Do You Have a 360 Degree View of Your Brand?


Remember John Godfrey Saxe’s famous fable about the six blind men who attempt to describe an elephant? One man felt the broadside of the elephant’s torso and said it was like a wall. Another felt its tusk and described it as a spear. A third felt the tail and said it was like a rope. The next blind man grabbed hold of the elephant’s trunk (this must have been a very patient elephant!) and announced that it was like a snake. When the fifth blind man felt the animal’s ear he declared that it was clearly fan-like and the final blind man equated the elephant to a tree because he had felt its leg.

All of them were right. Sort of.

That’s a dangerous position. To be blind to the whole truth. It’s also the position I believe most business owners and managers are in when it comes to their brand. They only see a small portion of their brand. They forget that they don’t own or control it 100%.

A brand is like a three-legged stool. The three legs are:

  1. The company’s vision of the brand
  2. The consumers’ vision of the brand
  3. Where your brand sits in the marketplace

How you view your brand:

This is your take. What do you believe the brand values are? What promise are you making to the consumer? How does that promise also weave through your dealings with employees and vendors? What are you willing or not willing to compromise on? Based on your brand, which customers are a good fit for you? Bad?

How your consumers view your brand:

This is their experience. Do you say/promise one thing and then do another? Do your employees consistently deliver the same brand promise? Do your marketing communications pieces (ads, website, direct mail etc.) paint a different picture than an actual buying experience? Do you behave in the same brand-centric way every time?

How you fit into the marketplace:

This is the 30,000-foot view. When you look over the competitive landscape, where does your brand sit? If you are a local coffee shop, how do you compare to Starbucks? If you’re a phone/internet provider how are your materials and sales people different from the last three I talked to? What does your brand promise say that makes you different from your competitors? Or are you like most companies and it doesn’t?

As a business owner, you need to make sure that you understand all three legs of the branding stool. You also need to make sure they square up. In other words – they match.

Over the course of my next few articles, we’ll explore each leg of the stool and how you can make sure it’s sturdy and supported the stool in every way it can.

But for now, let me ask you this question. Do you believe you understand and can articulate all three legs of your brand’s stool? Can you describe each one in a sentence or two?

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  1. Roger Anderson says

    Drew – not to be critical of your terrific post but I think there are two more legs to this stool.

    In my new book Maps for Modern Magellans I developed something I call the 5-Fold Way of positioning (Branding). AS a part of that there are also 5 ways to view the position a company, product, or brand takes.
    1) Inside:Inside Top:Down – How management sees things
    2) Inside:Inside Front:Back – How the frontline troops see things vs how management sees them.
    3) Inside:Outside – How the company wants to be seen.
    4) Outside:Outside – What consumers are looking for when they want to buy the kind of product you sell.
    5) Outside Inside – How you are seen by customers, competitors, and potential customers (VERY different than current customers).

    I look forward to the rest of the series of posts.

    • Roger,

      I think we’re actually in agreement. You just thin slice the first leg of my stool a bit. (which I’ll dig deeper into in my next post.)

      You’re right — management does not see the organization the same way the employees do. Unless of course, it is an intentional brand effort and everyone is taught, from their first interview on, what the company’s brand is all about. And even then, there are nuances of differences.