thinkFWD Event Recap: Primal Branding with Patrick Hanlon

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Written by Joe Pilcavage,
• 3 min read

On April 16th, we kicked off the first of our new thinkFWD event series with a sold-out talk from Patrick Hanlon, world-renowned brand strategist and author of both “Primal Branding” and “The Social Code.” From founding global consultancy, thinktopia, to speaking at TEDx, to having his work become required reading at revered companies like YouTube, Pat’s influence on modern branding itself is nearly unparalleled.

Pat took the audience through his perspective on why some brands grow into thriving communities and cultural icons practically overnight, while others struggle to keep up, grounding his point of view with the idea that brands, at their core, are simply a set of beliefs that we choose to engage with and amplify through storytelling.

He further breaks it down by explaining how all brands, irregardless of their origin or industry, can be deconstructed into the same 7 components; a creation story, creed, icons, lexicon, rituals, non-believers, and leaders.

These seven pieces, when forged together, create the brand’s “Primal Code,” which can essentially be constructed or refactored to become a roadmap and north star for any brand, whether they’re looking to develop an effective marketing and communication strategy or create meaningful products and services.

After walking the group through the Primal Code using a wide range of examples that spanned from Apple to the United States of America as a brand, he ended the night with a surprise breakout session that challenged the audience to construct a set of entirely new brands themselves using the Primal Code. After a fast and furious 15 minutes, each group was tasks with presenting their brands back to the room.

The result? An incredible mix of people coming together from all backgrounds and working together to learn, laugh, and build some thoughtfully clever brands in the process.

Here’s a peak at some of our notes and a few of the highlights:


Interested in speaking, attending the next event, or even learning more about how to build a better brand for your organization? Head over to and let us know!