Building a Brand from the Ground Up - Why Context Matters

I’ve built quite a few brands in the past 20 years or so. Some are local for churches, non-profits and small businesses while others have been award winning, far reaching international enterprises. Although each one has been a unique undertaking, there are some basic similarities; questions that require answers and challenges that need addressing long before your first sale, IPO or storefront.

Before we jump in to the first important consideration, know that I’ve been asked this question before, “I already have a business (church, social media profile, successful consultancy, well developed software, etc.) and I didn’t do this. Why should I do this now?” Well, just as any homeowner knows, you can still have a pretty house with a bad foundation. But, once the landscape starts to settle, the weight of the structure bogs down or you get some heavy rains, if the foundation isn’t secure, the beautiful house will become unlivable. The same applies to brands.

If you’re a business owner, public figure or pastor, consider these things as foundational to the brand you’re building:

How do you manage context?

Context is the ongoing work of understanding where you are in the marketplace. At launch, it’s understanding your competitors. During growth phase, it’s understanding where, when and how to spend revenue. It’s knowing the cracks that your offering can slip into and it’s also knowing when to concede and pivot. But that’s not all - when culture shifts, understanding the context of that shift helps you to better address current concerns so you can fine tune your messaging and still feel connected to the times. Context is key.

To asses your own consideration of context, ask yourself this question:

How will we zig when everyone else zags?

If you’re looking to become one of many versions of something, you’re under-estimating the importance of context. This isn’t simply standing out. You have the ability to create an experience unlike any other that your clients, consumers or congregation will ever have. What are you doing to create the context for them to realize that life altering experience? If you’re doing the same thing everyone else is, by definition, you’re not altering a thing. You’re simply becoming more noise in an already noisy space. You’re better than that.

How do you become the #1 ball in golf?


It’s Sunday morning in 1930 and a golfer hit a perfect putt, only to see the ball wander off course. Convinced the problem was the ball not the stroke, the young amateur took the ball to a hospital to be x-rayed. Sure enough, the core of the ball was off center and the cause of the wobble was found.

Titleist was born.

The amateur golfer was Phil Young, owner of a precision rubber molding company. An avid golfer, he realized that the golf ball industry was imprecise, un-calculated and without foresight, unlike the game of golf itself. So he and his team spent 3 years developing a ball that reflected the values of golfers everywhere. They would create a ball that was reproducible and consistent, rewarding golfers whose swings were the same. Titleist developed a swing machine that proved if your swing is consistent, the ball would go exactly where it was supposed to time and time again.

By 1949, more golfers used Titleist balls than any other brand. The same is true to this day. The Titleist Pro V1 is widely seen as the most valuable piece of golf equipment in any golfer’s arsenal. So much so that the game itself - golf writers, players and legislative bodies - all wonder if the ball is too good.

Titleist understands that through a strict adherence to their original purpose, they could re-contextualize their product time and time again. They weren’t the first golf ball ever, but they’ve generated new and inventive methods, under the constraints of golf culture and rules, so that the brand more people reach for is theirs.
Titleist proves that context is the sweet spot of understanding your competitors, your consumer group, your product, and your messaging.

While some people think of context as the boundary that limits your company’s reach, brands that manage context well understand it as the fairway that rewards consistency. If you can focus on your context, your brand will be rewarded with loyalty. And that’s the goal, right?