Ten-ish slides that will define your brand

A short time ago, I was called in to help a team of university students in an Entrepreneurial Business Case Competition – ostensibly as a brand guy who could provide guidance on getting their messaging straight.

When I started working with them, however, I saw a fundamental breakdown in business basics. One student – whose idea had been chosen as the winner for the entire team to work on – was having a tough time defining exactly how to turn his idea into a business with legs. And the others seemed to maybe-kinda-sorta get where he maybe-kinda-sorta was going.

It seemed the right time to pull out my Guy Kawasaki.

The ten slides, explained

Kawasaki created the Ten Slide format because, as an investor, he was seeing so many businesses go off the rails in presentations.  What he discovered, however, was that these particular ten slides served admirably well in multiple settings, whether it was raising capital, making a sale, or forming a partnership.

In Kawasaki’s own words:

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Ten is the optimal number of slides in a PowerPoint presentation because a normal human being cannot comprehend more than ten concepts in a meeting—and venture capitalists are very normal. (The only difference between you and venture capitalist is that he is getting paid to gamble with someone else’s money). If you must use more than ten slides to explain your business, you probably don’t have a business.

What I discovered was that some of these ten slides were a terrific template for anyone trying to get clear on their brand as well. Bonus!

The bonus of crafting a tight pitch is that it gets you crystal clear on your brand as well! Share on X

So here, without further ado, are the Kawasaki slides I believe will help you nail your brand.

The problem / opportunity

Every great business solves a real problem. My definition of ‘real problem’ is one that:

  • Is felt by a sufficient number of people to make solving that problem financially rewarding, and
  • Is felt keenly enough by those people to actually be a ‘problem’, not just a minor annoyance. 

Sounds obvious? Go to any incubator, and look at the businesses being developed – I guarantee the majority of them started with a solution in search of a problem, not the other way around.

When it comes to brands, being able to state the problem in an artful way (think of any commercial for headache remedies where you see an icon head with a hammer banging inside it) helps you establish your solution. Not being able to state the problem (think of any commercial for modern pharma where all you see is people walking on the beach, playing with their kids, or just generally behaving slo-mo blissfully) makes your brand sell a tough one.

Then, the opportunity. If the problem provides you with a solid foundation to build a business on, the opportunity stirs the imagination, and gives you a taste of what the brand might become.

Opportunities aren’t solutions. They’re moments where you close your eyes and imagine what you could do with a solution if you only dreamed big enough. The sort of stuff that creates head-turning brands.

The value proposition

Certainly, the Value Proposition – or what value you’ll be providing to the person who buys your product / service – is essential to any business pitch. But the Value Prop’s cousin, the Unique Selling Proposition, is absolutely core to creating a great brand.

The USP states:

  • What you do best in the world – better than any of your competitors
  • The proof behind your claim
  • Who is the person who will care about your claim
  • Why they’ll care. 

Whenever I launch into a brand engagement, I do it with the USP. Get that right, and you get clear on why you’re doing what you’re doing, who you’re doing it for, and what features you should focus on nailing.

Need to get your USP tight? Check this story on honing your elevator pitch!

The magic

Brands are all about capturing the imagination. And there’s nothing for capturing the imagination like magic.

What's brand magic? Nordstrom's service, Apple's design, the Colonel's 11 herbs and spices. Elusive, but once you have them, nuclear-powered business builders! Share on X

Consider the Colonel’s 11 herbs and spices. Nordstrom’s service policy. Apple’s design ethos. They’re all foundations these businesses were built on. Like magic, they’re darn hard to describe in a way that adequately captures their ‘pulling power’.

Magic is the secret ingredient in what might otherwise be a perfectly rational business. Good magic is like catnip – it attracts people to something they may have seen a million times before, but never found captivating.

The best way to capture the magic is to show an amazed, happy customer. Here’s how to get amazing testimonials. 

The business model

Kawasaki breaks down this notoriously misunderstood animal beautifully. It’s simply your idea for getting money out of someone’s pocket, and putting that money in your own pocket.

A unique business model can become the brand. Consider Zappo’s or Dell.

The go-to market plan

Again, Kawasaki defines this simply, and beautifully, as your idea for reaching out to the people who may want your stuff, without breaking the bank.

When you’re building a brand, having a message that’s strong enough to cut through the clutter is preferable. Even better if you can get people to convey that message for you. Consider the viral qualities of movements like the ice bucket challenge, and you understand how a proposition that captures the imagination can help propel your brand without the budget of Coca-Cola behind it.

The competitive analysis

This is fundamental to every business pitch – who else is doing what you’re doing, and what are their strengths / weaknesses?

When it comes to brands, it’s also helpful to consider who is speaking your language, making similar emotional appeals, and positioning their product in a way that blocks you from getting into the consumer’s head. Get clear on this, and you’ll begin to see what language – and headspace – you can claim as your own.


In a business sense, traction comes down to how many people have bought, used or tried your stuff and given you the thumb’s up. From a brand perspective, traction is one of the most important selling tools you can find.

That’s simply because consumers don’t believe you – but they will believe a testimonial provided by a customer just like them. If you can put your happy fans in front of people who haven’t heard about you yet, you can effectively short circuit the trust journey most new brands need to embark on to win over consumers.

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