November 24, 2020

7 Minute Read

Charting Your Course in the Treacherous Seas of Branding

Centuries ago, people believed the world was flat and that if we sailed far enough, we’d fall off the edge of it. Sailors navigated the high seas using the stars, nautical maps, and marine compasses to point them in the right direction. Today we pick up our smartphones, ask for directions and Google Maps simply guides us to our destination. Though much has changed, the tools we use to navigate today are still dependent on one thing: establishing True North.

True North is still hidden behind the algorithms and technology we use every day. It’s a simple and constant guiding force. It’s the one thing that makes us tick. It defines us. The invisible force that guides our path in life, business, and relationships. In the midst of chaos, True North is a beacon that helps us find our way.

Imagine a life without True North. No way to know where we are headed or how to get back to where we’ve been. For many brands today–both startups and established–the reality of the situation is just that: no way to know where they’re headed or how to get back to where they’ve been. And I want to change that.


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business path brandingI believe we are all seeking True North for ourselves. Whether it be an epic adventure diving off the coast of Madagascar, trekking through the Himalayas or heliboarding a remote peak in Iceland, we all choose different paths for work, life, and experiences based on the principles we inherently care about the most.

Living life authentically provides meaning, self-satisfaction & joy. It fulfills us.

As for myself, that journey began when I stepped out on a limb and founded Magnetic Creative, a branding agency in Southern California. I’d like to say I was fearless, brave and confident, but to be honest I was scared out of my mind. With everything to lose, a new house, a family to provide for and no guaranteed paycheck coming my way, I only had one option…

Make it happen.

The entrepreneur in me overflowed with excitement, but the realist in me knew the focus was going to be the key to success.

My experiences working for both corporate companies and agencies offered perspective on what I liked and disliked. I realized a few significant truths that I believe wholeheartedly are the 3 most important concepts for any company.

  1. People. They are the single greatest asset to every company.
  2. Trust. We all want to be trusted to do what we do.
  3. Flexibility. Don’t put people or ideas in a box. Let them breathe.

branding culture10 years later, I’ve had a chance to reflect on Magnetic and our story. I realize we’ve strayed off course plenty of times, made mistakes, even failed here and there, but one thing always kept us on the right path–knowing our True North. If that’s hard to understand, my thoughts can be summed up with a scene from the NETFLIX original series, Stranger Things. Give the show a watch. It’s brilliant.)

Branding is the invisible something that guides all business, marketing, and creative decisions

What’s more interesting is how True North applies to building brands. Knowing True North has an intangible impact on their success or failure. We continue to help companies define who they are by identifying why they exist. Simon Sinek eloquently explores this thought in his TED talk about the Golden Circle, explaining how the truly great companies understand exactly who they are at the core. Great companies know their “Why,” their True North. It’s part of their DNA. It’s that invisible something that guides them through all their business, marketing, and creative decisions.

branding why statement

Authenticity and Transparency are Currency for Brands

Beyond business and brands, the idea of understanding our own personal “Why” is empowering. It shapes culture, guides us, motivates us, inspires us and draws us closer to living an authentic life.

Today, authenticity and transparency are the new currency for brands. There’s no hiding behind corporate offices, misleading advertising or inferior quality products. Companies are constantly in the spotlight. Treat a guest terribly at a restaurant or serve average food and you’ll see a bad review on Yelp. Cut corners or release a sub par product and you’ll find countless 1-star ratings on Amazon. The 21st-century online landscape is a real-time mirror that no brand can escape. We might as well look closely at ourselves and do something about it.

Companies need to win people’s hearts and minds before they win a share of their wallet. Put the time into building relationships online and in-store through meaningful engagements, customer service, and thoughtful products/services. Ideally, every strategic business and brand decision a company makes should align with their “Why.”


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People choose to follow brands

People choose to follow brands on social media, visit their website, buy their products, enter a restaurant or get a tattoo because they connect with what the brand represents. They find within themselves some connection or deeper meaning within the brand’s True North.

branding hearts minds

To know and live by your beliefs is to know your True North

Everyone has a belief system–a few guiding principles that they live by. These beliefs determine who our friends are, where we work, where we vacation, our favorite foods, cigars, wines, hobbies, adventures, books, and shows. Beliefs are the compass that guides us down this path of experiences called life. To know and live by your beliefs is to know your True North.

When all is said and done, the most important thing is to be able to look yourself in the mirror and know who you are, where you’ve been and where you’re going. Take some time to define “True North” for yourself, for your brand or your company. Don’t be afraid to get lost. For when you do know your True North, you can always find your way back to the main trail.

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