Adjusting Your Brand View

Why finding focus requires you to enter into a stage of blurriness.

Diana Lillicrap 1.24.2018

Last week I saw a pair of large animals standing on a frozen lake. I was pretty sure they were some kind of birds, based on what I could see from a distance, but I rushed to grab my binoculars to get a better look.

I struggled a bit to aim my focus. Everything I did to twist and turn the knobs seemed to make things worse. And then, just as I was about to give up, it come into sharp focus—two, amazingly large and beautiful bald eagles, standing next to each other in the middle of the lake. I watched in awe for several minutes as they danced about the ice and then eventually flew off. The experience and frustration I felt before I found focus reminded me of what brand discovery can feel like sometimes.

A messy method that’s intentional

We write a lot about the process we use to discover a brand and strategic tips to help you move it forward. But as much as I’d like to say that if you work the process, it will always be clear cut and simple, it’s not. In fact, it can get kind of messy at times. That’s normal during the discovery part of any project. You have to wade through the mess and get completely saturated with it before you can decide how to change it for the better.

Uncomfortable truths

Another reason it may feel a bit messy is because of what you might discover along the way. When you do the hard work of really examining your culture, your offerings, and your marketplace, you might uncover some uncomfortable truths. Sometimes these are quirky things that make you unique and offer opportunities to stand out. Other times they are elephants in the room that are holding you back and need to be addressed before you can move forward. Either way, they can make your branding process feel a little uncertain or even unpleasant. If you reveal core business issues related to product, operations, customer service, or any number of other areas, it’s your job to communicate your findings to business leaders and collaboratively work to determine a resolution that will strengthen the company and the brand.

Critiquing past efforts

Another common discomfort can come from reviewing and critiquing your existing brand. We call this an audit. You might discover that your messages, visuals, or tools may not be measuring up, even though they had the best of intentions or perhaps worked well for what you needed in the past. This can be difficult to hear, especially if you or others involved in your process were responsible for the decisions and directions of the past. The best approach is to put egos aside, focus on the goals of today, and be honest about what is or isn’t working.

Patience is hard

The work of brand discovery and focus oftentimes takes much longer than you’d like. That’s because it involves a lot of looking, listening, thinking, and collaborating with diverse internal teams—a process that is time-consuming, but extremely valuable to reaching real understanding and important consensus. This can be frustrating and wear on your energy and momentum. In these times, remember your long-term goals and what brought you to the process in the first place. And, keep in mind that engaged voices and conflicting opinions will eventually lead to a better result that will be adamantly supported by everyone who has invested time and energy to achieve it.

Is it really darkest before the dawn?

Probably not, but you will know when it arrives because it will definitely seem bright and clear. So don’t give up when things get blurry. It’s a sign that you are doing it right. Take solace in knowing that if you work the process, stay committed, and address the hard bits, your brand and your path forward will eventually come into crystal clear focus.

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