A Look at My Huge Mistake: How to Use Branding To Create Opportunity

I made a big mistake. Some people think I’ve got it all figured out or that I’m some hot-shot marketing expert, but I beg to differ.

I made a big, big mistake. I veered just slightly and missed.

A few days ago, I told you about my plan to open up about all of the mistakes I’ve made and how I want to be honest about how creating a perpetual vacation isn’t always rosy. I’ve gotten bruised up along the way.

This is the first post that will show you my bruises. Allow me to take you behind the scenes.

I’d like to tell you all the nitty-gritty details of how a “marketing expert” makes a big marketing mistake.

During my master’s program, I took a class on marketing. The professor asked us to define the term “brand,” but none of us got it right. He told us:

“A brand is defined by the gut feeling we get when we think of something.”

No matter what it is, what does a brand do for us?

A brand is what motivates us to repeat experiences, over and over again.

Do you remember how you felt the first time you rode a rollercoaster and the ride came to a stop? Unless you’re one of the few people that hates rollercoasters, chances are that you stepped off the ride and said, “Let’s do it again!”

The ride felt fun, thrilling, and way too short. Once its over, you remember your stomach jumping up and down, you remember the twists and turns, and you remember your shrieks of joy.

All you want is to repeat it.

I failed to use that to my advantage.

Some Backstory — Opportunity Lost

I started blogging over three years ago, but I had no idea what I was doing or where I wanted to go with it. I wrote about scattered topics with half-assed effort — up until I launched this website ten months ago.

When I launched TPV, I got serious about blogging and adding value to people’s lives.

In the middle of all that, though, I decided to quit my job and start my own web design company. I came up with a list of services, a brand, and a website. Soon after, I was billing clients, hiring a team and moving forward rapidly.

That company’s name was Marca Labs. You’ve probably never heard that name before, for one reason: I never talked about it.

There’s a reason for that.

I also decided to try my hand at creating mobile apps. I wanted to help people brainstorm, and I came up with an app that asks tough questions to help people think.

That app’s name is QuestionUp. You’ve probably never heard that name before, for one reason: I never talked about it.

There’s a reason for that, too.

As some of you know, I’m from and live in Nicaragua — a small place with a big heart and lots of waves. While I love Nicaragua to pieces, for some reason, it kind of limited my growth.

I always imagined that anyone who read TPV or downloaded the app would be people from around the world, but I thought my company’s clients would be in Nicaragua.

Oops. Not the case.

Each one seemed to have different audiences. Keeping the brands separate seemed to be the right move. The purpose and mission behind each is different, right?

Wrong.

The Big Reveal — Identifying Opportunity

When I was at Misfit Conf. a few months ago, I started journaling about my mission in life and how I want to help people. I wrote:

I want to help people create projects they find meaningful and exciting so that every day feels awesome — a mix of work and play.

Then, I started writing down what I can do to fulfill that mission. I listed the necessary steps someone could take to create that kind of project:

Step #1. Ask yourself the right questions to dig deep about what moves you and what you’re good at. (Wait a minute … I created this already with my mobile app, QuestionUp.)

Step #2. Keep learning, refining and honing your craft, your business, your path. (Oh wow, I do this already through my books and blog posts on TPV.)

Step #3. Create an online presence to become find-able and help-able. (Holy crap, I do this already through my company!)

Talk about a revelation.

It blew my mind to realize I was already providing all the tools people needed — I just wasn’t presenting them in the right way.

How had I missed this before? People in Nicaragua come to me for help with branding and marketing, but I clearly have a lot to learn.

My failure to realize how my projects tied together goes to show how easy it is to miss what’s staring us in the face.

I was on the right path. I just veered a tiny bit and lost my way.

What’s Next — Creating Opportunity

That five minute journaling session might have changed my life. I should pick up pen and paper more often.

On this blog, I write about living every day awesomely, about breaking free of the rules society imposes on us and creating our own. Now, I’ve realized that my other projects fall under that same umbrella.

I want to help every kind of person live a perpetual vacation, from start to finish.

Now that I know that I have all the right tools in place to help people, it’s just a matter of re-organizing things. I want to help people break free, at every step in their process, incorporating each into TPV over the coming months.

Here’s the plan I’m thinking about (and is subject to change at a moment’s notice):

Step #1. TPV Brainstorm: I’ll be turning my brainstorming mobile app, QuestionUp, into a free web app for anyone to use. I’ll be renaming it Brainstorm. The idea is to help people think through what they envision for their life, what kind of project they want to put together, and how to move forward. (I pose questions, not answers. All the answers are within you already.)

Step #2. TPV Academy: I’ll be trying my best to inform, educate, and entertain as I always do — via this blog, books, and free email courses. The idea is to help people hone their craft and avoid as many mistakes as possible to jumpstart awesome projects.

Step #3. TPV Create: I’ll be running my website company as per usual — under a new name. The idea is to change the story from which we create our projects. Instead of just being a design agency, we’ll work with clients who are creating projects that mean something. We want to help people who want to make a difference.

Helping people live every day awesomely isn’t just about blog posts. Sometimes, it’s about brainstorming ideas. Other times, it’s about learning from other people’s experiences. In some cases, it’s about setting up an awesome online presence.

All of that was part of my process. If someone else wants to go through that process, I hope I can help.

How to Use Branding To Your Advantage

The example of the rollercoaster is just one way to show you how branding is all about wanting to repeat experiences.

When I work out wearing an Under Armor shirt, I want to wear that brand for my next workout.

When I go to an enchanting restaurant, I’m looking forward to my next visit.

When an online tool makes my projects easier to manage, I look forward to using it on my next project.

If everyone who interacts with you wants to do so again, would you consider your branding a success? I would.

I’m still working toward that goal — trying to prepare myself so I can help people on the process to freedom, to entrepreneurship, to creating fun and meaningful projects.

Like I mentioned earlier, some people think I’m a hot-shot marketing expert, but they’re wrong — and that’s okay.

I’m not an expert. I make mistakes. I even get bruised up from time to time.

If I always got it right, I’d never learn. Where’s the fun in that?

Have you ever made a big mistake and later realized just how close you had been to taking the right path?

I hope you’ll share your story with us in the comments!

Wishing you awesomeness from Managua, — Marcella