How Is Coaching Like Brand Strategy?


Coaching and Brand Strategy: Parallels in Action

We are an active bunch at Emotive Brand. Because our team is filled with athletes, it seems only natural to draw a parallel between the impact of coaching and brand strategy. Bella Banbury, co-founder and CEO at Emotive Brand, is a Triathlete. Bella is the first to say that her growth in the sport is thanks not only to dedicated hours spent on her bike, on the trails, and swimming in the San Francisco Bay, but thanks to the support of her coaches.

Coaching keeps her on track, focused, injury free, and the fittest, fastest, and strongest she can be. It gives her the support to reach new goals and push her limits each and every day. And she can’t help but see the connections between her competition out there and her work at Emotive Brand. By sitting down with Bella, we’ve outlined five ways brand strategy is like coaching and what we can learn from this analogy.

Here are our insights:

1. Not every athlete is the same.

Different athletes have different characteristics and strengths, just like the brands and businesses we work with. Some need to move fast, while others prefer distance over speed. Some are new to the sport – like our startup clients – learning the ropes, gaining basic skills, and looking to grow. Others are experienced but may have plateaued and need to fine tune their skills in order to reach new heights. Some need help breaking out of outdated brand behaviors that are holding them back. Many are trying to adapt to new skills, and need guidance incorporating what they’ve learned into their existing practice. In the end, everyone is looking to improve and gain some kind of performance edge.

A good coach, like a good brand strategy agency, understands that not every athlete or business is the same. Each athlete plays, practices, and performs for different reasons, just like every business has different motivations, goals, aspirations, and a unique story behind what they do and why they do it. And each athlete, like a business or brand, needs someone who deeply understands these differences and can help them reach maximum impact, performance, and meaning within the market.

2. A coach must adapt to the objectives of the athlete.

Powerful and impactful brand strategy gives each individual client the specific tools they need to succeed. Brand strategy can be the whole package – brand naming, positioning, visual identity, brand narrative, etc. – but that isn’t always necessary. On the other hand, it might simply be fine tuning a strong business with a fresh look, a slight shift in positioning, a new category, or just a simple refinement of the narrative.

Brand strategy at Emotive Brand is about making your brand matter more to people and, as a result, transforming your business. And each brand and business is different and demands a customized path to transformation. In order for an athlete to meet their goals, he or she needs a plan tailored specifically to them. Good coaches adapt to each athlete’s objectives if they want them to thrive. By deep diving into the client’s needs, challenges, strengths, and weaknesses, a brand strategy firm can help any business reach its full potential, ready the organization for growth, and strategically position the brand for success.

3. Good coaching is key to beating the competition.

Brand strategy is all about helping businesses be fit and fast, just like coaches. In today’s ever evolving digital landscape, business is more fast paced than ever before. In order to compete, you have to be one step ahead of the competition. You can’t win unless you have a strategy for competing and maintaining relevance in the market. For brands, this means a full understanding of what makes you different from your competition. What gives you an edge? How can you stand out? How can you maintain your place at the top or make your way up there? What kind of people are going to help you “win”? What makes you special as a team? These key, strategic questions can position your business to compete even within highly competitive, always shifting markets.

4. Coaching requires teamwork and collaboration.

A sports team can’t be successful without working together. This also applies to any coach and athlete relationship. Success requires a collaborative and respectful mindset. And we’ve found that brand strategy helps teams become more open to new ideas, people, and experiences, while recognizing and respecting that every individual has different values, beliefs, experiences, and boundaries. Empathy and trust are key, as is a focus on strong communication.

In the end, strong collaboration promotes growth, widens perspectives, increases creativity, and inspires innovation. And through our work, we’ve found that collaborative businesses more easily overcome challenges and aptly conquer obstacles. Working as a team gets everyone aligned and moving towards common goals. So when we work with clients, we think of their challenges as our own, just as a coach might about an athlete’s or his own team’s. This joint ownership makes clients feel more supported and situated for success.

5. The value of coaching is realized when the strategy comes into play.

Creating a strategy only gains real value when the strategy is activated and actually comes to life. This might be likened to the difference between practice and an actual game or competition. An athlete might have a strategic plan they’ve gone over and outlined with their coach, but the success of the strategy isn’t realized until the actual competition, match, race, etc. In our world, this is when the strategy goes to market. So as an agency, our job isn’t only to create a strategy for our clients, but to give them the tools and assets to make it come to life. How is the strategy going to live and breathe? A visual identity and guidelines for how to use the brand help demonstrate how the strategy will work, live, and compete in the market.

Coaching can help an athlete reach peak performance, beat the competition, and meet goals with a tailored plan for success. And we know, first hand, that brand strategy can do the same for your business and brand. So consider the power of brand strategy and how it can position your business to thrive.

Emotive Brand is a San Francisco brand strategy and design agency.

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