How to Build a Brand Vision

After I tried  Jeni’s Ice Creams, I began to expect something different from ice cream. It expanded the boundaries of what I thought ice cream could be. Now I fervently tell anyone when it comes up in conversation that “You must try this!” — they’ve given me a great product to show off to my friends, and a story to tell. 

I’m sure when Jeni was first starting out, her concept seemed like a huge risk. Who would eat Thai-Peanut Red Pepper ice cream? Or Ylang Ylang & Fennel? And will people be ok with the cost / quantity ratio? And do these ingredients have to all be so fancy sounding?

What Jeni had was a strong vision for who her company would be. AND a strong vision for who their customers would be. 

To think about how you can do this for your own brand or project, I have a few thoughts.

2 Elements of Vision. 

Every vision or strategy relies on two things.

The first is that you have to make hard calls about who you want to be. To make decisions that accept one way of being, by rejecting a different way of being.

With every decision you make about a specific direction about who your brand is, it gives you an opposing outcome of who you are not. It's sometimes, it’s hard to swallow these trade-offs. You could be reducing your total market size or alienating people. 

Regardless, what you don’t want is to be caught in the middle of two ways of thinking. To hedge your bets by pursuing two things at once. “Let’s put cheap and expensive options on the menu,” or, “we serve the vegans and the unconscious consumer.”

A hack here could be picking an opponent, and simply doing the opposite of everything that they do.

[ Make a list of all the things that you are, and what you're actively choosing to not be from those decisions. ]


By choosing who you are and who you aren't, you can concretely move in a specific direction.  You won't get plain vanilla here, no matter how much some people might say they want the option . 

Believe in a secret.

The second portion of your vision is that you have to havea secret, that only you believe in. You believe the world will soon believe this secret, too. An example secret is Airbnb telling potential investors that people WILL want strangers to stay in their homes, and in fact, enjoy it. Whereas the general reaction was that there was no way people would do this. 

[ Write out your secret and keep it in a box. It's your north star. ]

What’s so difficult here is that for the secret to be revealed, it needs the time for an idea to reach its full potential, even when it is counter to what currently exists as a paradigm. It’s tough to not turn back when the going get’s tough or when investors or friends are telling you you’re crazy. 


Change your customers

Meaningful brands
 change the belief system of their customer. Those who buy into Jeni's experience have changed their expectations, in an instant. 

When you change a customer's belief system, they can't help but turn to you because now the world feels obvious. It's why Apple fans won't even give a shot to a "Zune." When you change someone's beliefs you change the map or set of rules that they see, and once you see something you can't "unsee-it."

[ Making a list of 3-5 changes that you believe happen in your customer's lives when they try your product.  ]

The statement can look like:

“our customer started out believing _____
but now they believe ______.”


They say that every business has buried treasure and that it’s your job to find it. This means, as an excavation crew, you’ve got to decide on a specific area or direction to dig (you can’t just dig part way all over the place), and you have to have a deep believe that there will actually be gold where you’re digging.

Pick a specific direction, and believe that there's gold.

Work/TechnologyDavid Sherry