A humbling reset for the champions of ‘the reset’
A branding expert with no heart or head for business is not capable of delivering an appropriate brand strategy. Creativity, copywriting and design skills are tools and very unique tools for delivering brand strategy - but never ‘brand strategy’ unto themselves.
Appreciating a logo, design, a brand strapline, a vision statement, purpose statement or cultural values with no underpinning business context, business scenario planning is mostly self-gratification, at the mercy of a HiPPO (Highest Paid Person’s Opinion). So, both for the guide (creative thinker, copywriter, designer) and the guided (founder, VC, Brand Manager, others in-charge) a branding exercise turns into one blind man guiding another blind man, never quite grasping the elephant in the room. Taking the blindfolds off on the business truth (for the branding expert) and on the brand truth (for the founder, VC, Brand Manager, others in-charge) is critical to deliver a harmonized brand - alive to the world it operates in - not immune to the world it operates in. There are no short-cuts.
Why am I bringing this up? How is it relevant to the ‘Reset Narrative’?
Since we opened our doors, we have had to unlearn a few tendencies. And so did our patrons who came from very different fields of focus - a mission promoting cross-border trade, or a bird-nest business searching for its own unique brand narrative to rise above 4000 others in its growing category, or a design-thinking consultancy competing with the Big4’s on similar scopes like transformation, delivering upto UN Sustainable Development Goals – all of them very brave and patient with this whole unlearning business we call 'the reset'. It hits hard because when you deliberately take your skills to a domain which was generally considered not to be 'your business' you confront some deep biases and tall boundaries - comfort zones.
The tendencies I am talking about are usually picked up growing in a homogenous crowd. These tendencies grow as a package when you work too long with a bunch of people from your proverbial 'tribe', ‘familiar with the subject matter’, sporting similar lifestyles and world-views.
Nod. Nod. Nah! Not sure. Why not? Well. Yes. Anyway. Could be. Maybe. Let’s do it! Get along. Go along. A business as usual.
When you work in environments which seem to understand every word and expression you’ve uttered in a business as usual fashion - careful - of an empty echo chamber. Verify. And if you don’t, you may realize later that you haven’t communicated much or anything at all.
It doesn’t happen to you? You are special. A reincarnation of Thoth even. Hats off!
In the real world, words and meaning don’t go together very often. Very often, word dies at the sound ‘seeming right’ or ‘sounding right’ - and not quite far reaching as we would imagine or would've intended. There! A reset, of our own and our patrons - very critical to driving the intended reset desired on assigned task itself. A reset regarding the very premise of our proposition to the world, in a world woven with narratives. This reset calls out our comforts in behaving like monkeys in imitating each other in a social and/or professional situation - words, nods free flowing in tandem.
Reset ‘an expert’. One who has the courage to go beyond ‘it sounds right’ questions and answers. Dives in with questions which are worth more than the ink, paper and the flashy tech-tools - uncomfortably making business truth, a business for of the brand.
TRUST questions. Any and all frameworks worth their salt shine only on the merit of the questions. The new world order or the new normal begins at ‘I don’t know’, pauses at ‘WTF!’ and if you persist, goes as far as "Wow! I never imagined. I feel a little scared even." I've heard such expressions and they are very rewarding for the task.
Reset ‘a founder’ and/or ‘a business owner’ and/or ‘a venture capitalist’. One who has the courage to step outside their domain and view the business from domain of branding. One who really means it when he/she/they say 'Challenge us'.
If you feel the carpet under your feet shifting or the ground under your shoes breaking - try to be light - hold the hands of your guide - trust each other - because you would need each other equally through this reset. Courier your comfort-zone to the past. The center of control is outside your circle.
We are here to encourage you, whether you are a founder, a VC, or a brand baker - to drill deeper without the obligation to dumb it down with an agreeable nod just to make way for work to happen or a relationship to grow. Hold it down. Make it your business to ask bold questions and verify the intended meaning for each and every word uttered, until you really get it. Stand your ground and learn the other side of the coin - the busines-side or the brand-side - whichever is the blindspot to you. Remember have an answer to this one question by the end of everything, irrespective of your side on the table - what is the business challenge or opportunity the brand must address? And you will bake well.
Time is relative. Priorities are personal. Culture is a catalyst. Cooking these three things in proportion gets us to the outcome which we look back as good timing or bad timing, good luck or bad luck, good karma or bad karma and so on. And we know that ‘control’ is an illusion and 'harmony' is real. Thus, the proportions we put and who we share this responsibility with is the best choice we can ever make. Enjoy the reset.
©2020-2022 Narrativ.Design. All rights reserved. The author is the founder of Narrativ.Design. He has worked in various strategic roles across Asia, on local and global brands for over 15 years. He is fluent in Bengali, Hindi and English. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.Image: ©Pathfinderabhi