Book Review: The Fortune Cookie Principle

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This month, we read The Fortune Cookie Principle by Bernadette Jiwa in the Indie Business Book Club. The introduction to this book reminds us that your business will fail if you do not think through and clarify your brand story. It's not enough to have an awesome product. It's not enough to have awesome product photos and a great website.

All of that is important, but it's not enough. You must weave a narrative that supports your brand, and that narrative has to resonate with your customers and become a part of why they love you.


Book Review: The Fortune Cookie Principle

According to the author, Bernadette Jiwa, if you build a magnetic brand from the outset, you won't need to keep figuring out how to reinvent a strategy to raise awareness about your products. Here are the 20 “fortune cookie principles” and a bit of commentary about each one.

  1. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 1: Truth

    Your success begins at the intersection of the truth about your products and the truth about what your customers really want on an emotional level

  2. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 2: Purpose

    Your job isn't to get people to buy your stuff. Your job is to matter to them.

  3. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 3: Vision

    What is your vision for your company? What is the grand destination you envision for your brand? Your why and your vision should be closely connected, and if your business vision overlaps with your personal one — well, that's even better.

  4. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 4: Values

    Shared values enable brands to become a part of the customer's story, giving customers a way to express themselves.

  5. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 5: Products and services

    You don't find customers for your products. You find products for your customers.

  6. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 6: People

    When you treat people well, even if you use technology to make the process more efficient, the payoff is positive relationships, which translate into loyalty, trust, and respect, which translate into repeat sales, which translate into a profitable and sustainable business for decades to come.

  7. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 7: Value you deliver

    People are not buying what you produce. They are buying what is important to them. Your job is to figure out what is important to a segment of the market place, and then produce a product that embodies that.

  8. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 8: Name and Tagline

    When you name your company (or your brand), select a name that reflects your vision of what you want to see in the world. You want people to to believe in you, not just notice you.

  9. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 9: Content and copy

    You don't have to dump every relevant piece of information on a prospective customer all at one time in the hopes they will buy something immediately. You can relax and leave tidbits that woo them, that draw them in the way a fisherman draws in a fish … with a quiet approach and just the right bait. Over my nearly 20 years in business, I have embraced this concept, because it works.

  10. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 10: Design

    Design is your brand's fingerprint – the outward sign of your DNA.

  11. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 11: Your actions

    How you act tells us who you are.

  12. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 12: Customer experience

    In my experience, this is one of the biggest differentiators for very small businesses on a tight budget. It costs nearly nothing to deliver caring service, and the return on investment is phenomenal. A phone call, a special handwritten note, a personalized email … it all comes back to you.

  13. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 13: Price and quality

    The price of the product doesn't really matter!

  14. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 14: Perception

    it's not what you say about your product, but what your actions cause your customers to believe about it.

  15. More on the Fortune Cookie Principle

  16. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 15: Distribution

    Carefully choose the people and other brands with whom you collaborate. From retailers to affiliates to brand ambassadors, everyone has an impact. They should be selected not only because they get the job done, but also, if possible, because they complement your brand.

  17. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 16: Location

    Location is important. Whether it's Amazon, a department store, a bakery on a back street, a certain type of website (Etsy sends a very different message than Amazon or Artfire), or even an affiliate program … where people find you makes a difference to them, and it shapes the story they believe and tell about your brand.

  18. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 17: Ubiquity or scarcity

    If you intend to build a brand for the masses, you will engage in very different activities than if you intend to build one for a small, boutique niche market.

  19. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 18: Community

    I firmly believe that the difference between success and failure as a small business owner is whether or not you have intentionally nurtured a community to support your brand.

  20. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 19: Reputation

    The public eye is brutal. Because of the plethora of review sites online, your brand's reputation takes shape quickly. And from the beginning, it's largely out of your hands. It's not your version of your message that people care about. It's the version shared by their friends and contemporaries that matters most when they are making a purchasing decision.

  21. Fortune Cookie Principle No. 20: Reach and reaction

    Your customers' reaction to your brand is what actually shapes and builds it. Of course, you give them a head start by sharing the story and the message, but your customers have a say in creating the ending.

Finally, I leave you with one of my favorite quotes from the book.

Your story isn't what you tell people. It's what they believe about you based on the signals your brand sends. The story is a complete picture made up of facts, feelings, and interpretations, which means that part of your story isn't even told by you.

It's as simple as that. And also, as challenging.

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Did you read the this book with us? What insights can you share? If you are inspired by the information here, feel free to share in the comments below, or share on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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About Donna Maria Coles Johnson

Donna Maria is an author, podcaster, attorney, and the founder and CEO of the Indie Business Network, providing affordable product liability insurance and mentoring. Donna Maria teaches Makers and Creative Entrepreneurs how to use technology and community to build a profitable, sustainable business.