Mother, Mechanic, or Missionary? Create a World Class Brand with the Right DNA

Andy Cunningham, author of Get to Aha! Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition

Andrea (Andy) Cunningham graduated Northwestern and start her career as a writer covering the trucking industry. Proof that it’s good to figure out early where you don’t belong, Andy quickly transitioned from writing about the trucking industry to helping launch products like Asteroids for Atari and Equal and Nutrasweet for G.D. Searle. Soon after arriving in Silicon Valley in 1983 Andy joined Regis McKenna to lead the launch team for the Apple Macintosh. Her experiences with that iconic product launch and later collaborations with Steve Jobs were included in Walter Isaacson’s biography and Aaron Sorkin’s movie Steve Job, where Andy was played by actress Sarah Snook (who now stars in the HBO series “Succession”).

Andy has been a trusted source of marketing wisdom for technology ever since. Beyond product specs―feeds and speeds―Andy has a gift for positioning companies as well as products. Her counsel helps her clients to create new categories as a way to get a head start on dominating their market. In 1985, Andy founded Cunningham Communication, Inc. when Steve Jobs retained her to work on NeXT and Pixar in addition to her work with clients like Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Motorola, Kodak, and Eclipse Aviation. Over the next 25 years Andy lead her company through a series of mergers and spinoffs, culminating in her current role as CEO of Cunningham Collective.

In 2015, Andy hired Silicon Valley Press to create a white paper for business communications provider Avaya, where she served as acting chief marketing officer. Afterward, Andy engaged Silicon Valley Press to help write the book she had been thinking of writing for the last 30 years.

Originally titled Mothers, Mechanics and Missionaries, the book was officially published as Get to Aha! Discover Your Positioning DNA and Dominate Your Competition (McGraw Hill, 2017). The book is a step-by-step guide to creating the foundation for an enduring and world class brand. It explains the folly of diving into “branding” before the leadership team has clearly identified the company’s DNA.

In her book, Andy discusses her idea that every company has one of three types of DNA: Mothers, Mechanics, and Missionaries (hence the original book title). Mothers are customer-oriented, Mechanics are product-oriented, and Missionaries are concept-oriented. It is absolutely critical for business leaders to know which DNA type their company is in order to create an authentic and ultimately “sticky” position in the market.

But why are these DNA types so important? Because if a Mother-type company creates a marketing campaign based on the belief that it is a Missionary-type of company the underlying positioning will not ring true and the company won’t gain a foothold in the market. But if a company positions itself in alignment with its true DNA, it will resonate authentically and establish its role and relevance even in the face of a major competitor. Correct alignment means the language in the company’s marketing materials will also ring true internally and any misalignment in messaging will generate ambivalence and cynicism.

Andy’s book walks you through how to position your company in the marketing landscape using her DNA-based methodology. She helps you to “genetically test” your company, examine the market through the six Cs of positioning, and develop your company’s positioning statement―a reality-based declaration of your company’s role and relevance. Andy also insists that this process must involve not just the marketing team but the entire leadership including the CEO. Only then can you create a branding and marketing strategy that will build momentum and dominate the market with the full engagement of the entire enterprise.

Anyone with an interest in effective and impactful external communications for a company―and that should be most anyone in the company―really should read this milestone book.

Andy Cunningham’s book, Get to Aha!, can be found at AmazonBarnes & Noble, and other e-tailers.