If you’ve been following the “Your Brand On A Desert Island” themed series we’ve been sharing over the past few weeks, then you’ll be able to get into mental castaway mode as fast as cracking a coconut (which actually probably takes a long time but roll with me here) and in the perfect frame of mind to try out this fun ten minute brand exercise, Brand Message In A Bottle.

Through history and popular culture there have been different purposes for composing, curling and corking a handwritten message and sending it out to sea. It can be a desperate attempt at discovery and rescue or just an unrequited sentiment directed to some unknown soul and sent out into the universe with really no hope of reply. Yikes, it’s actually quite bittersweet when you think about it. No wonder notorious softie, Nicholas Sparks, took the idea and ran with it.

When it comes down to it, the point of this particularly romanticized (if not exactly efficient) form of communication is not the long shot that someone will actually find the message, read it and act upon it. The point is the act itself, of writing down what you want, putting it out there, and basically making your intent known to the only person that is guaranteed to “get the message” – yourself.

Okay, getting a little Laws of Attraction here, so let’s get back to that fun ten minute brand exercise I mentioned.

Your Message In A Bottle: Dream Customer
The idea is to picture your perfect customer. It’s sort of a no-brainer when you think about doing this, but then you realize you haven’t actually done it.  What’s even better is writing down who this customer is. And we don’t just mean an ordinary customer but a raving fan, like I Dream of Jeannie (you know, ‘cause of the bottle) – a total loyalist.

But the point is not that it’s a message to them. It’s a message to yourself. It help keeps them in your mind, so you remember who you are branding to. So to help you easily compose your message, you can try this fill-in-the blank format:

1. My dream customer values ______________ but really loves ____________________.
2. A stress they have might is  _____________________________.
3. But a happy milestone in their life right now might be ___________________.
4. They often trust others who ____________________________________.
5. But what really makes them a loyal fan is _________________________.
6. Something that might happily surprise them about my business is _____________________________.
7. Some other favorite brands of theirs are _________ and ________________.
8. My brand should make them feel ________________________________.

Brand Message In A Bottle True Loyalist
You don’t have to actually have a bottle for this, but it does make for a nice reminder if you decide to keep your message or use it again to stash future notes or goals, if that sort of thing floats your boat – or bottle.

A multiple-person version of this Dream Customer exercise could involve a real bottle (and no, it’s not Spin The Bottle, although that could very well be the title of the next nostalgic Spark’s novel) but it’s just filling out the same form independently in a group setting, placing it in the bottle, and then each person takes turns pulling out a “message” and comparing notes (differences and similarities) about who you perceive to be your dream customer.

Got another ten minutes? Try one of our other “Your Brand On a Desert Island” exercises:

• Your Brand On A Desert Island

• Draw A Line In Your Brand



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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“A strong stand is how you attract superfans. They point to you and defend you. And they spread the word further, wider and more passionately than any advertising could... [but ] for everyone who loves you, there will be others who hate you. If no one’s upset by what you’re saying you’re probably not pushing hard enough. (And you’re probably boring, too.)”

Those are some fightin’ words. They’re straight from Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson of 37Signals. We thought the chapter titled “Draw a Line in The Sand” from their must-read business book, Rework, is great inspiration for a ten minute brand exercise for our “Your Brand On a Desert Island” themed series.

Now Rework definitely takes a tough-love stance on figuring out what your beliefs are as a business overall. They use the “line in the sand” metaphor to wake you up to the idea that as a business you have to stand for certain beliefs and stick to them no matter what. If you try to appeal to everyone, then ultimately nobody will care.

Here’s a way we’ve adapted the idea as a warm-up exercise to start uncovering your authentic brand. You can do this on the beach, in a sandbox, or more realistically – on a piece of paper. You can also do it with more than one person and compare answers (preferably all wearing Bermuda shorts to get in the spirit.)

Drawing Your Line
1. Draw a big circle.
2. Draw a line down the middle.
3. Draw a single stone on the left side. That’s you, or your business.
4. On the other side of the line write down what you DON’T stand for. These are the practices you can’t stand, the things you’ve never liked doing, believed in doing – or at least want to stop doing.  Then once you get a really unlikable list going, refine it down. Circle the words that really make you itch with disapproval (it’s okay to even feel annoyed, mad or even smug about all the things you are not).
5. Now go back and write in all the opposites on YOUR side of the line. These are the beliefs that make you unique. Or perhaps they are old-fashioned, simple even – and yet you feel all the more strongly about them. You’re lucky you have a strong opinion. But most likely, if you feel like you operate in shades of grey, this exercise is a fun way to get your point-of-view a little stronger in contrast.

Draw A Line In The Brand

Draw A Line In The Brand
Sometimes it’s hard for us humans to start with the positives. We’re just flawed that way. Trying to pin down our beliefs as a business, entrepreneur or as a creative professional can make that circle of sand seem like an awfully intimidating blank slate. So start with the “don’t” side to get all stirred up, but don’t dwell there. The challenge is to hone in where you can make a stand.

Then stick to your side of the line. Continue to capture your beliefs and make sure they are being shaped and shared through your brand. That’s how other people will know you have a line, and a side, that they want to stand behind with you.

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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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When we begin The Braid Method with a client, right away we get into gathering and capturing mode.  If we’re going to create a brand that stands for what it’s supposed to, we’ve got to get down to the real the story. So we start with, well... The Start Deck. This is a stack of cards we send our client-participants. Each card has a different ten-minute brand exercise for them to complete. One of the most surprising and revealing Start Deck exercises we conducted with Ryan & Paige of Root Juice was Card No. 6: Word Throwdowns. So now it’s our favorite. Here’s how it works.

Word Throwdowns Branding Exercise
“Word Throwdowns” starts with pairs of words that might best describe the purpose or personality of the business or organization. Another way to think of it is as words that describe what other people should either a.) know or b.) feel about the experience, product, or service.

Between each pair of words the one that’s more “true” is circled. Different people within the exercise might have different answers once they are revealed, so we have to arm wrestle that out together. And from there we created a bracket to narrow down the top picks.  I mean, who doesn’t love a bracket?

Root Juice Word Throwdowns Branding Exercise Bracket
Ultimately you end up with the top two words. What you want people know on one side and feel on the other. Kathleen and I went into this exercise assuming what the outcome would be (a brand that was more adventure/hipster culture) and we were pleasantly surprised when it wasn’t what we anticipated (actually more about local roots and neighborhood). Which just goes to show how important it is to go through a method to uncover an authentic brand story versus just making one up.

Can you describe in just a couple words the purpose or personality of your business? What do you want your customers to know about your brand? What do you want them to feel about the experience, service or product you offer? Share your thoughts in the comments below or let us know on Twitter what you think.

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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