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Last time, we reviewed how, when I built a wooden kayak, I realized that building a boat and building a brand have a lot in common. You have to have vision, plans, patience, control, and it really helps to be innovative while you’re at it. There are other similarities and there was ONE big one that surprised me.

You have to have the right tools.

I had a decent set of tools when I started my project. I thought I did, anyway. By the time I was finished, I had acquired two specialty saws, dozens of clamps, 6 different kinds of sandpaper, a disc sander, a set of wood rasp tools, and a host of other gidgets and gadgets I didn’t think I would ever need or own. Branding is the same. You can launch a campaign thinking you have all you need when you realize you’re short on tools, and short on skills. And that’s the next lesson.

Tools without skills = no tools.

A small sample of my new clamp collection.

Before I could start sanding or varnishing or working with epoxy, I had to spend a lot of time learning how. I know it took me at least twice as long to build my boat because of that. Fortunately, I wasn’t on a timetable. Brands, on the other hand, do have timetables. Time is money. So, if you don’t have the skills AND the tools you need to build your brand, get help. Or get ready for a Viking funeral.

A boat is built in stages. So is a brand.

One of the big surprises of my boat building experience was the way the boat is built. It’s a constant process of adding and subtracting. Seriously, you add epoxy, then you sand it off. When I added the deck to my kayak, there was a 3-inch overhang all around. So I put it on with glue and nails. Then I cut the overhang with a saw. Then I shaved it more with a plane. Next, I sanded it then I filled the gap with epoxy, and finally, (you guessed it) sanded it down. Brands are like this too. You have to build your brand through addition and subtraction. You add an idea here, a process there. Then you observe to see if it works. If it does… for you and your customers… what you wanted it to do. You subtract the things you don’t need or like, then you add some more. This is the most important part of building a brand. A brand is more than an image or a slogan or a position statement. It IS the essence of the product or service you provide. It should be unique and valuable. It has to be functionally and operationally sound. You have to be able to “live” it before you can expect anyone else to buy it, which leads us to…

You have to build it before you launch it.

A Viking funeral. Sad.

As with a boat, a brand that is built right will float. A brand that is full of holes will sink faster than you can imagine. You can recover from a small “leak” or two but you have to find them fast and fix them right. A brand built right and launched right can be a joy to behold… just like a boat… for a long time. Unlike a boat, however, a brand can be profitable. I haven’t found a way to make a boat profitable, yet. That’s okay, though. It’s a boat. 🙂

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