Your band is a living organism.

Like all living things, your brand requires an ecosystem that enables it to grow and evolve. An ecosystem made up of the optimal food, soil, climate, minerals, air, etc. Absent the right conditions, your brand will become stagnate and die. Maybe slowly, maybe quickly; but stagnation will take the life out of your brand.

These biotic and abiotic components are linked together through nutrient cycles and energy flows. Without consistently finding ways to iterate and “break” your brand, your emotional value will dry up in the marketplace.

To avoid stagnation, it’s important to routinely “break brand” to discover new insights about your emotional value in the marketplace.

Break the safety net

If you want to grow your brand, start by breaking the safety net. A brand safety net is easily recognized. When we start to get the same results…the same creative strategies…when we’re afraid to step outside of what is working to imagine a new iteration of a brand; we are living atop our safety net.

Safety nets only tell you what is, not what’s possible.

Redefine the way you look at safety. Don’t constrain yourself to hard and fast rules. Don’t confine your thoughts to only things that have worked before. These won’t get you to where you want to be, they will only tell you where you’ve already been.

Wipe the whiteboard clean, bust out the post-it notes and start to ideate around your brand platform. Be comfortable in the realm of uncertainty.

Hypothesize and Experiment

Once the safety net is removed and the constraints are gone, you can begin to sketch hypotheses around how you can iterate your brand approach. Start by asking yourself “what would happen if” or “what if” questions. “What if” our story could be communicated more concisely? “What would happen if” we changed the conversation we’re having with our customers? “What would happen if” we had an unlimited budget?

When we are children, this question comes quite naturally to us. “What would happen if…I chew on this, I ate a whole mud pie, I stand on my head for a really long time.” But as we get older, this question becomes much more messy and much more dangerous.

Asking questions that are messy and dangerous are exactly what leads to brand iteration and ultimately real breakthrough.

Maybe your hypothesis is a new channel. Maybe your hypothesis is the creation of a new signal. Maybe your hypothesis is a new type of relationship you’ve never had with your customers before. Whatever your new hypotheses are, embrace them as tentative interpretations made to draw out and test the logical or empirical consequences of iterating your brand.

Run experiments against your hypotheses. Dream up ways to validate whether or not they will bring emotional value to your brand. The gates are wide open in experimentation. There is no right or wrong way to experiment, there is only the journey in discovering the value that your brand iteration can bring.

Run out into the street and conduct some man on the street interviews. Pull together 10 recent customers and learn about who they are, what they do, where they hang out on Friday night, and why they were attracted to you. Develop a social media contest that polls opinion about your hypothesis.

Experiments don’t need to be clinical market research and don’t need to be expensive. Market research is about sample size and variability. This is about relationship. Discovering your emotional value in the marketplace is much more relational than it is clinical.

The options are endless, but the insights can be priceless.

Validate and Execute

Once you’ve run experiments against your hypotheses, it’s time to validate your insights. What did you learn about your brand and the emotional value you bring to your customers? How do these insights inform your brand’s evolution? What do they mean to the next iteration of your brand?

Validate your insights by seeing the forest from the trees. Your insights are clues into the relationship you have with your customers. Follow these clues and they will lead you to real brand breakthrough.

Iterate and execute on one insight. Maybe you found that your customers see you as the rebel in your industry. Iterate on that insight. How can you bring out the rebel inside of your organization? How can you unearth that identity in your messaging? Again, follow the clues and they will lead to your breakthrough.

Breaking Brand Has Value

No matter what your hypotheses, experimentation and validation teaches you, the journey of breaking your brand has inherent value. The journey alone will lead you to insights that were otherwise hidden. Embracing these insights leads to creating more value for your customers.

Brands stagnate when they stop iterating, and people intuitively feel the stagnation. That’s why it’s important to habitually ‘break brand’ and rethink your brand approach.