As entrepreneurs, we live in a high-stake, high-pressure world. Every decision we make can become the difference between epic success and heartbreaking failure. That’s why entrepreneurs, more than any other subset of the business world, become obsessed with terms like ROI, ROAS, cost per sale, customer acquisition cost, gross margin, etc. As a result, entrepreneurs spend most of their time thinking tactically rather than relationally.

Beyond Who, What, When and Where

On the surface, tactical thinking is good. There is a knowable and reassuring science to it. Metrics and statistics, measurables and vectors, can tell you where to place your message, for how long and whether you should do it again. Tactical thinking answers the who, what, when and where questions regarding your presence in the real world. Tactical thinking calms our nerves, comforts our minds and can feel really, really good.

Yet, even with all of those good vibrations, tactical thinking can still cost you your brand, and in turn, your emotional-value in the marketplace. Why? Because tactical thinking alone will never answer the why.

Why people should care. Why your story matters. Why you are worth beginning a relationship with. As the Millennial Generation quickly becomes the primary force in consumer spending, our marketplace is shifting–shifting from a transaction-based economy to a participation-based economy. And in a hyper-connected, information-rich participation marketplace, people are yearning to connect with your why more than anything else.

As our market changes, so must our thinking. To move into the why, you have to shift your mindset from tactical thinking to brand thinking. Brand thinking is all about the why.

What Is Brand Thinking?

Brand thinking is about authentic, consistent and intentional relationship building. It’s a mindset that can transform the way an organization reasons, behaves and relates in the real world. At its core, brand thinking values:

  • Personal gestures over big promises;
  • Interaction over reaction;
  • Engagement over interruption;
  • Co-creation over mass consumerism;
  • Authenticity over appeal.


Brand thinking embraces the notion that people define brands. One by one. Human by human. And if people define brands, then brands have to become more human and less machine. Brand thinking is about reducing our dependence on vanity metrics and increasing our dependence on relationships.

That’s what makes brand thinking so much harder than tactical thinking. There aren’t true metrics that you can use to judge success and comfort your mind. There is only a belief that brand thinking can guide and grow your relationships with your customers. You have to become obsessed with the relational aspect of your business–and relationships are inherently flawed, volatile and immensely rewarding.

To make the shift, you have to start from within and move without. The shift to brand thinking looks something like this:

Why Is What Truly Matters

Don’t get me wrong. Being aware of the tactical return on your marketing activities is a good thing, but tactical returns and statistical reports don’t build a brand. The tactical thinking trap confines you to a constant cycle of who, what, when, where, rinse and repeat. Thinking tactically can kill your business, and your brand, before it gets a chance to come to life.

So, who are you? Why does it matter? What relational value do you bring to the marketplace? How are you living out who you are?

These questions will quickly springboard you into brand thinking. And brand thinking will quickly springboard you into creating value in the participation marketplace.

Branding can’t be tactical, it has to be relational. Spend the time to develop a relational brand strategy that answers the why question. The why is what truly matters.