A Framework for Brand Discovery Through Every Life Stage


Whether they’ve been around for 25 or 3 years, every brand goes through stages of growth. We might not label these stages like we do in human development, but the parallels are there.

Perhaps I'm inspired by having a 5-month-old at home, but let me illustrate:

Infancy: Just as a human infant is finding their way in the world, a brand in its infancy is discovering its identity and establishing its place in the market.

Toddler: Like a toddler taking their first steps and learning how the world works, a brand in this stage experiments with its market approach, learning from successes and setbacks.

Pre-teen: As a pre-teen begins to understand themselves better, a brand at this stage starts to solidify its values and identity, carving out a distinct market position.

Adolescence: Mirroring human adolescence, where individuals go through significant growth and challenges, a brand in this phase experiences rapid expansion and begins to face more complex market dynamics.

Young Adulthood: Like young adults building their careers and personal relationships, a brand at this stage focuses on sustaining growth, innovating, and deepening customer relationships.

Adulthood: Just as adults are well-established in life, focusing on stability and refinement, a mature brand focuses on maximizing efficiency, market retention, and staying fresh.

Late Adulthood: In late adulthood, individuals often reflect on their lives and may seek new paths; similarly, a brand at this stage may need to reinvent itself to stay relevant in a changing market.

Elderly: Like the later years in human life, a brand in its elderly stage may either be facing a decline, needing to downsize or exit the market, or experiencing a renaissance by rediscovering its core values and adapting to current market trends.

Self Discovery

What I find interesting about the metaphor is that every stage of our lives is full of self discovery, especially the mid-to-late stages. We're continually evolving who we are, what we stand for, and how we present ourselves.

Even when we think we've figured it out, another change is often around the corner. When we're younger, it's more rapid. Just look at these photos of me in 7th, 8th, and 9th grade.

So, what's the takeaway?

Much like our personal journeys, the trick is to continue challenging ourselves and growing as we age. For a brand to sustain growth, it's crucial to continually reassess what defines it—what makes them them. To reinvent and to learn.

Brand Discovery

To aid in this process, I've developed a simple framework to identify the core elements of your brand. This tool can be useful at annual check-ins or specific milestones, such as launching a new product, entering a new market, or brainstorming new customer acquisition strategies.

On the left side are your Products & Services, and on the right, your Target Audience. Anyone can provide your same offering to the same audience, but what makes your offering unique is everything in between: your brand.

The framework is made up of a series of questions for each of the 9 brand dimensions. You choose how you want to run through it, but the intent is to answer these questions, assess where you are today, and align on actions to close the gap.

Some teams may choose to brainstorm together. Others may have all stakeholders work on it independently then come together to discuss the results. The latter approach may provide a level of clarity you won’t get in a group setting, but it depends on your team's dynamics.

Story: How you began and where you’re going

  • How do you currently tell your story?
  • What story do you want people to remember? Why should they care?
  • Do you feel this story is currently being conveyed?
  • What is the vision for the future?

Values: What you believe in

  • Are there any rules or guardrails that currently guide decision-making?
  • If your products and services were to change tomorrow, what wouldn’t change about your brand’s DNA?
  • Describe your culture in 3-4 words.

Mission: Your purpose

  • Why do you come to work every day?
  • What impact do you hope to have on people’s lives?
  • What do you aspire to achieve?

Positioning: What makes you unique

  • Why would someone choose you over competitors?
  • What do you bring to the table that no one else can claim?
  • What is your expertise? What do you better than everyone else?

Personality: The human characteristics that people can identify with

If your brand were a person:

  • How would you describe them?
  • Who would they look up to?
  • Describe their circle of friends.

Identity: How people recognize you

  • How did you arrive at your existing identity? Is there any meaning behind symbols, colors, etc?
  • Is your identity consistently being showcased across all channels? If not, what are the pain points?
  • Is there anything you would change?

Voice: How you communicate

  • Think about the Brand Personality we discussed, how would this person talk?
  • Is there uniformity in your existing voice and tone?
  • Would you change anything about the way you communicate with people today?

Perception: What people believe you represent

  • How do you think your brand is currently perceived?
  • What do you want people to think when they think of you?
  • What brand (in another industry) do you identify with?

Experience: How we want people to feel when they interact with us

  • Describe your the current experience when purchasing from your brand.
  • Are there any improvements you would make about your experience? Why?
  • How do you hope people feel when they experience your products/services for the first time?

This post originally appeared in #63 of The E-Commerce Corner. Subscribe here.

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