If you need your brand to come alive, give some thought to its post-mortem

We recently started working with Serious Business, a Munich-based branding agency. Though we have a lot of creative and design talent in-house, sometimes it takes an outside perspective to untangle cross-wired messaging, identify any divergences in collaborators' perspectives and translate a startup's vision into a tangible type font, visual identity, and voice that will resonate with its users.

Since our first company retreat in Kalamata brought us all around the same table, we capitalized on that opportunity to engage in Serious Business's branding workshops in-person.

One of the first exercises the agency had us complete as a team felt kind of like a therapy session. Imagine it's 25 years in the future, they said, and your business is no more. Now imagine your business is a human.

What would the obituary say?

(This will be fun! They said.)

Of course no one wants to imagine the demise of a start-up dream. The mere thought evokes images of Sequoia's RIP Good Times or Elizabeth Holmes making her best case before a jury of her peers. But, of course, a healthy majority of startups die from natural causes. Maybe co-founders can't agree on a path forward, or cash flow gets too tight, or a product that once seemed like a guaranteed unicorn actually fails to find product-market fit.

That doesn't mean the whole adventure has to be for naught.

So, imagine the journey is over.

What's left?

With a 5-minute deadline, here's a couple rough-draft obituaries our team came up with for Uncut:

Uncut was a brand that inspired thousand of creators to believe in themselves to create engaging content and trigger passionate conversations. It will be remembered for the joyful and passionate take on the podcast creation it had, bringing this medium from the stone age of Internet to the modern Hyper Audio™ we know take for granted. Their famous last words will be remembered forever "Unleash your creative self and uncut the ties of established formats". The ceremony will be held at the Cemetery of Game-Changing Startups this Sunday at noon. Don't bring flowers but do wear your most colorful outfit. - Nicho

After 25 years spent inspiring audio creators, Uncut passed away peacefully in his sleep. Podcasters will remember Uncut as a fierce advocate for independent creators. He valued independence of thought, ownership of one's content and business, and always stressed the importance of community. Whereas once many a podcast was created only to finish in the graveyard of abandoned content, Uncut made it his mission to bring those podcasts back to life. And we're all better for it. - Alicia

The irony, of course, is that engaging in this exercise is kind of an electric shock therapy. Not a single one of us actually wants to organize an Uncut funeral, no matter how colorful the clothes. Instead, we're wide awake and toiling away: sustained by inspiration from the big "Why." Why are we doing this in the first place? What do we believe, and who did we make better off by virtue of that belief?

(Fun fact from the retreat: "Why" is Alicia's favorite question.)

If you're wondering "why" you might want to do this exercise with your own start-up, here's a handful of reasons:

1. It encourages a team to not sweat the small stuff. Death tends to put things into rather harsh perspective, right? Maybe you could have just accepted Uncle Frank's lunch invitation when he asked, rather than complaining about the dog hair on his car seats. Likewise for your company, maybe you can overlook any office politics in service of a larger goal.

2. You put everyone's writing skills under pressure to the test. Maybe you wanted your lead engineer to give a celebratory toast when your startup IPOs. Now, you know whether or not that's a good idea.

3. It reframes your offering in emotional terms. As much as we love to justify our decisions with logic, the truth is humans are emotional creatures. Re-framing a company's journey in terms of life or death gets everyone laser-focused on what users will remember most once it's gone.

For more insights into this exercise, you can spend some time with this insightful Harvard Business Article here.

Tissues and black attire optional.