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Silent Authority, The Path to Thought Leadership and Success | Full Book

Updated: Apr 19

Index





- INTRODUCTION -



In recent decades, only a few individuals have made a transformative impact on the world with their entrepreneurship, vision, and perseverance. While there have been many successful entrepreneurs with innovative ideas, these iconic figures stand out for their ability to disruptively and therefore radically change not just one, but several industries.


A striking example is, of course, Steve Jobs, who transformed the computer from a functional device into a design object for the living room. He revolutionised the music industry, developed the smartphone, and changed the animation industry forever with Pixar.


Another influential and well-known personality is Richard Branson. After his adventures in the music industry, where he hosted some of the biggest artists in his studio, he has inspired many people with his vision of meaning and a healthy work-life balance. Moreover, he has redefined the concept of travel, especially air travel. With Virgin Galactic, he now even offers space travel.


Elon Musk is also involved in these space adventures. Prior to this, he revolutionised the world of online payments, elevated the electric car to a new standard, and plays a major role as an investor in technologies such as Chat-GPT.


On 5 July 1994, visionary Jeff Bezos started an online bookstore behind a small desk. Since then, Amazon has forever changed the way it sells online, publishes books and hosts websites or data. So has Jack Ma, who with Alibaba has the most extraordinary products delivered right to your front door.


Two men not to be missed in this list either are Larry Page and Sergey Brin. As developers of the world's largest search engine, they and their parent company Alphabet have been at the forefront of many innovative developments and products. They did this sometimes through their own product developments and sometimes through acquisitions. One of the most famous acquisitions is of course YouTube, but Alphabet also introduced the Google Nest, a smart thermostat that has now become the standard in many living rooms thanks to many copies.


A handful of titans, along with a few others, have dramatically changed our world. You might think their success is due to their timing, their character, work ethic, a bit of luck and the way they realise their ideas. Simon Sinek, in his 'Golden Circle' theory, explains that their success comes from knowing why they do what they do. While all these factors certainly play a role, there is perhaps an even more important element that contributes to the extraordinary success and huge influence of these very diverse individuals. They and their companies were certainly silent authorities in their early stages.


Simon Sineks Golden Circle & Silent Authority

Like Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield of Ben & Jerry's, Teun van de Keuken of Tony's Chocolonely, Brian Smith, the introducer of Ugg boots and many others, in the early years they did not shout from the rooftops how great they, their company or their products were. They simply existed and were authentic in their being. In doing so, they made a difference. They didn't have to prove themselves or say much about themselves or their products; others did that for them.


I have been in the world of branding, positioning, advertising, marketing and strategy for more than 30 years, and have had the privilege of working for a wide range of companies. These range from start-ups to the largest multinationals. What always strikes me is a recurring pattern. Companies that achieve rapid success are often led by what I call 'silent authorities', and they ensure that their business also exudes this silent authority. With a few exceptions, these are remarkable people. Not because they want to seem special or pursue an image, but because of their unique view of the world and people. This can sometimes lead to behaviour that seems unworldly, inappropriate or even anti-social in the eyes of some. However, this is not conscious, but an expression of their authenticity.


Take Steve Jobs, for example, who for years wanted nothing to do with his daughter, or Elon Musk, who is a father of 10 children to three different women, while he hardly seems to have time to sleep. Each of these entrepreneurs has something authentic. They care little about what others think of them, and that alone gives them a certain authority. But because they don't flaunt their personality, I call this 'silent authority'.


Silent authority is about standing out and being seen for who you are, what you do and what you have to offer, without being ashamed, bragging about it or being in the limelight. These people possess the ability to get others to shine the spotlight on them without asking for it themselves. These kinds of people and businesses do not need to hire influencers. They don't even want to. In fact, influencers and other people on social media like to talk about these people, their businesses and products anyway.


Silent authority stands in stark contrast to the bombastic communication that floods us daily. Amid the noisy websites, banners and luminous billboards that weary our eyes, the true titans of this world choose a different path. They let their expertise, products or services speak for themselves. They act stoically, true to their vision, values, skills and passion, without worrying about being noticed. This way of communicating, despite the sometimes unworldly idiosyncrasies of the founders, generates a lot of sympathy, respect, admiration and, above all, curiosity. Because who has not once wondered how these titans achieved their immense success where others failed?


Bombastic Communication

This article explains why silent authority works, how becoming and being it is a choice, how it works and how it can be the driving force to create immense appeal and success as a startup as well as an established business. It is a blueprint for standing out within today's communications violence and applicable to almost any business looking to position itself.




CHAPTER 1


- THE RISE OF SILENT AUTHORITY -



It is not without reason that silent authority is gaining traction and recognition in this day and age as a guide to positive impact and success. Amid the abundance of superficiality that often characterises social media and marketing, our craving for authenticity is growing as a welcome counterpart. We have gradually become immune to the endless stream of self-glorification and excessive praise of products and services.


Take, for example, the 'well-known' Influencer proclaiming on Instagram that the latest electric toothbrush is the miracle product that will make you never have to go to the dentist again. But seriously, who still takes that for granted? Then you have the birthday parties where my living room fills up with some people who have just returned from some life-changing course or retreat in Ibiza or Thailand. They praise it to everyone, whether one asks about it or not. And in no time you see the same person bursting into tears over a recent minor argument with a friend, only to proclaim that she has learned to embrace her emotions, as her guru advised during the retreat. An experience that, although it made her spend 5,000 euros, would supposedly make her more resilient.


When I first discovered Facebook, I was particularly excited about the possibility of reconnecting with people I had not seen for a long time. It was nice to make connections or just stay involved from a distance, until the time came to meet in real life again, with plenty of conversation because I was aware of their life events.


However, that was in the early days of Facebook. Nowadays, when I open a social media platform, it seems like I can hardly find anyone real, while I am inundated with all kinds of information. Everyone has an opinion on everything, and while I am curious to hear your take on things, I am simultaneously bombarded with ads, news updates, clickable links and invitations to all kinds of webinars and events.



I get overwhelmed by information and lose track completely, with one voice shouting even louder than the other. This makes it all the more challenging to discern true quality and authenticity, which actually makes me more drawn to modesty.


There has also been a striking evolution in leadership. The barking, authoritarian boss or manager, who used to show dominance by imposing his will loudly and clearly, is giving way to leaders who lead with empathy and authenticity. People are more willing to engage with someone who conveys sincerity and passion, someone who acts from their own values and vision, rather than leaning on power and authority or claiming 'that's the way it should be, because those are the protocols'. This new type of leader stays true to themselves and inspires others, without falling back on intimidation or the strict enforcement of rules to achieve their goals.


Now, of course, I can believe and think all sorts of things, but that says little at first. In my first advertising agency, an expression was: 'What you find, you bring to department lost objects'. Not because you can't give your opinion, gladly, but because just having an opinion is often not enough if you can't back it up with facts. Fortunately, therefore, I am also not alone in what I believe and think.


Back in 2012, Jahn & Kunz conducted research into the impact of social media on consumers' purchasing behaviour and even then it was clear that people were increasingly sceptical about the claims of influencers and various marketing statements. The preference was for authenticity and substance over attractiveness. Evidently, consumers are not that crazy!


On the leadership front, more recent research also shows that authenticity is preferred by employees. A study by Kakkar & Sivanathan in 2021 found that dominant leadership can have benefits at most in crisis situations, but this behaviour can also undermine motivation and mutual willingness to help. Their series of eight studies, with 147,780 observations, found that leaders who were themselves were preferred and exuded not only authenticity but even humility.


The success behind silent authority


So in today's era, when our landscape and even our living room is dominated by the relentless din of bombastic advertising and the incessant self-promotion of companies and individuals, a new form of influence is emerging: silent authority. This term denotes an authentic power, an unchallenged credibility that cannot be measured in decibels or digital impressions, but in the depth of its impact on society.


In the shadows of screaming neon lights and digital banners, where the real value and quality of work resides, this silent authority flourishes. It is a world where companies like Patagonia and Warby Parker do not just sell products, but communicate value, integrity and an innovative vision. Their communication is not a noisy parade of self-glorification, but a modest expression of their deeply held principles and beliefs.


This principle of silent authority is also found in individuals like Warren Buffett and J.K. Rowling. They embody the rare combination of success and humility, with their actions and achievements saying more than any advertising campaign ever could. Buffett, with his simple lifestyle and thoughtful investment strategies, and Rowling, with her personal story of struggle and triumph, have both left an indelible impression in their respective fields.


The authenticity of these silent authorities generates powerful trust among consumers and followers. This trust is not the result of aggressive marketing or flamboyant self-promotion, but the natural consequence of their sincerity, their commitment to true values and their unshakeable belief in their mission. Their stories, not constructed but authentic, speak to the heart and elicit a deeper emotional response than the superficial glitz of traditional advertising.


Silent authorities offer a haven of integrity and reliability. It is a beacon of hope in a sea of superficiality, a reminder that true influence comes not from how loudly one speaks, but from the authenticity and value of what one has to say. This approach, rooted in authenticity and sincerity, promises to make a lasting impact in an age of fleeting attention and short-lived trends.


But what exactly is the appeal and success behind silent authority? It has to do with a combination of 5 factors; Their focus on quality, inspiring rather than manipulating, creating curiosity and intrigue, long-term impact and connection, innovation and disruption and thus becoming a thought leader.


The appeal of a silent authority


1. Focus on quality


Where others emphasise loudly propagating success, silent authorities take a different path to recognition, influence and success: the path of quality focus. Indeed, they are driven by an unwavering commitment to the substance and quality of their work and walk this path with a determination that extends beyond the superficial glare of flashy success.


These dedicated individuals and businesses choose to distance themselves from the hustle and bustle of aggressive marketing and bombastic self-promotion. Instead, they put their heart and soul into the essence of their work, believing that true quality will triumph in the end. Their focus is not on advertising their achievements, but on perfecting their products and services, refining their craft and deepening their knowledge.


This approach, though often less visible in the public spotlight, slowly but surely builds a foundation of trust and respect. Clients, partners and colleagues are beginning to recognise that these silent authorities not only speak of quality, but actually embody it in everything they do. Their reputation for competence and reliability is built not on loud claims or flamboyant promises, but on the quiet strength of consistent performance and unwavering commitment.


Over time, as trends come and go and marketing campaigns fade into the background, the achievements of these silent authorities stand tall as towers of reliability and excellence. Their name becomes synonymous with quality, not because they proclaim it themselves, but because others - their satisfied customers, their respectful colleagues - do it for them.


This creates a deeper form of recognition, one rooted in the reality of what one has achieved, not in the illusion of what one claims to be. This form of recognition is more enduring, influential and ultimately more fulfilling than the fleeting attention gained through aggressive marketing. It is recognition that is not just heard, but felt in the hearts of those who recognise the value of genuine craftsmanship and authentic commitment.


Canva was founded in 2012. Their success is largely due to their focus on delivering an intuitive and user-friendly design experience for non-professional designers. Instead of focusing on extensive advertising campaigns, Canva has focused on developing a high-quality product that is responsive to the needs of its users. Their approach to design democratisation has ensured organic growth, focusing on word-of-mouth and user satisfaction.


This strategy has earned Canva a strong reputation within the community of digital designers and non-professional users looking for a simple graphic design solution. Canva is thus seen as a reliable and accessible tool in the world of digital design, making it an example of silent authority in its sector.


2. Inspiration rather than manipulation


In the world of silent authorities, it is not manipulation but inspiration that takes centre stage. This principle aligns closely with the thinking of Simon Sinek, who argues that people don't buy what you do, but why you do it. It is about the alignment of belief and purpose between the entrepreneur and the target audience. When this synchronicity is achieved, the deal is closed, so to speak, and followers emerge.


Silent authorities understand the power of inspiration. They realise that their true influence lies not in loudly proclaiming their successes or highlighting their capabilities, but in conveying their deeper motivations and beliefs. It is about sharing a vision that finds resonance with the target audience, a vision that tells not only what is being done, but more importantly why it is being done.


Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard is a good example of this. He has always emphasised the importance of protecting nature and promoting environmentally friendly production methods. Instead of focusing on aggressive marketing strategies or loudly proclaiming their products, Patagonia uses their business platform to create awareness about environmental issues and take action against climate change.


This approach to inspiration leads to an authentic connection with the audience. It creates a bond that goes beyond mere commercial transactions; it builds relationships based on shared values and common goals. In this dynamic, people consciously choose a product or service not just for its practical benefits, but because they believe in what it represents and the vision it conveys.


The success of silent authorities, reinforced by this second pillar of inspiration, proves that true influence comes not from the imposition of ideas, but from the ability to move others with a compelling and sincere vision. In an age where consumers are becoming increasingly discerning and aware, this proves to be the key to sustainable impact and true connection.


3. Focus on curiosity and mysticism


Founded in 1988 by Belgian designer Martin Margiela, clothing brand Maison Margiela is known for its innovative and unconventional designs, which often push the boundaries of the fashion industry.


Main page of Fashion Brand Maison Margiela

What makes Maison Margiela special is not only their unique style, but also the way they communicate. Martin Margiela himself has always shunned publicity; he rarely gave interviews and rarely appeared in public. This reticence created an aura of mystery and curiosity around the brand and the designer. People were intrigued by the person behind the revolutionary designs and by the brand's philosophy.


The spotlight is often on the loudest players. But this also creates an intriguing phenomenon around those who move successfully in the shadows. These silent authorities, usually minimised in words but maximised in actions, arouse an undeniable curiosity and mystique.


These individuals and companies, who choose not to expose their stories to the general public, are enveloped in a veil of mystery. The public may hear whispers of their achievements, see the fruits of their labour, but do not know the full story behind these successes. This partial ignorance fuels curiosity, stimulates the imagination, creates a form of mysticism and invites further exploration.


In a world where information is often so accessible and abundant, the unknown becomes a rarity that attracts attention. When one hears less about a person or organisation but clearly perceives the impact of their work, a natural urge to discover more arises. Who are they? What drives them? How did they reach these heights without blowing the trumpets of self-promotion?


This curiosity and mysticism are powerful tools in the hands of silent authorities. They create a magnetic effect, drawing people into discovering their story of their own accord. This is in contrast to those who are constantly in the spotlight, where the audience often becomes immune to their constant self-aggrandisement.


Moreover, when the veil is finally lifted and the stories of these silent authorities are revealed, the impact is all the more powerful. Discovering the depth and richness of their experiences, often marked by humility and genuine dedication, leaves a lasting impression. The respect and admiration that results from these revelations are often much deeper and more lasting than the superficial admiration that arises for those who are constantly in the spotlight.


Thus, the curiosity and mysticism that surround silent authorities becomes not only a source of interest, but also a foundation for deep respect and genuine appreciation. In their silence lies their strength; in their unfamiliarity, their allure.


4. Long-lasting connection and impact


Where the echoes of fleeting promotions and momentary attention fade quickly, there is a more subtle but significantly more powerful form of influence that plants its roots deep in time: the long-lasting impact of silent authority. This form of influence, unobtrusive but indelible, is distinguished by its ability to leave lasting traces in people's hearts and minds and that creates a bond.


Silent authorities choose not to participate in the battle for immediate attention, but instead focus on cultivating a deep connection with their audience through their work and performance. Instead of relying on noisy and often fleeting advertising campaigns, they build their reputation through consistency, integrity and exceptional performance.


Apple, founded in 1976, has distinguished itself through its innovative technology, sleek design and high-quality products. Instead of focusing on aggressive sales strategies, Apple has always emphasised designing user-friendly, aesthetically pleasing and technologically advanced products. Their product launches and marketing campaigns are often subtle and focused on highlighting the quality and uniqueness of their products.



Apple has never - and will never - use aggressive marketing methodologies such as discounts. Only once a year do they discount 10% and that is during Black Friday. Any retailer that does discount on days other than during Black Friday may immediately stop selling Apple products.


Apple's approach of creating products that integrate seamlessly into users' daily lives has built a loyal customer base. Apple users value not only the functionality of the products, but also the design and overall user experience. This has led to strong brand loyalty and an almost cult-like following.


This approach resonates with audiences at a deeper level. When people are genuinely touched by the work or achievements of an individual or organisation, it becomes part of their experience and consciousness. Such impressions do not result from an imposed marketing strategy, but from a natural appreciation and recognition of quality and value.


For example, take a look at and video of Jony Ive, the former Chief Design Officer (CDO) at Apple Inc. He played a crucial role in the design of many iconic Apple products, including the iPhone, iPod, iPad, MacBook, and the iMac, and knows how to talk about their product line like no other.





The impact of silent authority is similar to reading a profound book or experiencing a work of art that continues to inspire thought and conversation long after it has been experienced. This form of influence is sustainable because it is based on real merit, not superficial images or slogans.


Silent authorities provide an anchor of meaning and relevance. It is a beacon of stability in a sea of changeability, a source of confidence in a world of uncertainty. When the dust clouds of today's advertising stunts descend, the achievements and legacy of silent authorities continue to shine bright and untouchable.


Thus, the long-lasting impact of silent authority is not only a testament to current success, but also a promise of continued relevance and appreciation in the future. In their quiet authority lies a deep resonance that effortlessly stands the test of time.


5. Innovation and disruption


Silent authorities are always ready to do things differently. They are often disruptive or introduce completely new concepts that challenge conventional wisdom. This generates interest and questions, such as "Would it still be better if...?" Their success lies not in the noise they make, but in the quiet certainty of their contributions.


This approach to silent authority results in a gradual building of a reputation for competence and reliability. They are recognised as thought leaders in their field, similar to historical innovators who broke new ground and eventually set the standard. Their methods and principles often become the model others try to follow.


An example of a company that embodies innovation and disruption as a silent authority is the US company Tesla Motors, founded by Elon Musk. Tesla radically changed the auto industry at a time when fossil fuel was by far the predominant fuel, with the introduction of high-performance electric vehicles, and has been instrumental in this shift to electric driving.


Tesla's approach was disruptive; they challenged the traditional automotive sector by positioning electric cars not only as environmentally friendly options, but as technologically superior and desirable. This has led to a shift in the perception of electric cars, from niche to mainstream.


They do this, for example, by racing a Tesla Roadster against a Bugatti Chiron on the Monza cirquit, where it is immediately clear that a Tesla's performance is certainly not inferior.





Instead of focusing on large-scale marketing campaigns, Tesla has relied on the quality and innovation of their products to generate attention. Their success lies in the quiet certainty of their technological innovations and their ability to transform the automotive industry.


Tesla is now recognised as a leader and pioneer in electric vehicles, and their approach and technologies are often seen as the standard to which other companies aspire. Their ability to innovate and disrupt the industry, while staying true to their mission, makes them a powerful example of silent authority.


Another example of silent authority is Uber, although they made different choices later in their existence in terms of positioning. In most countries, the taxi business was a corrupt or disorganised mess with a hodgepodge of car offerings and prices. With 1 simple App, you could instantly see your price and be assured of a luxury taxi. How simple do you want a business idea to be?


The Uber App

In the early days of Uber, this app was only available via via, and once you could order an Uber, you really were the man.Of course, the lack of sufficient supply will also have contributed to this introduction choice, but the exclusivity for this disruptive business model was downright brilliant and made Uber a true silent authority.


The silent authority as thought leader


The silent authority approach results in a gradual building of a reputation for competence and reliability. It is not only the public that comes to recognise and appreciate these silent authorities for their qualities; competitors also see them as thought leaders in their field. Just as Steve Jobs' vision at the time was to give the computer a central place in the living room, an idea later adopted by many, the methods and principles of silent authorities often become the model that others try to copy.


In this role as thought leader, silent authorities influence both their audiences and their competitors. Their approach often becomes a blueprint for success in the industry. Others look to them for inspiration and guidance, and try to replicate elements of their success in the hope of achieving similar results.


In doing so, silent authorities not only create a lasting impact in their own companies, but also set the standard for the entire industry. Their influence extends beyond their immediate environment; they build a legacy of quality, integrity and innovation that inspires and motivates others.


The founders of leading project management and team communication platform Basecamp are Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. They are known for their philosophy on work and corporate culture, which they have shared in their books, blogs and podcasts.




They emphasise themes such as work-life balance, avoiding unnecessary meetings and e-mails, and striving for a calm working environment. This approach has earned them not only a loyal following among users, but also respect and admiration in the wider business world.


So Basecamp's impact is not only found in their product, but also in their influence on modern working practices and corporate culture. Their silent authority is reflected in the way they consistently stick to their principles and values, making them a respected and enduring player in the technology industry as well as thought leaders.




CHAPTER 2


- BECOMING AND BEING A SILENT AUTHORITY IS A CHOICE -



Consciously choosing the path of silent authority is an act of courage and conviction. It is a choice that goes deeper than the superficial gloss of marketing strategies and focuses on the core values of authenticity, quality and integrity, combined with a clear vision.


At the heart of this choice lies an unwavering commitment to authenticity. Silent authorities choose to define themselves, their company or their products by their true content and character, not by the noisy echoes of external validation. This approach means abandoning the safety of conventional advertising and embracing a more authentic, albeit sometimes seemingly riskier, way of self-expression and presentation.


Prioritising quality and content over visibility and recognition requires a deep conviction in the value of one's own work. It requires confidence that true quality will eventually be recognised and appreciated, even if it is not always immediately visible or celebrated. It is a long-term investment in credibility and respect, which in practice will usually actually produce results sooner than the cry for attention.


This choice of silent authority also reflects a distancing from the superficial and often misleading world of aggressive self-promotion. Instead of joining a race for attention, silent authorities choose a path that leads to lasting relationships based on trust and mutual respect.


The path of silent authority is one of subtle influence and profound impact. It is a path not everyone chooses, but for those who do, it opens the door to a world of authentic connections and lasting appreciation. It is a choice that not only impacts the present, but also creates a legacy for the future.


The synergy between entrepreneur, company and product or service as silent authorities


The concept of silent authority can apply to both the entrepreneur, the company and the product or service. It implies that each of these elements can stand out through quality, authenticity and vision, without depending on excessive promotion or visible self-glorification.


When a company or a product/service is recognised as a silent authority, it means they prove their value through their performance and quality. This creates trust and respect among customers, partners and within the industry, and this is often associated with a degree of integrity and authenticity in business or product development.


However, when a company or product has built a reputation as a silent authority, the entrepreneur is often expected to also personally embody these values. This is because the entrepreneur is often seen as the face and driving force behind the company or product. As such, the entrepreneur is expected to reflect the values of the company or product to ensure credibility and consistency in the perception of external stakeholders.


On the other hand, when an entrepreneur himself is considered a silent authority, it does not necessarily mean that the company or product automatically has the same status. This is because an entrepreneur's reputation can be built through personal attributes, experiences and achievements that may be independent of the specific characteristics or success of the company or product.


Choose to communicate your vision as a leader


In the subtle art of silent authority lies a trap that can tempt even the most dedicated practitioners: the tendency to get bogged down in the details of a specific function or feature of a product, rather than focusing on the overarching vision and the broader impact the product or service has on its target audience. This is a subtle but crucial distinction in the way silent authorities communicate and present themselves.


Take Tony's Chocolonely, for example. This brand exemplifies how to stick to the principle of silent authority. They focus on conveying their mission: to fight unfair trading practices in the cocoa sector. They focus on the 'why' and the 'what' - why their mission is important and what they are doing to bring about change - rather than getting lost in the complex details of exactly how they pay fair prices to cocoa farmers.



This approach ensures that attention is not distracted by technical details but remains focused on the essence of their message and the impact of their work. It is this focus on the larger vision, coupled with the ability to prove that they deliver on their promises, that constitutes the strength and appeal of silent authorities.


This principle of silent authority is not limited to the field of sustainable chocolate production, but extends to all areas in which entrepreneurs and companies want to distinguish themselves through their values and their impact, rather than merely their product features. It is about focusing on the bigger picture, on the vision and values that underpin a company or product, and communicating these in a compelling way.


It is a delicate balance between informing your audience and maintaining the mystique and appeal of your brand. The trick is to say enough to build trust and credibility, without falling into the trap of excessive specificity that can undermine the magic of your message. Silent authorities know that sometimes it is more impactful to say less, but do so with more meaning.


The Enterprise as a Silent Authority


At the heart of this approach is the creation of an intriguing mystery around the enterprise. Instead of loudly proclaiming growth figures, number of employees or market dominance, silent authorities often deliberately keep these details in the background. This lack of overt self-promotion arouses a natural curiosity in the public: How was this success achieved? What makes this enterprise unique in a sea of competitors?


This curiosity is further fuelled by selectively communicating future visions and how the entrepreneur sees the market and its opportunities. By focusing on their long-term vision and its implications for customers and the market, they invite their audience to become part of a journey beyond the mundane. It is this vision, rather than their current performance, that attracts and retains customers.


This approach creates a sense of exclusivity and forward-thinking. Customers and partners feel attracted not only to the product or service, but also to the story and philosophy behind it. It makes them feel part of something big, something yet to be discovered. This feeling of 'almost missing something' is a powerful motivator. It drives engagement and creates a loyal customer base that seeks more than just a transaction; they seek an experience and a connection.


So silent authority is about generating interest without being pedantic. It is an art form where the power of suggestion and the power of vision go hand in hand. This approach shows that success in business does not always have to be loud; sometimes it is the quiet echo of authenticity and vision that leaves the deepest impression.


The Deeper Values and Vision of Products and Services


In today's market, where products and services are often judged by their price or functional features, the silent authority approach is distinguished by a focus on deeper values and long-term vision. This approach is not about loudly proclaiming how great a product or service is, but about representing a bigger idea, a vision of the future, and the way the product or service enriches people's lives and the world.


An example is a sustainable clothing line that focuses on ethical production and environmental awareness. Customers are attracted by the values the brand represents, and choose these clothes as an expression of their own beliefs and ideals.


A second example, illustrating the vision of a changing market, is the ROPO (Research Online, Purchase Offline) effect. Before this phenomenon was widely recognised, many retailers with franchisees feared that an online presence would cannibalise their physical shop sales. However, the view and now evidence that online research could actually lead to more offline purchases dispelled these fears. This insight showed that an integrated online and offline presence could actually increase sales, especially when products are viewed online and then purchased in the physical shop.


In both cases, it is not about aggressively promoting the product or service itself, but about telling a story and conveying a vision. This approach creates an emotional connection with the customer, with the product or service becoming a means of participating in a larger story or movement. It arouses curiosity and interest, not by focusing on the practical benefits, but by making the customer feel that they are part of a vision that matters and can impact their life in a positive way.


The silent authority of these products and services lies in their ability to look beyond the immediate and tangible, binding customers to a vision of the future and values that resonate with their personal beliefs and lifestyle. This is a powerful way to create loyalty and engagement in an increasingly saturated and competitive market.


Another example of an enterprise that symbolises a clear vision of the market and functions as a silent authority is the Dutch company Rituals Cosmetics, founded in 2000 by Raymond Cloosterman. Rituals has developed into an internationally renowned brand in the world of cosmetics and lifestyle through their unique approach to everyday routines.



Rituals is distinguished by their philosophy of turning daily routines into special rituals. Rather than focusing on aggressive marketing or emphatically promoting their product features, Rituals focuses on creating a unique and meaningful experience for the customer. Their products, from body and skincare to scented candles and teas, are presented as part of a larger story of well-being and finding happiness in the little things.


This approach has created a strong and loyal customer base that appreciates Rituals' holistic and emotional approach. The brand is more than just a cosmetics line; it embodies a lifestyle that focuses on mindfulness and enjoying life. With this vision, Rituals has created a deep and lasting connection with their target audience and positioned itself as a silent authority in the world of cosmetics and wellness.



CHAPTER 3


- SHORT-TERM VERSUS LONG-TERM RESULTS OF THE SILENT AUTHORITY -



In the world of marketing and business, there is often the urge to get results quickly, and this sometimes leads to the use of clever marketing tricks and seduction mechanisms. These techniques may seem effective at first glance and can indeed produce quick sales results. However, the silent authority approach can and often will deliver quick results as well, but with some significant long-term benefits.


Impact and sustainability as silent authority


Silent authorities focus on conveying a vision and values that have deeper meaning for their customers. This goes beyond just selling a product or service through fancy talk or discounts. It is about creating an emotional connection between the enterprise, the brand, the products and/or services and the customer.


This approach not only has an impact in the short term, but actually has a profound long-term impact on the perception of the buyer. You can temporarily bind someone to you through a nice loyalty card, discount, gifts or your speed of delivery, but this commitment is very superficial and copyable.


If the buyer can commit to what impact you make on society, the business sector or, say, the environment, whole other factors come into play that are much more sustainable and deep-rooted.


A colleague of mine lived in a big house and wanted her windows cleaned every month. The average window cleaner works with cleaning products that are not necessarily good for the environment, so she decided to look for a window cleaner who only works with natural products. About 80 kilometres away from her home, she found a company that did this, and now she pays extra for the travel costs and extra because purely natural cleaners take a little more time.


This is because they can commit to the mission and vision of this enterprise which is about leaving the earth cleaner than we got it at birth. No window cleaner can come between this with a discount or being able to work faster. Money and delivery time always lose out to a connection based on shared value in terms of impact and sustainability.

  

Loyalty and ambassadors of silent authorities


Silent authorities tend to build a loyal customer base. Customers feel connected to the brand's vision and values. They become not only buyers but also ambassadors who generate positive word-of-mouth. This leads to organic growth and a positive reputation, which is valuable in the long run.


We all know that boyfriend or girlfriend who knows how to find those bargains time and again and likes to share it with everyone. These too are ambassadors, but they are not stories that stick. Today the fish is cheaper at Pete's, and tomorrow the bread at Suzanne's, is not something that sticks for more than a day. Because silent authorities have a vision, are authentic and disruptive, there is a story to tell that does stick.


In the early years of the internet, Yahoo! and Altavista were the big players in search engines. These platforms were intelligently designed and offered a wealth of information, but they were also overloaded with links, news, ads and other elements that distracted from the actual search. Often, they did not deliver the results users were really looking for. Google broke this standard with a radically different approach.



Zoekresultaten in Google BETA


After entering a search on Google, users not only received results that were closer to their actual search intent, but these results were also presented in a simple, minimalist interface without all the extra fuss. It was not so much the improved search results that early Google supporters praised; it was mainly the clean, uncomplicated interface that impressed and created loyalty and ambassadors for having something new and special to tell.


Search results in Google after their world wide introduction


Price and margins of silent authorities


While brands using clever marketing tricks sometimes lower prices to sell quickly, silent authorities almost always maintain their price and thus margin. This is because customers are willing to pay (more) for a brand they believe in and trust. In the long run, this can result in significantly more profitability and thus continuity for the enterprise.


Because the products or services are disruptive, there is also no need to discount. That which is offered is better, offers more potential or is more beautiful, better for the environment or society or simply gives a better experience. Why would Tony Chocolonely give a discount when what they care about is a fair price for cocoa farmers in poor countries? Buyers want the services or products a silent authority has to offer and price sometimes does not even play a role in this.

By giving precisely no discounts, silent authorities exude a self-assurance that they stand for what they have to offer. Namely the best of the best and if you want to do it for something lesser, you can go to someone else. Often costs you less, but then you also get less, because everything has its price.


Dyson is a good example of innovation and disruption within the hoover industry that rarely if ever discounts. Their revolutionary technology where you don't need a hoover bag doesn't need a discount either.



When you buy a Dyson hoover, you know that over the lifetime of the device, you will save on the purchase of vacuum bags and never have reduced suction while vacuuming. You can also think of this as premium positioning as often I marketing terms, but it is actually being a silent authority.


Marketing costs of silent authorities


Silent authorities rely on word-of-mouth and the power of their vision, disruptive nature and therefore their reputation, which generally means they need to spend less on traditional marketing. This can make their approach more cost-effective in the long run. However, this does not have to be the case, as a silent authority's use of communication tools in other areas can also incur significant costs.


As a silent authority, you want to stay away from shouting and cheap marketing tricks, but you also don't want to go into a dark corner. This often requires a depth of investment that may not yield much in the beginning, but remains effective for much longer along the way.


An example of this is search engine optimisation, also known as SEO. Silent authorities can do a lot to be found within search engines with their vision and thinking, but there can be significant costs involved. This is because the content must meet certain content and quality standards and be significant in scope. In addition, it can take months to sometimes up to a year before articles, posts or videos that are not temporarily 'hip and happening' will rank for their content.

    

Shout and stand out or be a silent authority


Enterprises often face a crossroads of choices. On one side lures the lure of quick sales through the use of clever marketing tricks. On the other is the noble path of silent authority, which focuses on content, deeply held values and long-term relationships. These two paths seem parallel at first glance, but there is a conflict in their merging.


Imagine a brand that has carefully built an image as a silent authority. Their reputation is rooted in authenticity, reliability and an unwavering commitment to quality. Their customers value them not only for what they sell, but also for what they stand for. In this setting, the brand is not just another vendor; it is a trusted partner, a symbol of integrity.


However, one day, this brand, tempted by the lure of quick profits, decides to adjust its strategy. They start deploying aggressive marketing tricks, flashy offers and perhaps even exaggerated promises. Initially, it seems to be a success - sales rise, and the numbers light up green in the boardroom. But slowly the tide begins to turn.


Customers who were once loyal are starting to have doubts. They wonder: `Is this the same brand we trusted? Where have the values gone that once attracted us?" Marketing tricks, though effective in generating immediate sales, begin to show cracks in the brand's carefully constructed image. Once loyal customers feel alienated; they miss the authenticity and depth they once craved so much.


Short-term gains are overshadowed by a slower and subtler, but far more destructive process: the loss of trust and brand identity. The brand is now at a crossroads, facing the consequences of their choices.


This is exactly what Uber has done. From a simple and smart business model where the customer was guaranteed a decent car and driver for a reasonable price, you can now choose from a variety of cars because virtually anyone can become an Uber driver. I myself live a bit more rural and as a result, it is often questionable even whether the Uber will show up after the order is confirmed. Many a time I saw the Uber on my Smartphone turn around halfway through the ride on its way to pick me up.


What Uber has also switched to is trying to entice me a few times a week to order something via Uber-eat. So where it was once an exclusive service, of which you were lucky to be part of the community, it has now become a cheap marketing machine. That is not necessarily a bad thing, by the way, as their revenue was around 37 billion in 2023, which is a tenfold increase in eight years.




CHAPTER 4


- THE COMMUNICATION FORM OF SILENT AUTHORITIES -



It is a fallacy to think that silent authorities are by definition silent. In reality, it is not about the lack of communication, but its frequency, nature and tone. Silent authorities do not shout about their achievements, do not constantly shout how great they are, do not constantly ask for attention and do not use 'clever' marketing tricks to entice customers. Instead, they opt for a more subdued and authentic form of communication.


These enterprises and leaders certainly do speak, but their way of communicating is thoughtful and substantive. They choose to speak about their vision, values, and the impact they want to have on the industry they are in, their customers or society. Their message often focuses on sharing insights, telling stories that resonate with their target audience, and presenting their products or services as part of a bigger picture.


The strength of silent authorities lies in their ability to make a deeper connection with their audience. They build trust and respect by being consistent in their actions and demonstrating unwavering principles and commitment. Their communication is not focused on obtaining short-term gains, but on building long-term relationships with customers and partners.


Silent authorities almost always opt for a more subtle and sustainable communication approach, which often proves more effective in the long run. Their communications reflect a self-awareness and a clear understanding of their unique position and value, allowing them to build a loyal and engaged customer base. Consider Bang & Olufsen. They usually do not talk about price or image, and sound quality.



People know that you pay a bit more for Bang & Olufsen products and that the quality can be great. What they do talk about is their design. Although they have also recently come out with a cheaper range, all their communication is dominated by their aesthetic values and that is why the customer remains tied to the brand for a longer period of time.


How silent authorities talk about their achievements


Silent authorities have a unique way of talking about their performance. They make a clear distinction between different types of performance. On the one hand, there is financial and operational performance, such as: profitability, market share, or technical superiority. On the other hand, there is the impact the enterprise makes on the industry, people's daily lives and society as a whole. Silent authorities emphasise the latter category.


For example, brands like Rituals and Apple do not talk so much about their financial success or market dominance, but rather about the impact they have on the lifestyle and well-being of their customers. Their communications focus on the vision they have of the world or life and the value they add within that vision.


Profits, market share or technical superiority are always a result of the value added by silent authorities and that is exactly as it should be! That is why they prefer to talk about their vision, in what way they are disruptive and why their way of being, how they produce or deliver or why their raison d'être is important. The rest is secondary and fun for shareholders. After all, sales figures and market share do not bind customers. That is nice information for people who want to make money, but not for people who want and can make the world a nicer and better place.  




CHAPTER 5


- SELLING WITHOUT CLEVER OR CUNNING MARKETING TRICKS -



It should now be clear that silent authorities avoid the use of marketing gimmicks or cunning and aggressive sales techniques. Instead of noisy promotions and detailed explanations of every aspect of their product or service, these authorities focus on telling the larger story. They share their vision and explain how their products or services fit within that vision. This approach is less about selling a specific product and more about inviting customers to be part of a larger idea or way of life.


These companies provide clarity on the 'why' behind their products or services but do not immediately delve into all the technical details. Only when a customer shows interest will they provide more specific information. This creates a sense of curiosity and engagement with the customer, who is invited to discover and experience more.


This subtle yet effective communication strategy enables silent authorities to build a loyal customer base, based on shared values and a deeper understanding of what the company has to offer. It's an approach that demonstrates confidence in their products and in the intelligence of their customers.


The contrast in communication styles of two coaches


Imagine two coaches: Coach A and Coach B. Both are experienced and have an equal number of satisfied clients. However, their methods of communication are fundamentally different.


Coach A: The Extensive Narrator

Coach A takes the time to describe everything he offers in detail and at length online. He precisely explains how his coaching works, supports the effectiveness of his techniques, talks about the duration of the process, the various options available, and all possible outcomes. His approach is driven by the belief that customers must be fully informed in order to make a decision. His website and marketing materials are filled with information and specifications about his coaching style.



Coach B: The Vision-Driven Inspirer

On the other hand, Coach B chooses a more subdued approach. She shares her vision for coaching and explains how her style of coaching can enrich people's lives. She talks about the transformation her clients can expect, without getting bogged down in technical details. Her communication is concise; she mentions her rates, but primarily focuses on the 'why' behind her coaching. Her message is inspiring and leaves room for potential clients to become curious for more.





The impact of both communication styles


Coach A's approach can be effective for clients who seek detailed information before making a commitment. However, this style can sometimes be overwhelming and lack essential appeal. Coach B, on the other hand, with her concise, vision-focused communication, generates more mystique and self-confidence. Her style invites curiosity and builds a potential connection from her vision, rather than just her services.


This contrast illustrates that silent authority is not the only path to success but is a method commonly used by successful enterprises worldwide. It's about instilling confidence in your own vision and value without needing to explain or defend every detail. The powe