Sarah McGowan Dear

What’s an Elephant? A Parable on Branding…

In Business Therapy, Clients on May 25, 2012 at 5:37 pm

Rajasthan, India 2005 | All content © 2012 MAC+COB

You’ve probably heard of the Indian legend of the three blind men and the elephant…lacking one of the key senses, they have only their hands to explore what an elephant is all about.

One feels the tusk, “Clearly an elephant is like a spear, sharp and dangerous!”

Another feels a leg, “No, no – an elephant is like a tree trunk, sturdy and still!”

The last grabs hold of the tail, “You’re both wrong! An elephant is like a rope, strong and useful!”

Though the blind men are all having perfectly legitimate experiences with parts of the elephant, none of them can see the animal for what it truly is – a combination of all these things and so much more.

We tend to see our jobs, or our relationships or even the world at large primarily from our own vantage points and through the lens of our own experiences. When I guide established organizations through the rebranding process, I see this phenomena a lot. With many working parts, it’s easy to get entrenched in a role and even get a little myopic, especially after you’ve been working hard in a particular niche for a long time. Even an organization with a really clear mission and stakeholders who know “what they’re doing” and how their respective roles feed the larger machine is not exempt. More often than not, I find this to be the case: stakeholders may share the same set of core values, but their beliefs and attitudes about what they’re doing and how they’re doing it might diverge wildly. They might have a grasp of the “larger picture” but come at it from really disparate points of view.

Since branding is so much about external and internal perceptions, finding out why the internal disparities exist and identifying ways to bring them into alignment is critical to the organizational cohesion needed to truly embrace and champion an evolving brand identity.

As Mac and Helen review the results of the branding exploration exercise that our hard-working Make Your Mark winner recently completed, we’re really getting to the core of what makes the good folks behind the Altadena Urban Farmers’ Market tick. When we’re done, we’ll sit down together to “feel the elephant,” or in more practical terms, leverage their unique perspectives to build a new brand.

The moral of this story? Don’t do it in a vacuum (that might hurt)! When you rely solely on your own perspective, you’re bound to miss something really important. A fuller experience of all things – be they in business or in life – exists when we lift our heads up, take a look around and share what we see and feel with others.

MYM is the brainchild of Sarah “Mac” McGowan of MAC+COB Business Therapy and Helen Kim of The Think Farm.

Learn more about the Make Your Mark contest on Facebook:


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