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  • Writer's pictureRuth Palmer

Unconventional Branding: What a Jigsaw Puzzle Taught Me About Startup Success



Picture of an unfinished puzzle on a seaside town in Autumn

My son bought me a puzzle for Mother’s Day.


He always knows best.


It has been a wonderful distraction from my sometimes not so helpful mind.


What I didn’t expect was for it to reveal in the process some insightful revelations about the work I do. So what can a 1000 piece puzzle teach you about branding for startups?


  1. Vision is key: Without the picture on the front of the box, it would be significantly harder to achieve your mission of creating the beautiful picture that it illustrates. The same is true for your business. Without a vision, one of the more important steps in the branding process, you’re going to have a much harder time creating anything of value.


  1. Patient Observation: It’s surprising that focussing on a single piece at a time, being patient, and relaxed, is so effective. If you look at a piece for long enough, whilst at the same time interrogating the picture you are trying to create, there comes a moment when you can just “see” where it goes. Something just clicks. For me this is like customer insights. The more you look, and understand, the clearer it is what you need to do to attract customers to you, and make their world better.


  1. Take breaks: With 1000 pieces jostling for space and attention, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or frustrated, depending on your nature. Creating the puzzle, I have found that if you leave it for the night, and come back in the morning, some kind of magic processing has happened in your brain. I can just see where the pieces go. I’m not even trying. Boom, boom, boom, one after another, they’re in. The same is true for branding. It is HARD coming up with a purpose, vision, mission and all the other essential elements of a brand, if you want them to actually set your business off in teh direction of success. It really gets the gray matter going. But if you leave all those thoughts of positioning, differentiation, competitive landscape, values, capabilities etc. to stew for a while, your brain has a chance to work its magic. If you’ve asked all the right questions, and have all the research, after a while, the right answer just makes itself known.


  1. One step at a time: A few pieces a day is all it takes. Sometimes there will be more, sometimes less. Some days you’ll be on a roll, others you just can’t see where anything should go. When you turn out 1000s pieces of little colourful cardboard that are supposed to become the beautiful picture on the box, it seems like an impossible mess to unravel. I sometimes feel like this at the beginning of a complicated branding project, and figuring out the branding for your startup alone can be very intimidating - it’s no easy task. But, if you build a structure (group the pieces, focus on the edges) it all starts to seem possible. A few pieces a day, just keep going.


  1. Team Collaboration: Every person inside your startup is a piece of the puzzle. What they do and the way they behave shapes the connections between the pieces. Without those connections, you can’t make the picture. As you grow,this gets a lot harder. The key is to keep reminding everyone of the vision and what they need to do to get there. Keep looking at the picture on the box


That’s exactly why we’ve developed our minimum viable branding tools, so you have a structure to ask all the right questions, get all the right information, so that the brand your startup needs to be to succeed can appear to you out of the confusion. Check out our branding tools to help you figure out your own branding puzzle.

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