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What is NonFiction Branding™?

Branding Gets Personal.

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Meet D.P. Knudten

D.P.Knudten presenting his talk 'NonFiction Branding™ for NonProfits' at Madison NonProfit Day, Madison, WI, 2017

D.P. Knudten / Chief Collaborator @ COLLABORATOR creative, Madison, Wisconsin

D.P. has worked on some of the biggest—”and smallest—brands in the business including Coca-Cola, The Athlete’s Foot, ClosetMaid and Georgia-Pacific. His résumé includes tenures at DDB Needham (Chicago), McCann Erickson (Atlanta) and creative shops in Denver, CO; Sarasota, FL; and Madison, WI. A writer by trade, he enjoys playing in the intersection between the visual and the verbal, and using his NonFiction Branding™ approach to move people—and product—for companies throughout the United States.

D.P. cut his branding teeth in the trenches at McCann Erickson creating a variety of work for Coca Cola and their brands. You will never see him drink a Pepsi product, ever. From there, he worked on a wide array of brands from the prosaic (Georgia Pacific forest products) to the poetic (HelpHOPELive), and the no-nonsense B2B (Honeywell) to the wet & wild B2C (Wilderness Hotel & Golf Resort). His personal favorite: Southeastern Guide Dogs of Sarasota, Florida. Ask to see the TV spots. If you love dogs, you’ll love them.

D.P. developed his proprietary BRANDNature™ branding and messaging system by combining and refining the branding best practices he experienced at McCann, DDB Needham, and several other regional agencies. Then he added a little extra spice of his own to create a process that helps identify, purify and codify the true story of your personal or company brand to create advertising and marketing strategies that attract, engage, and most importantly, convert.

Co-author (with Spencer X. Smith) of ROTOMA—The ROI of Social Media ‘Top of Mind” and co-creator and host of both the popular The ROTOMA Podcast, , and the NONFICTION BRAND podcast, D.P. is a recognized expert in the fields of marketing, branding, social media and the intersection of branding & culture. He regularly presents a range of provocative and entertaining talks featuring his unique point-of-view to companies and groups throughout the U.S.

“Know who you are. So you can be it.” That two-sentence call to action succinctly sums up what NonFiction Branding™ philosophy is all about. You can reach him at or as @dpknudten on many popular social media platforms.

A book called ROTOMA

Early praise for D.P. Knudten's book "ROTOMA—The ROI of Social Media 'Top of Mind'"

An excerpt from the introduction…

An Introduction—literally.

Nick Lombardino of Atlas Providers is one of those ‘Connector’ types Malcolm Gladwell wrote about in The Tipping Point. He knows, and connects, just about everyone who is anybody in Madison’s startup space with an open heart that expects nothing in return. He’s a pure ‘sharer’ for sure. So when I found myself needing to do a little bit of a professional pivot, the first person I called was Nick.

“Have you met Spencer X. Smith?,” he asked after a few minutes of small talk.

“No, I haven’t, but I’ve seen the guy’s work all over the place. The man is a social media monster,” said I.

And he is, plugged into every viable, valuable social media channel there is. He’s also another Gladwellian Connector / Giver. Nick gave me Spencer’s contact info, and I took it from there.

We met. I swam through an avalanche of Spencer’s hard-earned knowledge, and we immediately became fast friends. His point-of-view re: social sharing blew me away. The depth of his insight, so freely shared, was near astounding. Simply put, the guy’s a giver, with a heck of a lot to give.

When he later asked if I’d be interested in writing a book with him, the answer was an immediate ‘yes.’ The central concept, ROTOMA (aka The Return on Top of Mind Awareness) made sense to me instantly as an incredibly elegant explanation for the ‘why do it’ of social media. Every good salesman has long known that the best way to make a sale is to make a friend first. And that’s exactly what social media enables you to do—for FREE.

So here we are. ROTOMA has gone from ‘what if’ to bound book. Like any conversation with Spencer, there’s a lot here, and even more to digest. A couple notes re: housekeeping. Both Spencer and I are first-person, ‘write what you know’ types. With both of us bouncing back and forth, adding comments and content throughout the book, that could get a little confusing on the ‘who said what front.’

With that in mind, in editing this book I tried to retain our distinctive voices by taking an anthology approach throughout. You’ll be able to track who authored the original section ‘soup stock’ by simply looking for the profile pic next to the section title, but know that we both added a little of our own personal blend of herbs & spices to each other’s original recipe.

Another tell: If it’s earnest, about the band Myopic Son, or clearly from a salesman’s point of view, it’s Spencer. If it’s got a touch of attitude, is overly fond of intra-section subheads, and clearly coming from the mind or mouth of an advertising copywriter & Creative Director, it’s me.

Write what you know, and in your own voice. We both did—and really hope you get something out of it.

– D.P. Knudten, Madison, Wisconsin / August, 2017

The Curriculum

‘Personal branding’ is one of those phrases that has come to mean everything, and nothing, at the same time.

On the weak end, it’s little more than wearing the same colored wig in every video you create—and then flooding the market with said videos.

On the strong end, it’s the thing that can enable you to command attention, top dollar, and legions of not just ‘fans’ but buyers of your services.

It can differentiate you amongst a crowd of applicants for your dream job.

And when done right, consistently, and 100% truthfully, it can make you a category of one.

Branding started out as a way to differentiate one can of beans from another. It’s grown over the years to become so much more than a label or a logo.

Some create a brand from scratch, creating a fiction that is designed to please the largest possible audience—then build a product to match. But what if you are the product?

That’s what NonFiction Brandversity™is all about. Creating a true, ‘completely you’ brand that is both aspirational, and unassailable. It’s about building a rock-solid conceptual foundation that never over promises or under delivers—but continually encourages and inspires you to serve your customers in the very best way possible.

There’s only one ‘you.’ That is the very definition of ‘unique.’ But does your market understand that?

It does—if you’re a fully founded, consistently promoting ‘NonFiction Brand.’

The NonFiction Brandversity™ curriculum is being created—from scratch—to build, shape and supercharge your personal brand.

There’s no readily available template for creating a bespoke personal brand. That’s why we are taking our time to handcraft the base curriculum for this exciting, completely new concept.

We are in no hurry either. We are going to create this community, from scratch, the right way. But…we are opening the website doors well in advance of the final online publication of course schedules, etc. Why? We want to build a community first. One of encouragement and commitment, spirit and light.

Life can be tough. This campus community is going to be a safe place to explore, conquer, learn and practice. But let’s get one thing clear from the get go: to be better, you have to practice better.

In the words of legendary Green Bay Packers Coach Vince Lombardi,

“Practice doesn’t make perfect. Only perfect practice makes perfect.”

Our goal: to perfect your practice, so you can benefit from your ‘completely true / completely you’ personal brand. If you share that goal, let me be the first to welcome you to campus. I’ll see you around The Quad.

– D.P. Knudten, Founder, NonFiction Brandversity™

The most powerful acronym in social media?

ROTOMA—It’s a big idea, and a 5-⭐️ ‘why you should / how you can’ book.

What is ROTOMA? Geographically, it’s a lake on the north island of New Zealand, but when it comes to social media, it’s an acronym for a very powerful concept: return on ‘top of mind’ awareness.

The ROTOMA concept was coined by Spencer X. Smith based on his exasperating experience answering one particular question over and over again about the real value of social media for businesses.

The conversation (highly simplified) goes something like this:

Brand Marketer: “Social media should be a key part of your comprehensive marketing plan.”

Skeptical Client: “Social media is a waste of time.”

Brand Marketer: “It can be, without a strategic plan. But with one, it can grow your business.”

Skeptical Client: “Oh yeah? What’s the ROI of social media?”

ROI is not the only acronym that counts.

ROI (Return on Investment) is a key metric that’s hard to argue with. If something costs $10 to do, but generates $1000 in increased sales, should you do it? Absolutely. But for many people, especially those that work in pure service industries, ROI may not be the best metric when it comes to social media for building your personal brand or corporate brand marketing.

Why? Because while it’s an important question re: social media, it’s not the most important one. A better question is this:

Ask any salesperson about where they want to be with their customers before, during and after purchase.

It works like this; Ask a salesperson, “where do you want to be…

…before the customer enters the market for you goods or services?”

Their answer: Top of Mind.

…once they officially enter the market?”

Their answer: Top of Mind.

…and even after purchase, when they may be asked by others for references and referrals, or considering another purchase?

Their answer: Top of Mind.

‘Top of Mind’ is the killer app on social media. 

Think about it—when in the course of human history has it been possible to:

Reach your customers, wherever they are in the world, in nanoseconds?

To personally research deeply not only into your customers’ immediate wants, challenges, and needs—but your competitors’ customers as well?Demonstrate the depth of your thinking, the quality of your service, and even the unique quirks of your voice and personality before you meet face to face?What media allows you to launch a potentially international business, serve customers in real time no matter their time zone, and engage with a crew of ‘as needed’ experts—from your smart phone?

And the absolutely amazing part? You can get all the above—all that actionable intelligence, all that personal contact potential, and all that whenever/wherever immediacy FOR FREE?

The answer: never before. That is the reason I call ‘return on top of mind awareness’ social media’s killer application.

Introverts rejoice.

When you use social media to enhance your ‘top of mind’ awareness, there is no such thing as a ‘freezing cold room.’ You know what I’m talking about—that networking event where you don’t know anyone. If you’re building your personal brand by elevating your ‘top of mind’ awareness via social media, don’t be surprised when blank stares turn into open smiles and ‘I know you. I see your posts on (social media platform) all the time. It’s so wonderful to meet you!”

Does this actually happen? Why yes, it does. And as an introvert, you can be the one controlling the thermostat well in advance of the event by showing who you are, demonstrating your value, and building potential conversation bridges via the content you post, as in “Hey, I saw that post you did last week about X, and I have a question for you.” Isn’t that better than the dreaded “So, what do you do?”

ROI is important, but when it comes to understanding the real value of social media’s power to build your personal brand, the only acronym you really need is ROTOMA.

-D.P. Knudten, Founder, NonFiction Brandversity™

Early praise for D.P. Knudten's book
To order your copy, click here.


What is NonFiction Branding™?
Good question—and one that’s answered weekly in the NONFICTION BRAND™ podcast with D.P. Knudten and a series of regular co-hosts including Kate Toon, Don Stanley, and Leah Roe, as well as a bunch of top-tier personal branding and social media experts.