“The truth is never told during the nine-to-five hours.”

Hunter S. Thompson

In the first stage, you decide what you’ll offer to whom. These decisions come with a lot of assumptions about your audience, each of which you have to test.

Offer the wrong thing to the wrong audience, and your project dies.

This is very common, and the road is littered with products, politicians, and careerists who failed to match with the market. 4

This match is called product/market fit. Without it, a brand is useless.

No matter how strong your brand, a lack of product/market fit means your project is not useful enough to the people you’re pitching to. And as we saw in the introduction, a strong brand can never redeem a useless project.

Verify assumptions on Brand Strategy by interviewing your audience.

Don’t just ask your girlfriend if your idea is cool. Of course she’ll say yes. Close and not so close people will always avoid hurting your ego.

Instead of criticizing your plans, they’ll give you enough false positives to quit that job and ruin your life.

These can be 5 or 15-minute talks. Keep it casual. Locate their pains with simple questions:

  • How do you solve X now?
  • Why do you bother with X?
  • What are the implications of X not working?
  • Talk me through the last time X happened?
  • Where does the money come from to solve X?
  • Who else should I talk to regarding X?
  • Is there anything else I should have asked?

Focus on them and their pains. These conversations are not about you. Don’t tell them about your project before you’ve truly understood what their pains are.

When you finally tell them about your project, beware of inviting fake praise. Words like “I would definitely buy your cow”, or “Sure, I’ll vote for you.” are meaningless.

Only real commitment signals real enthusiasm.

Real commitments are pre-orders, deposits, donations or letters of intent. But also a willingness to trial your software, volunteer for your cause or making intros to people important to you.

Invest in brand building after you are (relatively) sure about product/market fit.

This will save you a lot of disappointment. And even if your audience hates your project, consider it a win. At least you didn’t splurge time and money on a brand.

So rigorously test your assumptions by interviewing your audience.

Because as Mike Pence once said:

“Enhanced interrogation saves lives.”