Brand Therapy

I have a confession. I love every aspect of the work I do, but there is one thing that gives me the most immediate gratification and sense of accomplishment – sitting down with entrepreneurs and doing a brand therapy session. Distilling down a small business brand to the Core Four – its differentiating offering, its one-sentence summary, its compelling brand story, and its key marketplace analogy – is one of my favorite exercises. There’s a certain magic that occurs when you can help re-define a company in a few hours.

Recently I was in the midst of this process with a talented and successful digital agency in the Northeast. As I queried them about their core strengths, they kept coming back with nice-sounding (and true) phrases, none of which really distinguished them. So I scribbled J.A.D.A. on a piece of paper and pushed it across the table.

They sounded like Just Another Digital Agency. A commodity.

Now, in fact, they weren’t, and I knew it, but they hadn’t boiled their message down to a unique, differentiating identity. It was there, but it took some more pointed questions to finally bring it to the surface. They had revenue, they pleased their varied customers, but they were on a treadmill. Commodity brand positioning does that to you.

Why do companies need a brand therapist? It’s simple, really – we’re all too close to our own work. We get so immersed in our companies and offerings, that we can no longer see clearly who we really are. I serve as a brand therapist for others – but, I realize that I also need an outside voice for my own company. Because I’m too caught up in my own work to be objective!

I see this brand identity murkiness all the time – and the lack of definition even leads to taking on the wrong kind of work. It seems to be  unavoidable – ironically, even marketing/branding companies regularly suffer from the syndrome – but it’s certainly curable.

You may be coming across as J.A.S.P. (Just Another Service Provider), or J.A.T.C.  (Just Another Training Company) – or, fill in the blank for your offering. Sometimes an outside perspective – a therapist who can ask the right questions and guide you to a clearer vision – is just what you need when you’re at that point of doing a lot of work, but suffering from a lack of focus and direction.

Lots of big-time companies will suck you dry of time and dollars for a branding exercise, but my brand therapy sessions typically take about a day of focused time. We get to the Core Four, and if you need help in execution and campaigns beyond that, I have some wonderful resources in my network (yes, including digital agencies, marketing consultants, and loads of other talented providers!) Give me a call at 973-947-7429 and let’s set aside a day for some brand therapy. If, like me, you have eyesight that needs correction, you can look forward to that feeling you get when you put on a brand new pair of prescription glasses!


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About Steve Woodruff
Steve Woodruff is a blogger, a Connection Agent, and a consultant in the pharma/healthcare industry. He specializes in helping people and companies make mutually beneficial connections.

25 Responses to Brand Therapy

  1. Jane Chin says:

    I have had the fortune of being a patient of Steve’s Brand Therapy.

    Being a person who has transitioned several times throughout my business life – and that’s within a 5 year time-span, I count myself among one of the most refractory patients for pinning down a brand.

    I have done the typical first line therapies and complementary alternative therapies… the coaches the workshops the books… Steve’s expert guidance and exemplary bedside manners has made him one of the most effective brand doctors I’ve encountered.

    Whether you’re a company big or small (or micro, like mine) – you should give your brand good health coverage and prioritize a session with Steve. Speaking of which… Steve I probably need to book another appointment with you for my next career transition (what is it now, Act 4? Act 5?).

    • Jane, you’re one of the most analytical and self-aware people I know – yet you and I both have had to help each other step back and be objective about our “brands.” Looks like I’ve got to get my white coat on again for a follow-up visit…!

  2. Steve,

    Sounds like we are of like minds and in this case….the same business! Helping a client define their brand in a way that they can explain it to ALL of their employees who can ALL remember it and ALWAYS offer it in any setting as the answer to “what do you do or where do you work” is a gift that keeps on giving.

    It’s some of our favorite work at MMG too! Good to find like minds….


    • Like minds indeed! I fondly recall the spontaneous ad-hoc team therapy we did in a social setting at SOBCon last year – remember that? And that blogger took our advice for his identity – you know, we never did send him an invoice… :>}

      • I do remember — it’s fun to watch him evolve his brand. That’s one of the best aspects of doing branding work. The work literally is woven into the culture of the organization and lives on for a very long time!

  3. Steve Haase says:

    Steve, I continue to be impressed by the unique lens and creative connection-making you bring to branding. Both when we met over coffee a few months back and again in this post, your ability to distill seemingly common–even commoditized–business activities into something catchy and memorable is on display.

    My company proudly bears the differentiating descriptor you helped us develop over coffee in the Berkshires. Who would’ve known that our casual get-together would bear so much fruit!

    Thanks again,

  4. I, too, have had the great benefit of working with Steve during a challenging career transition.

    Leaving one field of expertise (after 25 years) and diving into new waters is definitely a challenge without any outside support.

    Even though your brand is sitting right under your nose, if’s often difficult to see, feel or know it.

    Fortunately, I had Steve by my side.

    Steve has that uncanny knack of seeing your brand’s essence clearly.

    Through a series of engaging questions, my unsettling “out-of-focus” feelings turned into inspiring “ah-ha!” insights.

    Feeling fuzzy about your brand’s story, direction or essence?
    Call Steve, the brand therapist.

    And in case you’re wondering, no, he won’t make you read an eye chart.

    • Tom, your “Director Tom” identity from your film directing career was always a favorite of mine. To craft a new identity while retaining some of the old (including the beret!) has been a courageous step. You’ve always understood how important a brand is, even to a solo practitioner!

  5. Dalmar says:


    It was amazing to have you sit and distill this distinction for us. Particularly because we feel like that’s what we’re good at. I guess you can never be your own therapist…LOL

    Seriously, you gave us some incredible insights into something that we’ve been struggling with: trying to be all things to all people. You confirmed a long held belief that it’s ok to be special at a few things.

    We’re taking a long hard look at our brand now to see how we move forward with engaging clients with “what’s special” about us as opposed to what they want to hear. We have no desire to be J.A.D.A and we know in our heart that we’re more than that. We just needed a session with someone like you who is equally passionate about brands and can step back and give the kind of objective analysis that you did.

    J.A.D.A no more!! We’re embracing our identity!

    Thanks again

    • Dalmar – what impressed me about you and Steve was your complete willingness – even eagerness – to have some outsider come in and probe your current approach. I am quite sure that Websignia is not (and won’t become) J.A.D.A. – not with that kind of readiness to learn and adjust! And, though I did appreciate your offer of an office and a Monday starting date…you know I’m going to stay independent! Otherwise I might become J.A.B.T. (Just Another Brand Therapist)…!

  6. Jerry Clor says:

    After finding myself on the street after 33 years on the corp side of Pharma – Steve’s simple formula set the course for distilling a plan so that I can continue to do what I love to do, and succeed in doing it. Stepping back or stopping to find that formula before pressing on is invaluable! Steve’s help was key to setting the target and knowing the plan to move forward… this works! Really!

    Finally “getting it” after all these years…..

    • Jerry, you took a huge step, but you had done what was very important before going off on your own – laid a lot of groundwork and built a tremendous reservoir of contacts and good will. It was pretty much a no-brainer to point you toward starting your own consulting business – you had all the elements of success in place!

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  10. Jeff says:

    Great post Steve! It reminded me of the enganging Branding and Positioning exercises we teamed up on a few months ago. Thanks again for conducting a highly productive and fun workshop for our leadership team. I still reference the outputs and we challenge ourselves on the CORE FOUR frequently.

    • Jeff, our session to work on the market identity of Verilogue was immensely rewarding. You had all the raw materials – it was really a matter of bringing it into focus. You guys are going to do great in the pharma marketing/training marketplace!

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  12. Yet another post from a satisfied “patient” of a Brand Therapy Session. In fact we may well have been the “JADA” that Steve mentioned in his post. Getting to the core value proposition that is both unique enough to own and relevant enough to matter sounds easy until you try to do it. Steve’s approach is great and his insights into our business made it even better. While we are still hard at work in this critical area, we have made strides and the momentum is encouraging! I can say without hesitation that I’d recommend a Brand Therapy Session for anyone who is serious about their brand.

    • You folks at Clearpoint are making good progress, Philip. I have no doubt that you’ll continue to refine a unique message and set of offerings. You’re a smart group of people…!

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