How to be Unique and Significant. Today.

Frances Khalastchi
8 min readAug 23


I asked Chat GPT this morning to have a go at “telling the story of Barclays Bank as if it were folklore”. Read on to find out what they came up with.

Frances in a crowd of lovely people

“I’m unique, just like you” my father submitted as a one-liner.

He has been featured many times in John Rentoul’s regular column in The Independent, in articles such as The Top 10: Musical cliches in TV and Film, The Top 10: Wizards, The Top 10: Conservative Pop Songs, Top 10 sentences that begin and end with the same word and The Top 10: Bad losers. He has also been featured in the FT for his political ponderings. Often.

He is amazing at remembering unique and significant things.

My Dad himself is pretty “unique”. By trade, he was the senior partner of a law firm for ages and also headed up an innovative investment firm.

But he’s also taken a short film to Venice Biennale, plays the guitar, he’s been in a radio play, is an excellent caricaturist and he has painstakingly designed a quirky garden at home for his and my mother’s enjoyment, which is filled with his cherished out-of-skip finds such as a old kitchen sink and some rusty bicycle wheels he’s turned into a moving water sprinkling system. His garden is featured as one in the National Open Garden Scheme. He’s also a mesmerising orator and writes epic speeches in rhyming couplets. A real renaissance man.

Dad is also very into AI creativity right now — being probably one of the first septuagenarians in this country to embrace what others are worrying will make them completely redundant.

But what does make us “Significant”?

Differentiation / Disruption

Alan Wick introduced me to the concept of “Blue Ocean” thinking…

With it, you’ll be guided in the right direction to challenge industry structure, break from industry logic, look to noncustomers, and craft strategies to achieve both differentiation and low cost.

That all sounds serious and a bit intimidating! It’s what the authors of the book, Beyond Disruption, Chan Kim and Renée Mauborgne have to say and here’s a bit more from them about what being a Blue Ocean thinker means…

  • Blue Ocean Strategists do not take industry conditions as given. Rather, they set out to reshape them in their favor.
  • Blue Ocean Strategists do not seek to beat the competition. Instead, they aim to make the competition irrelevant.
  • Blue Ocean Strategists focus on creating and capturing new demand, not fighting over existing customers.
  • Blue Ocean Strategists simultaneously pursue differentiation and low cost. They aim to break, not make, the value-cost trade-off.

My favourite words in all that are, ‘creating’ and ‘capturing’.

But still — I’m scared. “Make the competition irrelevant”?


Louis Grenier —someone in my cherished “marketing family” recently talked about a “transitional term” — “When a new thing is introduced, humans naturally compare it to the old thing it competes against/replaces”.

His advice is:

We rely on comparisons to go about our day without feeling overwhelmed to save as much energy as possible.

With that in mind, here’s what I recommend:

Avoid coming up with new terms/ideas/concepts that have no link to the old things you aim to replace. That’s how you scare potential customers and lose them.

Instead, lean on something already existing to bring customers along with you.

So here lies the dilemma — do we aspire to be so unique that none of the competitors are a threat? Or do we instead try to speak to the old things and focus hard on the “value add” that we offer or on our random combination of qualifying things?

Do it Better

Better Bolder Braver community member, Branding Coach, Leslie Mello is helping me with the branding of my own New Thing… Storytelling to Out-stand for compassionate companies.

She says — based on many years at the top of the advertising industry —

In the world of branding — as soon as an innovation hits the markets, I find that the sharks find it, throw cash at it and do it better. Just innovating a new way is not enough. We always used to say at Wolff Olins — you don’t have to be first to market — you just have to do it better (in fact, it’s better to let other people be first as there’s a huge learning curve and you can learn from their mistakes).

I don’t think you have to invent or innovate anything new per se…

Compassionate companies deserve to be heard.

I help them uncover their heritage, tell their story and make their people proud to fly their company flag.

Brand and people get better.

Me flying the Foxes flag at Camp Kindling

Leslie is helping me make sure that my new branding will pull out what is truly unique about me and what I offer — something the companies can’t quite get from anyone else.

I am drawing on pride in my own heritage (my dad, for example) and also in my eclectic and unique professional experience.

What is really motivating my choices about building this product and marketing it is — as Seth Godin puts it — For customers vs to customers

In the life of every enterprise, the moment arises when a choice has to be made: Are you here for your customers, to give them what they seek, or are you trying to do something to your customers, to squeeze out extra income?

What it does mean is that you use your brand and your interface and your software and your network effect to come up with ways to serve people that they would miss if you were gone.

Producers of services for companies may worry right now that we are all going to be replaced by robots soon. But Seth reassures those of us looking to stand out as human beings that:

It’s not surprising that many companies are putting software and dark patterns and AI to work on things that improve their profit. But I’m not seeing as many instances of them doing the same thing to improve the experience and delight that their customers experience.

I’d like to think we can do both and put AI to work in the creative process of harnessing delightful stories.

I guess you’ve been wondering this whole time what Chat GPT came up with? Well… here you go…

Long ago, in a bustling village nestled by the banks of a great river, there stood a legendary institution known as Barclays Bank. The village was filled with traders, farmers, and artisans who sought a place to keep their treasures safe and exchange their wealth with others. This is the tale of how Barclays Bank came to be and how its legacy was woven into the fabric of the village’s history.

Once upon a time, a wise and enterprising merchant named Bartholomew arrived at the village. He was a man of vision, always looking for ways to simplify the exchange of goods and gold. He had a dream of creating a sanctuary where the villagers could store their riches and carry out their financial transactions with ease. With the spark of inspiration in his heart, Bartholomew embarked on a journey to turn his dream into reality.

As he wandered through the village’s cobbled streets, he shared his idea with the villagers. They listened with rapt attention, for they could sense the potential of such a place. Together, they gathered wood, stone, and mortar, working day and night to construct the grand building that would become Barclays Bank. The bank’s walls were built strong and tall, a symbol of security and trust.

Bartholomew had a special gift for connecting with people, and soon, his bank became a hub of activity. Villagers would gather there to discuss their ventures, strike deals, and store their precious coins and gems. Bartholomew, with his warm smile and wise counsel, earned the nickname “Barclay,” a name that would forever be associated with the bank he had built.

But the tale would not be complete without a touch of magic. It was said that every night, as the moonlight bathed the village, the spirits of prosperity and fortune would visit the bank. They would dance around its sturdy pillars, infusing the place with an aura of success and abundance. This gave the villagers confidence, knowing that their endeavors would be blessed as long as they trusted in the bank’s safekeeping.

Generations passed, and the village grew into a bustling town. The Barclays Bank remained at its heart, adapting and evolving as the needs of the townsfolk changed. With each passing year, the bank introduced new innovations, from ledgers and ink to the modern marvels of electronic banking. But throughout the ages, the spirit of Bartholomew, the visionary merchant, lived on, guiding the bank’s leaders to uphold its founding principles of security, trust, and community.

And so, dear traveler, the folklore of Barclays Bank teaches us that even in a world of constant change, the foundations of trust and community endure. Just as Bartholomew’s dream turned into a haven for the village’s wealth and aspirations, so too can we build our dreams upon the steadfast values of integrity and service, and watch them flourish like the legendary bank by the river’s edge.

…Well. It’s not terribly accurate. Here is what Barclays say about the bank’s heritage. There are some sweet videos there too.

As far as I can tell, there was no-one present called Bartholemew.

I wonder how many employees of the bank are aware that James Barclay had a strong business and Quaker background or of the Quaker principles of simple and plain living? Or that the founder of their company used his influence to persuade other Quakers to take a stronger stand for the abolition of slavery?

Later, David Barclay found himself the owner of a slave plantation in Jamaica in settlement of a debt. His decision to free the slaves and transport them to Philadelphia cost him £3,000.

All Marketing and Brand managers — we are a marketing family. Help me help you to help your brands and people stand up and stand out. To be proud, know their heritage, feel unique, embrace their lineage and re-connect with your company’s original and unique story and values.

We should respect our elders, I think… or change the record and do it publicly. As Louis Grenier says,

(1) Take a stand against something → (2) State why you think it’s wrong → (3) Position yourself as the alternative.

… whether that’s another brand in the market or indeed your own history.

Don’t worry — it doesn’t need to be all serious or apologetic - we can have fun while we are at it.

Let me leave you will the fabulous words of Felicity Wild, we can operate…

at the intersection of imagination and intellect to make your brand’s language resonate across the galaxies.

You can learn more about Dad here and Leslie Mello here, via my podcast.



Frances Khalastchi

Co-Founder at Better Bolder Braver — Marketing training and support that empowers coaches.