Thinking Outside of the Box and Breaking the Wheel with Jay Acunzo

jay acunzo on brand podcast

“As marketers we retreat to the mean — to trendy best practices.” What’s required is out-of-the-box thinking. As the founder of Unthinkable Media and author of the new book Break the Wheel, Jay Acunzo knows a thing or two about pushing beyond the everyday and inspiring others to create and share exceptional stories. We discussed all of this and more on this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast.

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About Jay Acunzo

Jay Acunzo is the author of the book Break the Wheel: Question Best Practices, Hone Your Intuition, and Do Your Best Work. He’s a critically acclaimed show host and executive producer, as well as the founder of Unthinkable Media, which creates documentary shows with brand clients.

As a digital media strategist at Google, Jay was responsible for pushing marketing executives and practitioners into the digital age. He then held multiple leadership positions at high-growth tech startups, including HubSpot, and served as Vice President of Brand at the venture capital firm NextView.

Jay’s work has been cited in courses at Harvard Business School and by writers at the New York Times, The Washington Post, FastCompany, Fortune, Forbes, and more. He’s been called a “creative savant” by Salesforce and was named to the city of Boston’s “50 on Fire” list.

In a world where “storyteller” has become a buzzword, Jay has earned a living by understanding how to tell actual stories — emotional tales of people and teams doing their best work that help inspire others to push past conventional thinking in theirs.

Episode Highlights

The trouble with story. As Jay’s bio notes, he makes his living helping organizations tell better stories. Storytelling is everywhere today but that’s not always a good thing. “It’s good because it’s ubiquitous. It’s everywhere.” It’s a challenge as everyone has their own formulas and definitions.

The most overlooked aspect of story. “Conflict. Conflict is critical as it creates stakes and tension. This raises the narrative and helps move the story toward resolution.”

How you can Break the Wheel. Since Jay was last on the On Brand podcast, he’s released his new book Break the Wheel, which is all about moving beyond big ideas and exploring how the work gets done in a meaningful way.

Think like an investigator not an expert. “You have to find what works best for you. That means we have to stop acting like experts and act like investigators instead.” For example, it’s not enough to say that the best practices work. You have to know why they work. What can you do with that?

Dueling quotes. Jay’s investigative thinking reminded me of a favorite quote of mine from James Thurber, “It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers.” Jay went on to share a favorite of his, “It is better to be vaguely right than exactly wrong.”

What brand has made Jay smile recently? Jay smiles at refreshing brands. “That means they’re different but welcome.” He went on to share a story from Wistia’s creative video production campaign — 1-10-100, chronicling their work as they created the same video for $1,000, $10,000, and $100,000. Talk about redefining the story!

To learn more, go to You can also check out Jay’s recent podcast episode with Patreon founder Jack Conte, which we discussed during the show.

As We Wrap …

Did you hear something you liked on this episode or another? Do you have a question you’d like our guests to answer? Let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #OnBrandPodcast and you may just hear your thoughts here on the show.

On Brand is sponsored by my new book Brand NowDiscover the seven dynamics to help your brand stand out in our crowded, distracted world. Order now and get special digital extras. Learn more.

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