My #1 Goal When Running Brand Strategy Workshops


I used to get a little nervous before brand strategy workshops.

What if my client just thinks I’m a glorified note-taker?

What if I don't discover anything new that they didn’t know already?

What if I don’t find any golden nuggets (aka- insights)?

I facilitated a brand strategy workshop on Monday so it’s been top of mind all week. This time was different. I didn’t go into this meeting asking myself those “what if” questions. Rather, I went in super excited to discover all the “buried treasure” that I knew was hidden in their brand. 

Everyone who owns a business that was born from a personal passion or mission definitely has that buried treasure. And that includes you too!

Of note: I want to differentiate between founders that are just out to make money because they saw an opportunity in the marketplace vs those that are actually passionate about making the world a better place. I’m speaking about the latter. 

My number one goal when doing brand strategy is to surface insights. 

My number one goal should not be to create a rock-solid creative brief, or to get design direction, or to solve my client’s problems. Although those things are all great and needed, surfacing key insights is the only way I can create an amazing brief, or design, or solve my client’s problems. Without insights, my client’s brand will be boring… like vanilla ice-cream. It won’t attract their ideal customers and it sure won’t make them stand out in any way among their competitors. 

If I'm not focused on finding insights, I might as well forget about doing brand strategy altogether. I’ve heard clients tell me that they’ve had these types of workshops done before and that they didn’t get a thing out of them. I’m shocked and sad to hear that. 

When I run a brand strategy workshop for a client, I make sure to take note of any milestones in their back story. I write down any keywords or overarching themes. Did they repeat a word a lot? Do they keep referencing a certain person in their life? What are they known for within their social circle, family, or friend group? I look for patterns anywhere and everywhere. I ask tons of questions. If I can’t find any patterns, then I'm not asking enough questions. 

Once I've identified a pattern, I connect the dots to form an insight. What does that pattern tell me? This is the part where I get to flex my thinking and processing skills. Those patterns will usually tell me something about what the client’s brand personality should be or something about how they can connect with their ideal customer. The possibilities are endless—which is heaven to a creative thinker. 

I usually know when I found a golden nugget (insight) because the client will light up—or scream with joy and applaud in my case from Monday’s workshop. :) The insight I mentioned to them was something so obvious once I said it because it was almost like it was hidden in plain site, but no one saw it. Those are the ah-ha moments that I want to happen in every single brand strategy meeting I ever facilitate. Those ah-ha moments connect my client to their own brand, motivating them to do everything they can to implement the strategy we come up with. It also builds an incredible amount of trust between us. The insights that are uncovered are the things that make the brand unique and the things that the founder and employees can really take ownership of. Funny enough, those insights were already there—they just needed someone outside the water bottle to read the label for them. 

The thing that is so wonderful about strategy workshops is that all I need to bring are questions and my brain. I don’t need all the answers or tons of research coming into the meeting. My greatest asset is how I think.

FINALLY! I get paid to think. 

I could literally talk about brand strategy for the rest of my life (who knows, I just might ;)

- Melinda Livsey

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About the author:

Melinda Livsey is a brand strategist, designer, and educator based in sunny Southern California. She’s the founder of Marks and Maker, co-founder of Pre-lance, and co-host on the Futur. Find her hanging out on Instagram and say hello!