How to brave the brand wilderness

Have you read Brené Brown’s incredible Braving The Wilderness yet? For those of you who have, you may recognise the inspiration behind this post but perhaps won’t understand how her book relates to business branding, if at all.

One of the scariest things in Marketing today is that being loud is often safer than being different. Braving The Wilderness is about finding your voice and being brave enough to stand out as a human. Brown got me thinking about how this could apply to brands today. Her thinking made me wonder about the brands we are building and the sea of noise that we’ve managed to create in the process.

As business builders, we’ve forgotten about the power of branding and its importance in the growth of a business. Whether we’ve lost the power to brave the ‘brand wilderness’ because of boardroom pressure, the stress involved in hitting short-term revenue goals, or because we’ve been so tied up in trying to understand technology, we’ve almost forgotten about the power of branding.

Apple, if you can believe it, struggled in the late 1990s, which was its brand wilderness period, yet went on to achieve unbelievable success. It took bravery and time for Apple to become comfortable not conforming and creating a brand that customers followed into the wilderness. Today, the Apple brand has achieved international success and has an entire accessories line that continues to inspire its loyal customer base to keep trekking through the wilderness alongside its consistent brand growth. There are, afterall, an endless amount of brand choices in the market and companies that fail to use branding as a powerful asset can risk blending into the dense jungles of the existing brand wilderness, likely to be overlooked or forgotten entirely.

So, what can you do to navigate your brand through the wilderness stages of development and set your company on the fast track to success? Here are four, practical marketing strategies that we think might help:

Master Your Brand’s Voice, Language, and Form

Brown explains that our deepest emotions are communicated through three distinct vehicles—voice, language, and form—which are theories that can also be applied to branding. For organisations in the global marketplace, it’s about being different, not better.

Better Is Subjective, Different Is Obvious  

To really make a difference, both brand creators and entrepreneurs need to communicate the essence of their brand effectively. This is the first stage of navigating the wilderness when brands must first find the confidence to step into ‘the brand wilderness’ in order to realise the fruits waiting to be harvested from their labour. The time spent in charting a company’s wilderness path may be tedious, but it’s time well spent to establish a more compelling value proposition for potential customers. Look for a dirt road that appears to lead off of the beaten path so that your brand stands out in a unique and meaningful way.

Inviting customers into the Wilderness

The second stage of bravery is trusting that you’ve created a dirt road that allows your niche to come join you. In this digital world, remember that this could be customers anywhere in the globe.

It’s no longer about a particular demographic; it’s about attracting people who share similar values and beliefs then creating an environment in which this demographic can grow with the brand. Herein lies the opportunity to drive engagement. Become as personable with your brand as possible. Create unique ways to link your brand to your customer in a way that demonstrates appreciation. Request feedback from clients and welcome any criticisms. Walk side-by-side and truly connect with your client as a way to elevate your brand while simultaneously giving your loyal clientele a voice in the process.

"The irony is that while there have never been more ways to reach consumers, it's never been harder to connect with consumers."

--- Brad Jakeman

Telling True and Authentic Stories

The third stage of bravery is being vulnerable.

As a brand, this is challenging. Having said that, perfecting the art of creating compelling messages will personalise the connection between your business and your customer. Lean on genuine stories of success from the feedback you begin to collect from stage one of braving the ‘brand wilderness’. Mould these stories into newsletters, give shout-outs to the specific client via social media outlets, even feature success stories on the company website. Humanise your brand as much as possible. Extend your reach by leaning on the digital elements of modern technology to spread the word of these stories to thousands (possibly millions depending on your niche) of potential clients all while sustaining existing customers.

Back to Brown’s workconsider the voice, language, and form of your brand. Think about how what you communicate to your audience impacts your brand’s position within the wider market.

“If you can’t say your message in a sentence, you can’t say it in an hour.”

-- Dianna Booher

How Can You Differentiate A SaaS Tech Brand?

Wondering how to differentiate your brand from others in the same sector? Let’s take a look at everyday SaaS (software-as-a-service) brands to give you a glimpse into great branding in action.

SaaS brands, such as Contently and Trello, stand out by making themselves integral to their customers’ marketing processes. Productivity, practicality, and communication are all key features of these brands. Through creative marketing discussions via focus groups, surveys, and benchmarking competitors, they realised that’s what they needed to convey.

Imagine sitting in a marketing meeting trying to market these types of products. It would’ve been challenging, but both have managed to hone their value propositions and are successful for it. Once the value proposition has been realised, the next stage—which is ongoing—is to be consistent with brand messaging.

Importance of Consistency in the Wilderness

In 2018, brands are more than just static logos, adverts, and distinctive colour schemes.

The elementary world of advertising portrayed in Don Draper’s 1950s Madison Avenue world (Mad Men) doesn’t apply anymore. Brands must be their own media companies and remain consistent across both traditional and modern, dynamic delivery channels.

Take social media, for instance. Consistent messaging and uniform communication with customers are key. Any slip-ups, like this tweet from supermarket chain Tesco in the wake of a scandal for example, can embarrass a large business or set a smaller business back entirely. Further, the damage to the brand is irreversible in a time when these messages make primetime news or go viral on social media outlets worldwide. It can take a brand precious time to work around the negative connotation now associated with its image. 

Apple, the first trillion dollar company, is an ideal brand to study when looking at consistency. Offering a sleek and consistent image across advertising platforms and product user experience. Through turbulent times, which are inevitable in business and business development, lean on the examples of success in companies such as Apple to remind you that your brand, too can emerge stronger and with a deeper understanding of what your brand means to clients.

I’ll leave you with this quote from Brené Brown to inspire companies lost in the wild ‘brand wilderness’ wondering when their fortunes will turn around.

'Vulnerability is the birthplace of innovation, creativity and change.'

-- Brené Brown


Cat Williams-Treloar founded Humanisation, a Human-Centered Marketing Consultancy. Humanisation was born to help startups make a human impact in a digital world as they Go-To-Market across APAC.


Read more about Humanisation & our why here, or get in contact with

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