Past, Present & Future Personal Branding Exercise | Braid Creative

Past Present Future Branding Exercise

As any good Back To The Future fan knows, the things we do in the past can really jack up our present, our future and – apparently stuff we did back in the old-west times, too? I do admit I sometimes get lost in the timeline in these films. Perhaps it’s because crazy-eyed Doc Brown looks exactly the same age – and exactly like he just stuck his finger in an electrical socket – no matter which time period (or sequel) he’s in.

Past Present Future is a brand exercise we created for small businesses to help them balance out their crazy-eyed Doc Brown future-vision – with a realistic look at where they’re already great. Like Marty McFly (a.k.a. Michael J. Fox), who’s effortless confidence comes from sticking to what he’s good at – playing electric guitar really loud and looking boyishly mischievous in designer denim and puffy vests. Talk about what goes around comes around.

If a small business can find the overlap where big dreams meet proven core strengths – the result is a balance of truth and aspiration. But you don’t need a flux capacitor, just ten minutes, to try this brand exercise for yourself.
Past Present Future Brand Exercise
So Try This:
A. In the PAST column write five most memorable accomplishments or victories.
B. In the FUTURE column write five goals or dreams that would define your future success.
C. Last, in the PRESENT column rewrite just one idea from the PAST and one from the FUTURE that have the most natural overlap between them. Why those two? How can you pull strength from your past and find a way to execute on that single future action?

The thing is, this brand exercise has been equally eye-opening for individuals who still have some proving to do and whose aspirations are frankly a bit overwhelming. We’re talking about creative professionals taking the leap into their own startups or micro-businesses.  And this brand exercise can actually help them gain clarity and courage on what they should act on today – even when their actual “brand” is still a few more milestones away.

Braid Method Branding for Creatives ECourse

The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.

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Brand is such a big word. And brand problems can be even bigger. So stay on this small desert island for a moment, where distress signals are of two varieties. The S.O.S. in the sand  (as to be seen by the scrappy little prop plane that is sure to help you) or the giant bonfire (all the palm fronds are getting stacked on that inferno) sending up major smoke signals for some major rescue.  Here are six types of brand distress that we think can be helped with either 1. a quick fix or 2. a major rescue.

Does your brand need a 1. quick fix or 2. a major rescue?
Quick Brand Fix:
So note the duct tape. It’s a perfectly respectable way of, well, fixing anything. If you’ve been “duct-taping” together your brand message and look & feel, but you, or your employees and your customers really like you and your product and the missing piece is just looking and sounding the part, here are some of the distress signals you might recognize:

- logo shame, you are embarrassed to hand our your business card
- you have trouble summing up what you do in one or two sentences
- updating your online presence (be it your site, or the need to engage in social media) keeps getting put off

If these signals ring true, then it might be time to wave down that scrappy little prop plane and get some support. Peel off the duct tape and scrape of the residual goop and get a clean fresh update. Mostly, just recognize what you’ve done well in the past, look where you want to go in the future, and find a realistic way to better interpret what you can inject into your brand today. That might mean hiring a designer, spending some time doing some brand exercises like our desert island series or finally getting your head wrapped around what social media style you can execute consistently (i.e. not dread or quit doing).

Major Brand Rescue:
Okay, so these are those big black smoke clouds puffing up. To a passing by ship or commercial plane they might seem small, but if you are on that island (i.e. in the thick of your small business) then they can seem looming and large. Here are some smoke signals for sure:

- a disconnect between what you are saying about your biz, and what people (be it you, your customers, or your employees, even just your business partner) are actually experiencing
- your online presence is confusing, it’s not just in need of an update, but is actually repelling what might be some great inbound traffic, or on the other end of the spectrum, it is non-existent
- your tribe is restless and just can’t get a clear grasp on your vision and are actually at a point of resistance to forward motion (and by tribe, this could be the people mentioned above, or even just all the conflicting voices and ideas in your own head, especially if you are an entrepreneur)

Before you can put out the fire, you need to just take a deep breath, know that you are busy and aren’t struggling with anything that anyone else hasn’t before, and just really try to find a partner that’s a good fit before you jump in feet first to coordinating your brand rescue plan. It’s going to take more than one pair of hands, but it will be worth it.

Some good books for DIY rescue are Rework by Jason Fried & david Heinemeier Hansson for getting scrappy and getting started, and Launch by Michael Stelzner for common sense social media and content sharing strategy.


Braid Method Branding for Creatives ECourse

The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.

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So when pirates bury their treasure chests, you’ve gotta imagine they put in some serious hours figuring out how to make a proper map.  We’ve got a brand exercise that should only take ten minutes, and is a continuation of our fun “Your Brand On A Desert Island” series. This one’s called Backwards Brand Treasure Map. See, once that pirate heaves that last shovelful of sand on top of their piratey chest, they’ve sort of got to work backwards to document its location, right?

They have to backstep and count their paces from where “X” marks the spot to the next landmark. Like fifty paces back to the palm tree that forks in two, then a hundred back to the giant rock that sort of looks like a giant crab, and finally back to the spot on the beach where this savings-minded pirate plans to come ashore someday to dig up his treasure and retire in all his piratey glory.  

So how will you determine your brand’s future success? Will you consider striking “gold,” when your brand becomes a household name? Or, is being perceived as one of the top ten experts in your niche field, or the best in your region, your version of brand treasure? Is it a certain number of followers that you count like coins, or is it the emotional connections you are able to forge with your rareness?

Branding Exercise - Treasure Map

Backwards Brand Treasure Map:
So here’s a fun arrrggh-signment matey.  (This is actually a variation of an exercise that Michael Stelzner, social media expert and author, outlines in his content strategy book we reviewed and recommend titled Launch. But his version involves a rocket ship, and less pirate-speak.)

1. Get a piece of paper and draw an “X.” That marks the spot.
2. Next to the “X” describe in just a few words or a picture what you consider to be the most glorious end-goal of your brand. Now let’s say that’s five years in the future. Write that down. Five years.  Now, all you have to do is pace backwards.
3. Draw a line and a dot backwards from the “X.” That’s a landmark. Perhaps it’s a three year landmark. Write down three things you had to do to get to that landmark.
4. Now go back to one year. Write down three actions you had to complete to get to that achievement.
5. Now, trace back to today. You are standing at the shore of your beach. What are three things you can do today?  

Now looky there you scurvy dog. You have an albeit rough (but aren’t all authentic pirate maps) but perfectly respectable brand treasure map.

Although it always seems the pirate ends up a poor heap of bones with an eye-patch in these stories, and some other plucky adventurers (those dang Goonies!) follows his map to the treasure. But hey, if you are a small business of more than just one person or even one-hundred, there’s something to be said for other people being able to understand where your heart’s treasure lies.

Can other people understand your map? Can they share your passion? But mostly, does it make sense to you?

Braid Method Branding for Creatives ECourse

The Braid Method Branding ECourse is for creative entrepreneurs who are ready to support themselves financially with their business, create a blog or consistent online presence, and finally turn the work they’re already doing into a digital product, package, or offering for dream customers. This branding ecourse comes with 7 learning modules in a 300+ page digital download, a workbook with 20+ branding exercises and scripts, a quarterly masterclass, and an exclusive Facebook group so you can connect with us and other students.

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