Successful Brand Building: A Zen Approach

By Ed Rice, Managing Director, Affinity Creative Group

Like many of you, I’ve missed quite a few yoga classes lately. Sequestering at home due to COVID-19 has a way of putting a crimp in your chakras. Attending class on YouTube is just not the same. But, these strange days give me time to ponder if my regular Yoga instructor ‘Grace’ could have just as easily been a branding guru. At the beginning of every practice, she’d always referenced her version of The 5 Principles of Yoga. With time to think about it, Grace’s five principles are eerily similar to our Affinity guidelines for creating, building, and revitalizing brands. Seriously. Humor me for a moment and consider the parallels between yoga and branding.

Principle 1: Intention

As each class began, Grace asked the class to set an intention for that day’s practice. Being intentional allows us to focus our energy in a particular direction. Energetically, intentions provide inspiration and momentum to accomplish a task or a goal. Similarly, at the beginning of a brand makeover, we ask clients about their brand’s intention. How should it evolve to better connect with key audiences? What new energy is required to increase market appeal? And ultimately, what does success look like?

Why Setting An Intention Works: Knowing where you want to go and focusing your energy on that outcome allows you to clear the path to achieve your goals.

Principle 2: Openness

As we moved through the asana, or series of yoga postures, Grace encouraged us to stay open, inviting, and flexible. At Affinity, we proclaim the importance of flexibility to clients seeking to build a meaningful connection with their customers. We suggest they tap into their customers’ needs: What do they want in a brand? What are their expectations? How do the brand’s products and/or services solve a pain-point or challenge? We encourage our clients to avoid preconceived notions and, instead, explore possibilities. This enables our agency to help clients create a meaningful brand experience, one that will resonate with their customers while fostering relationships and loyalty.

Why Staying Flexible Works: Questioning where and how you can meet your customer’s needs and expectations to increase your chances of creating value, inspiring loyalty, and driving business.

Principle 3: Rootedness

Halfway through class, while we were in a seated position, Grace reminded us to be firmly rooted and remarked on the importance of staying grounded. At Affinity, this is not unlike our starting point in the brand development process. Laying the groundwork for a successful brand must include a well-designed foundation. Messaging that originates from a strong foundation projects credibility on a store shelf or a smartphone screen.

Why Being Grounded Works:A strong foundation supports the pillars of your brand architecture, including your values, promise, positioning, voice, target audience, and visual identity.

Principle 4: Breathe

Grace went on to tell us that yoga is about connecting the body and the mind through breath and being mindful of our inhalations and exhalations. This allowed us to stay present, opening new cerebral pathways, and channeling our energy. During the creative development process, when critiquing work, our designers often assess if a particular creative concept “breathes.” It’s a way of asking if the design direction has sufficient balance. The most successful creative brand solutions always allow space for “breathing room,” and it shows in consumer engagement and sales.

Why Being Mindful Works:Embracing mindfulness allows us to identify areas where we can iterate and channel our focus on improving creative concepts that amplify messaging that is truly important and minimize any impediments to the sale.

Principle 5: Be Connectedness

As we closed our practice, Grace reminded us that all parts of our bodies are interconnected, and to illustrate this concept referenced our fascia—the connective tissue that attaches, stabilizes, and encloses all of our muscles and internal organs. This fascia is not unlike the brand architecture we establish when creating a distinctive label for an artisan wine, small-batch whiskey, or craft beer. All of the elements that go into a label—the brand-mark, brand icon, design textures, flavor descriptors, patterns, and colors—are all interconnected. At Affinity, we often speak of “connective tissue” when advising clients on line extensions, portfolio tiering, and new product development. When properly executed, interconnected brand architecture is almost magical in its efficiency and effectiveness.

Why Interconnection Works:A well-connected brand design is a powerful, unified, communicative force that becomes a memorable experience for every consumer.

To conclude, strong brands, like an effective yoga practice, are based on timeless principles that are hard to ignore, wise to follow, and will pay great dividends in the end.

Need Help Building A Brand That Stands The Test of Time?

Affinity Creative Group is a specialty marketing agency located in California’s vibrant wine region, comprised of talented creatives who are passionate about helping clients of all sizes in wine, spirits, and other categories develop visually stunning, memorable, and meaningful brand experiences. If you’re looking to have someone from outside your organization facilitate your brand development process, please get in touch to explore how we can help!

About the Author: Ed Rice is Managing Director at Affinity Creative Group, Mare Island, CA. His journey, like his yoga practice, has taken many twists and turns. From Wharton undergrad to U.S. Naval Officer, to Lucas’ THX technology marketer to Landor Associates managing director and more, Ed has enjoyed a great ride. Ed says the current stretch at Affinity is particularly gratifying as the agency and its multi-discipline team members offer clients the best of all worlds—experience, talent, and passionate, entrepreneurial drive.

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