Waste of time, or why the hell not?

With CMOs and their Marketing teams needing to do more with less right now, time is of the essence. So if you’re launching into 2022 and want to do a quick health check on your brand, the 3-hour brand sprint might be a great way to kick the new year off and get everyone on the same page.

Three hours? We know what you’re thinking. Waste of time, right? Well, maybe not. This is a proven methodology conceived by Google Ventures and a distilled version of the five-day design process covered in their fascinating book ‘Sprint’.

The three-hour brand version is a series of six exercises that are run within a condensed time framework that forces a focus that might be otherwise unattainable in drawn-out branding sessions. If you throw your team into it after a morning coffee, then by lunch, you could be done – what’s to lose?

Setting things up:

  1. Pick a continuous block of three hours. Splitting it up will fragment thought.
  2. Find yourself a room with a door you can close, whiteboard, pens, Post-It notes etc.
  3. Make sure you’ve got some decision-makers in this room. CEO is a must. Head of Marketing, Head of Product and Co-Founder should be there too.
  4. Try for more than two people, up to six.
  5. Pick a ‘Decider’ in the group. Someone who can make a final call on things. You have to do this otherwise the Brand Sprint won’t work.
  6. One phone on and set to flight mode with the timer ready to go. All other phones off. Laptops back at desks.

To prevent things from getting bogged down, you and the team will use Google Venture’s proven ‘Note and Vote’ approach – ‘a process hack that short-circuits the worst parts of groupthink while getting the most out of different perspectives.’ Here’s how Note and Vote works:

  1. Note: Set timer for 5-10 mins. Each person writes down their ideas. No sharing.
  2. Self-edit: Reset the timer for 2 mins. Each person picks their best two ideas.
  3. Share/capture: Go around the room. Each person shares their top two. No selling. Just sharing. Ideas go up on the whiteboard.
  4. Vote: Reset the timer for five mins. Every person chooses their favourite on the whiteboard – no sharing – write it down.
  5. Share/capture: Go around the room, every person shares their vote. Short sales pitch is OK. No switching of votes. Votes are counted and logged on the whiteboard.
  6. Decide: Your group has a ‘decider’ a person who makes the final call. They can override the group or they can hear the collective voice.
  7. Rejoice: Decisions in just 15 mins. Amazing!

 Armed with this helpful decision-making process, you’re ready to jump into the Three-hour Brand Sprint.

Your time starts… now!

Within the three-hours are six different activities – none of which last more than 30 minutes. A 15 minute half time interval is enough for a quick coffee/bio break.

Session 1 – 20 Year Roadmap. 15 minutes.

Most of us are focused on the here and now. Time to reframe and think ahead. Jot this up on the whiteboard:

Session 1 - 20 Year Roadmap

Using the Note and Vote technique, get everyone to write down where they think the company will be in 5, 10, 15 and 20 years time. Before you think this is a total waste of time, don’t stress. This isn’t set in concrete – it’s just about getting the team to start thinking about the lifetime of your brand. A good brand should see you through to 2041 and beyond.

Once you work through all the votes, the Decider works out the right pick for each time period.

Take a photo of the whiteboard with your phone/timer before moving on.

Session 2 – What, How and Why. 30 minutes.

A tougher session to fit inside half an hour, but stick with it. If you haven’t seen Simon Sinek’s famous ‘Golden Circle’ Ted Talk, then you need to. Even if you don’t use it to help you through this session, it’s worth it. It’s one of the most played Ted Talks ever – with nearly 60 million views so far. Send the link to the Brand Sprint Group the night before to fire them up and get them ready.

In this session, you draw and label three concentric circles on the whiteboard like so:

Session 2 What, How, Why

Then you go at it, just like Sinek does, filling these sections in to help you understand why your company exists. Use the Note and Vote process to get you through it on time.

‘What’ is pretty straightforward – “We sell/make/fix/create X”, ‘How’ is your process of coming up with the What – it’s the secret stuff you do to get the product/service right and finally we arrive at ‘Why’. Why’s the hardest bit – it’s about what gets you up and at ‘em each day. No, it’s not about money. Why do you do what you do? If you’re struggling, challenge the big boss in the room. “Why did you start this company…” or “why did you take the job to lead this team?” Tell them to say it like it is. No spin. Straight from the heart.

It’s a tough thing to finish this session, but when you do, the Decider comes in to make the call.

Take a photo of the whiteboard with your phone/timer before moving on.

Session 3 – Top Three Values. 30 minutes.

Rolling straight into the next session puts context around your ‘why’ by listing and ranking your company values. Once again, not an easy session to fit inside half an hour, but using Note and Vote helps you get things down to the top three values and from that list, you rank them so the top one is the most important value.

Session 3 - Top 3 Values

At the conclusion of this session, the Decider picks the top three.

Take a photo of the whiteboard with your phone/timer before moving on.

Quick Break. 15 minutes.

Be strict. Everyone has to back and ready to go in quarter of an hour. Cool?

Session 4 – Top Three Audiences. 30 minutes.

After the break, you’ll build a list of your possible audiences, cut that list to three, then rank them. Use the Note and Vote process here to keep you on track. At the end of the process, the Decider makes the call of the top three.

Session 4 - Top 3 Audiences

Take a photo of the whiteboard with your phone/timer before moving on.

Session 5 – Personality Sliders. 30 minutes.

Grab the Whiteboard pen and draw up the following pairs of ‘extremes’.

Session 5 - Personality Sliders

Everyone draws their own markers on each scale on paper (not showing anyone). Then when done, they take turns to step up and draw in their markers on the scale. Don’t forget to jot down initials above each marker so you know who’s who. If required, explain your positioning – but keep things brief. 5-10 mins max.

At the end, the Decider makes the call on where the marker should be on each scale.  Take a photo of the whiteboard with your phone/timer before moving on.


Session 6 – Competitive Landscape. 30 minutes.

Grab the Whiteboard pen and draw up a 2×2 matrix like so:

Session 6 - Competitive Landscape

Each person writes a list of competitors, then narrows it down to a top 2. At the end, they read them aloud and the names are jotted onto post-it notes. These are then stuck onto the board (like the pic above) according to the X and Y axis. At the end of this process, the Decider can move any of the notes around they like. Last thing, put your company name on a post-it and … stick it onto the board.

Check your watches… three hours. Done! Now you’ve got yourself a simplified Brand Guide. Simple, but powerful. Powerful for explaining your company vision with your team, a branding/ad agency, or for simply reminding the leaders what you stand for.

While you can easily run the 3 hour Brand Sprint yourself by following the instructions above, there are plenty of resources out there to assist including Official Sprint Bootcamps and Masterclasses. There are even Expert Facilitators available to lead your Sprints and it’s possible to tap into the mind of Jake Knapp (author of Sprint) mind for coaching and feedback. Whiteboard app Miro also offers Brand Sprint templates that handle the logistics of being remote and captures the data so your team can focus on the content.

If you’d like to find out more about how Sesimi can build and protect your brand, get in touch.