Some of the funniest moments in our favorite  TV comedies occur when someone does something “out of character.”  Because they don’t really know themselves, they misguidedly believe that they can stretch and pull it off. They can’t. We cringe when Jared from Silicon Valley attempts to blend in, or when MIndy Lahiri tries to break up with her favorite foods on The Mindy Project. Things get awkward and uncomfortable as we watch them figure out how to undo the mess that is inevitably created.

So too, we often hear of brands that went sideways when they tried to seize a new market opportunity or speak to a new audience in a new way. It happened to Crocs when they tried to launch stylish ballet flats and pumps.  It gets awkward and uncomfortable as they have to figure out how to undo the mess that they created.  This raises the question: Why do some brands trip over their own feet when branching out while others tell a cohesive story worthy of a HBO mini series?

We think it comes down to one issue: strategy. The awkward mess usually results from a lack of a clear brand strategy.

Why Strategy Matters

First, let’s define our terms. What is brand strategy? At Compass(x), we use the definition that it is deciding where to play and how to win. First of all, this definition focuses on the actions of deciding and making choices, not the strategy document itself. The second important element focuses on two big questions – where are you going to play (which markets, audiences, industries etc) and how are you going to win (why will people ultimately choose you, who makes the buying decision, where will your products be sold, how will you price it, etc). Once those two big questions are answered, making decisions about your brand becomes much easier.

Once you have made the clear choice of where to play and how to win, decisions get easier, faster, and less costly. It becomes more obvious where growth can come from, which revenue streams to pursue, or which new offering makes your brand more valuable. Specifically, you should be able to answer the following questions:

  • What do you stand for? Can you clearly and simply articulate it?
  • What business are you in? Who are you competing with?
  • Who is your primary audience and what do they care about?
  • What is your audience doing now and what about you is compelling enough to inspire them to switch?
  • Where does your audience usually go to learn more about what you offer? What is the best place to reach them?

How solid is your company’s brand strategy?

Our Brand Strategy Assessment is an online tool that we built to help you diagnose the root cause of these issues. Based on your results (the assessment takes about 3 minutes), we offer customized recommendations that will help you address fundamental underlying issues, like:

  • What’s our reason for being?
  • What are the intangible benefits of our product?
  • How are we meaningfully different from our competitors?

Take the assessment and get on your way to growing by being yourself. In the meantime, feel free to revel in more Jared awkwardness.



Sehare is a Strategist at Compass(x) Strategy, a Chicago brand and growth strategy firm that creates sustainable growth for passionate companies.

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