Branding, like any other aspect of business, is a puzzle. It’s natural to feel a sense of overwhelm when we stare at the pieces in the box. But the more time we dedicate to studying the shape of each piece – and how it might connect to the next – the more clearly the finished picture emerges.
When I was a kid, my brother Allen, ten years my senior, almost always had a jigsaw puzzle in some form of completion on a card table in his room. I would lie on his bed and watch him during the initial set-up, when he would carefully take each piece from the box, flip it over to display the design side, and set it on the table for later consideration. I remember feeling stressed out for him as the thousands of tiny pieces made their way onto the table.
In short order, Allen went to work framing the puzzle. He sought out the pieces with a single straight side and carefully, methodically, patiently attached one to the next until the picture had a clearly defined edge. From there, it was a matter of identifying and testing piece after piece for its place in the overall picture. As the image emerged, the process grew to be faster and simpler.
The process of building a brand – whether a personal brand or a business brand – is no different. As we begin, we lay our pieces on the table: our purpose, values, strategic advantages, target markets, competitors, personality traits, representative graphic elements, social networks, advertising plans. We may not understand what the picture will look like in the end, so we begin where we can. We choose the pieces with the flattest edges – those of which we are certain, those which will frame our entire brand picture – and we begin.
The flat edges of a complicated brand puzzle are our purpose and values. These are the pieces within which every other piece must fit. If you’re feeling overwhelmed about your brand, begin there. Ask yourself, “Why am I doing this? What is my purpose?” Then ask yourself, “How will I do this? What values are non-negotiable for me? What am I entirely unwilling to give up in the process of building this brand or this business?”
Once you determine your purpose and values, even if your company or product is already in play, you’ll find the other pieces of your brand – after careful examination – will fall into place.
Where is your edge? What are your boundaries? How will you frame the way the world sees you or your company?