an acronym survivalists use — Stop, Think, Observe, Plan. Take the time to orient yourself. That’s how you avoid walking in circles.”

What brand has made Jonathan smile recently? “I’d have to say Carls Jr.” Lewis cited their abandonment of their previous sex-focused strategy. Go Daddy has done something similar as well, trading the axiom of “sex sells” for telling better stories about small business websites.

To learn more, go to and you can check out the book on Amazon.

As We Wrap …

Before we go, I want to flip the microphone around to our community …
Recently, past guest Gabriella Mirabelli had me on her podcast — Up Next — where I chatted about scrappy marketing. Thanks Gabriella!

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