The secret of the Wŭ Xíng

Over the past 10 years I have been studying and researching patterns within various industries, to identify what are the key characteristics of meaningful & successful brands.As I started studying each brand unique selling point and their signature style, a few questions kept cropping up in my mind:

  • Is there a common denominator that defines each brand's success or failure?
  • What are the key elements that define and distinguish a world class brand from a mundane one?
  • Why do some products or services seem to outperform their competition better, faster and longer than others?

After what felt like an endless series of sleepless nights, I eventually uncover the five (5) key characteristics that defined and are shared by meaningful & successful brands.

The fundamentals of this pattern came from my observations on how our economy had changed in the past several decades, from an economy focused on industrial production, to an economy centered around people. Such an economy is not based on rationality, but on desire, and desire means brands.

There are infinite ways to represent a new model; but I thought why not using a model that roots deep in tradition, making it even more comprehensive and memorable.

To better represent this branding framework I took the liberty to borrow the ancient Chinese concept of the Wŭ Xíng. The five elements (or virtues) are; wood (木 mù), fire (火 huŏ), earth (土tŭ), metal (金 jīn), water (水 shuĬ), the Wŭ Xíng had been used for thousands of years as the defining framework for many Chinese fields; from traditional Chinese medicine to Feng Shui. I though why not branding as well then?

The Chinese Wŭ Xíng are primarily concerned with explaining the process and change. Which, to my surprise, perfectly fit the branding philosophy I was building.

The five elements are:

  1. Distinctiveness; 
  2. Desirability; 
  3. Sense of belonging;
  4. Trust; 
  5. Consistency.

I associated distinctiveness with wood, desirability with fire, sense of belonging with earth, trust with metal, and consistency with water. Referring back to the original Wŭ Xíng, each of the elements can be used to explain parts of an idea life cycle by employing their inherent characteristics, i.e. In nature, wood fuel fire, and so, in brands distinctiveness fosters desire

The Wŭ Xíng Branding Model begins with identifying what the distinctive values and characteristic of the brand are. Determining and leveraging what fires up the desire of the target market. Making them belong to the brand. Developing a relationship based on trust. With consistency reinforcing its values and narrative.

We will discuss each and every element deeply in future posts so stay tuned.

To learn more about the Wŭ Xíng Branding Model don't hesitate to contact me at or apply to our next speaking engagement here.