Welcome to the fifth article of from the Lean Brand Methodology series. Read about the session prior here: Final Personas and Working Hypothesis

Personal Statements & Brand Hunting

Our fifth session started off with a lunch at the Hard Rock Cafe. Jeremiah had us step outside of our office to soak up an experience that wasn't our own. After eating lunch Andy and I began writing about ourselves. We are directed to declare three things we are, and to write two brief sentences to back up our declarations. Sounds ambiguous, but Jeremiah's lean brand methodology provided a guideline to do so. This exercise is meant to force us outside of our comfort zone, and it does. We had to read aloud our concluding thought while people eat and the waitress pops in and out. Talking about ourselves is very revealing and awkward, but ultimately very important for discovering Zesty's brand.

When we finished up Jeremiah pulled out two twenty dollar bills and handed one each to Andy and I. Jeremiah directed us to head out and purchase an item that best represents what we think Zesty will mean to our customers. We could not spend more than $20, and we only had 20 minutes. Fortunately we were right across the street to Horton Plaza mall (in downtown San Diego) so that is where we start. Jeremiah sends me off first to avoid coercion. A while back I had purchased @michaelsaccas's son an abacus from a toy shop; I beelined to that toy shop. To my surprise Lego's are far more than $20, so I moseyed around looking at building blocks and other toys. About 8 minutes of kicking around Andy pops in, looks around and takes off back into the mall. I find my item and head back to the rendezvous, a bar across the street called The Commons. I met Jeremiah, we order a whiskey, and wait for Andy.

Zesty logo made from triangles

When Andy returns I'm first to reveal my purchased item. I reveal a colorful triangle arrangement square puzzle item (see photo for content). It was the next best thing to legos which I'm glad I did not buy because this item is far more interesting. The pieces ironically can be arranged to build both the Zesty logo, and the Variable Action logo. Something I couldn't resist to point out. The key things that crossed my mind during the purchase were: it was colorful, it had cool function that could be used repeatedly, and what you do with it felt limitless. Functionality. Functionality. Functionality.

I purchased an item for its functionality.

Jeremiah lays in on the bad news, and let's me know I still haven't let go of functionality. Well this slap to the face was a turning point, and just what I needed. I finally began to grasp what all of this "emotion versus function" really means, and what it ultimately means to our branding framework. 

I'm still very happy with my item and we talk about it. It's colorful, flexible, but structured. It represents a lot of the features which I love about our product. We come to the conclusion that the purchased item represents limitlessness. Now it's Andy's turn to reveal.

Moldable SandBefore presenting his found object, Andy explains to us he almost purchased a skinny black tie because it is trendy, neat, and cool, but it was over $20. Andy reveals an interesting vessel of moldable sand from Brookstone, which none of us wanted to touch (not even Andy). The sand's function represents the flexibility and limitlessness of Zesty.  Andy and I both purchased items with similar attributes. Which is great because we are both aligned, but are clearly viewing Zesty from a functional standpoint. Now Jeremiah needs to kick both our asses out of the functional mindset.

We order another round of whiskey and start writing a statement for Zesty with same guidelines as our personal statement. Jeremiah allocates a short time period for us to complete this and walks away. We come to a couple conclusions and pitch one to the waiter serving us drinks. Needless to say we aren't crazy about it, but it is starting to feel better and different in our approach.

A long walk to emotion

We close up the bar tab and the three of us start to walk and talk. We walk for 30 minutes before settling in a San Diego public park. During the walk Jeremiah is having us compare Zesty to car companies, fast food restaurants, and finally movie stars. Each one we pick must be followed by our reasonings on why. He is forcing emotion out of us. Andy and I are resisting heavily without realizing it. When is comes to the actress/actor comparison we each pick one that has flexibility in their acting skills, and yet again, we did not pick an actor based on emotion. We are both trying our hardest to bullshit emotional ties to our choices. Jeremiah kindly let's us blab away as we start to understand emotion and slowly let go of function.

What the hell happened? Are we failing at understanding our brand?

This session is the halfway mark of our lean brand journey. We have made a lot of progress thus far, but I still feel frustrated about not nailing our brand. I know we will find it, but why isn't it coming easier with all the work we have put it? We made this product, we should know it best. Is it right there in front of our face? Is the brand building up as we speak? Is brand an invisible force we cannot understand until we let go of function? I'm learning a lot about myself here, about who I am as a user, and what our product might be to its people. At the end of the day I start to understand the difference between function and emotion. Jeremiah says "you will always lose if you are selling on function", and that is exactly what we were doing. We don't need to sell, we need to find ourselves, and I could feel it coming.

Value Takeaways

  • Letting go of function is not always easy, nor obvious. To practice over coming this try to not mention features when explaining/pitching your product. 
  • If you are passionate about the product you created then understanding yourself can become a gateway to understanding your brand
  • Using external brand comparisons will help the thought process (e.g. Zesty is Swiss Army Knife of websites)
  • Do not let up when you don't nail your first go, brand will find you.

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