Getting Your Brand Recipe Just Right


Did you know that Sylvester Stallone was considered for the role of Han Solo in Star Wars? Can you imagine it? And even more absurd – Lucille Ball was considered for Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With The Wind … I kid you not.

My response to stories like this is typical: “How could they have even thought that?” But now having been through a creative process myself – of creating something and then attempting to build a brand around it – I have seen firsthand just how difficult many creative decisions are. First you have to come up with the ideas, and then you have to mix them up in just the right measure. In hindsight the answers are usually obvious, but when you’re actually creating it, it’s nowhere near as easy as it seems.

Just consider this… aside from Stallone, 1000 other actors were considered for the Han Solo role. And this is just ONE element in a massive creative project.

The way I see it, great brands are like great movies and great recipes – the magic happens when you get all the ingredients just right. Have you ever watched a movie where you thought, this has got potential, but something’s just not quite right? Sometimes it’s obvious, other times you can’t put your finger on it. But regardless, it throws everything out of kilter. Even if it’s only slight, it can be enough to spoil the broth. In such cases I find myself wondering how the director didn’t notice this. The thing is, they probably did notice – but didn’t know how to fix it. Such is the complexity of creativity.

So for those of you in the director’s chair, do you suspect your brand is a little out of kilter? Is something “not quite right”? If so, I know exactly how you feel! Personally, I think this can be a long process that evolves over time. Here’s a few techniques that work for me:

* Firstly, pay attention to what feels right. If it doesn’t feel quite right, it probably isn’t! When cooking we do a taste test – so when creating your product, service or brand, use whatever senses you have available to you. Look for harmony.

* Relax. I know this sounds very new agey, but there’s a good reason to chill out. The more tense you are, the further your brain is from your creative hub. When you’re searching for answers, your brain will function SO much better when you’re in a relaxed state – so put on some music, light the candles and adopt your yoga pose! At the very least, de-stress and get yourself in an easy mood.

* Stop thinking. Stop using your logical mind – just shut up already! Using your logical mind for the entire creative process is like driving across country in first gear … all the way. It really is. You need to tap into that vast amazing resource in the back of your mind, that’s where the power is, and to do this you must relax and calm your mind. This is probably one of the most productive techniques that I’ve learnt and used to date.

* Regain context. When you’ve got a persistent problem that doesn’t want to be solved, take your fixation away from the specific problem and re-focus on the big picture. This can turn confusion into clarity, sometimes instantly. It’s the old “can’t see the forest for the trees” adage. I was about three-quarters of the way through creating my game when this dawned on me, and just using this one technique sped the process up considerably from that point.

* Use creative questions. Although this sounds lame, it’s actually highly effective. Reframe your question from, “Why can’t I find the answer to this *[email protected]#$%^ problem?” to “How can I…?” or “What’s the best way to…?” … this approach will actually trigger your brain to be on the alert for solutions (as opposed to commanding it not to find the answer).

* Dig. Sometimes we don’t ask questions because we’re afraid of the answers. Big mistake. Be brave and keep asking questions – what, when, where, how and why – to peel back the layers.

* Chip. Your aim is to get to your sculpture in your block of ice, so keep chipping away at the bits that don’t need to be there.

* Trust your own judgment. Ask for feedback from a variety of sources, and listen, but at the end of the day, go with what feels right for you.

Today when I see a brand that has really got it together, meaning their message and their look is so simple that you can digest it in one bite – and it tastes terrific – I really respect them because I now know what has gone into creating that simplicity.


  1. Nice Article Dani,

    I would say that most people in building a brand try to accomplish too much instead of focusing on what they are truly great at and building from there. It’s like trying to swim with lead pants on… eventually you’ll sink.

    Keep it up Dani,


  2. Great point Luc… cheers/Dani