Tools & Templates

Brand Thinking to Elevate Your Business Game

Brand thinking is one of the most undervalued skills in the business world. After working with many startups and innovation teams, it always surprises me that almost all the focus goes into business modeling or testing ideas the Lean Startup way. However, I rarely encounter leaders with Brand Thinking at the top of their skills development priority list.

The more I work with teams on getting new products to market or scaling their business, the more I believe that mastering Brand Thinking is an invaluable skill for any leader and a must-have within a business team.

I've seen many ideas fail to pass the dreaded desirability tests at corporates or startups that get turned down by investors without a second look. I often wonder whether it was really that the idea wasn’t good enough or because the team failed to deliver the right message to potential customers and investors.

Learning how to position your product or service as a brand truly makes a difference in the early stages of building a business. The sooner, the better. On a leadership level, you will challenge yourself to clarify what’s at the core of your business. On a team level, it will strengthen the ability of team members to tell a story that connects with potential customers. 

What problem do you solve? How do you fix it? How do you want people to perceive you? These questions often become stumbling blocks due to a lack of clarity that slows teams down and eventually de-rails them. 

And that’s where the Brand Thinking Canvas comes in. I see it as a tool that helps me structure my thoughts when starting new projects. I especially like to use it when coaching new teams as it helps me quickly check in on what the team is trying to achieve and spot any vagueness in the story that could use improvement.

Recommended read: "Brand the Change" by Anne Miltenburg.

"Brand the Change" by Anne Miltenburg

To give you some context, "Brand the Change" by Anne Miltenburg is a book that explores the intersection of branding and social impact. Many branding and marketing professionals see it as the ultimate guide for social entrepreneurs, disruptors, not-for-profits, and corporate troublemakers looking to embark on a brand-building journey.

With over 20 exercises, including the Brand Thinking Canvas, Anne's work gives readers the tools to think & build a strong brand foundation. 

The book includes real-world case studies in which the founders of successful social impact brands such as Tony’s Chocolonely, Yoni, or BRCK share their experiences and lessons learned in building brands that are out to good in the world. 

If you’re new to branding, I recommend reading Brand the Change to hit the ground running. At least in my case, after many years of running my first business, it finally helped me connect the dots on how giving branding the importance it deserves can help grow a business.

The beauty of the Brand Thinking Canvas

The Brand Thinking Canvas is a great tool to reflect on who your company is, what it does, and why it matters. It helps you structure your thoughts and gradually polish them to strengthen the message and image you send to the world. And when used in a team workshop setting, it helps your team align and become self-aware of what they are trying to achieve and how they will succeed.

I’ve guided branding sessions with teams of all types and sizes, from startups to scale-ups or agencies and corporates, and though the questions might seem straightforward, let me tell you it's quite a challenge to guide the discussions and find the clarity the teams are looking for.

3-tips when facilitating branding sessions

  1. Make time: Block a substantial chunk of your day for brainstorming with your team—approximately three to four hours, depending on how far you want to take the discussions.
  2. Embrace efficiency: Assign someone to manage time, facilitate discussions, and capture insights on the canvas using short phrases. Detailed wordsmithing can follow after the session.
  3. Feel free to freestyle: While the canvas suggests an inside-out flow, don’t hesitate to move around. The key is to keep the creative ideas flowing.

In conclusion, mastering brand thinking is a shortcut to improving your ability to understand the essence behind great brands and structure your thoughts as you embark on your brand-building journey.

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