How to revel in the ambiguity of the unknown

Posted on Posted in How to Guide for Marketers

ambiguityThe role of a Brand Leader is very stressful. You have to find a way to deal with stress or it will destroy you. Go for a walk, a drive, take breaks, put the feet up on the desk every once in a while.  

There are many types of stress:  

1) If the Results don’t come in, it can be frustrating. Reach for your logic as you re-group. Force yourself to course correct, rather than continuing to repeat and repeat and repeat.  

2) Work relationships can be stressful. Be pro-active in making the first move. Try to figure out what motivates as well as what annoys them. Most times, the common ground is not that far away.  

3) There is constant Time Pressure. Be organized, disciplined and work the system so it doesn’t get in your way. Be calm, so you continue to make the right decisions.  

4) The unknown of Ambiguity is one of the hardest. This is where patience and composure come into play as you sort through the issues.  The consequences of not remaining composed is likely a bad decision.  

And from what I’ve seen over the years, how Brand Leaders deal with ambiguity is one of the biggest causes of stress, but equally one of the biggest separators of great, from good.  

Revel in Ambiguity

Years ago, I started asking the interview question: “How do you deal with Ambiguity”. A fresh-faced recent graduate answered: “No one likes Ambiguity, so what I seek to clarify the issue at hand, I organize all the tasks, and I knock off one at a time. In other words, I eliminate all ambiguity so I can do my job.” A fair answer. Then she turned to me and said “What about you?” And I said “I love AMBIGUITY. In fact, I revel in it”

When marketing is done at it’s best, the brand becomes balanced in the emotional and rational. Yes, there’s strategy to help ground you, but there’s also the expression of the strategy through art. Yes, there’s a creative brief we all agreed to, but there might be 10 agencies all executing in their own way to various parts of the marketing mix.

The brand becomes an Idea.

And that’s more ambiguous than the product you can touch and feel.  

Ideas are what makes brands great. Think Different motivated an entire generation of Apple employees for a decade to challenge themselves to go beyond the status quo. It provided a benchmark that the iPod, iPhone, iTunes, iPad and the MacBook leaped over. When Special K became about “empowering women to take control and maintain their healthy body” the brand became more than just a breakfast cereal.

Great marketing is about Ideas.

And trying to organize yourself too early might make you miss the idea.  Marketing is not about tasks to complete. It’s about making a significant enough impact to move people. By eliminating ambiguity, you eliminate ideas. You end up thinking small, not big.  

Never be afraid of an idea—and never kill it quickly. If you are struggling with an idea, then go for a walk. Or put it to the test: think about it 19 times, test it out, see if you can stretch it or move it, see what it looks like in concept, ask around to see what people think.ambiguity

It may still fail, but at least you’ve taken it on the journey. In terms of pressure points, ambiguity and time pressure usually work against each other. What I have found is the longer I can stay comfortable in the “ambiguity zone” the better the ideas get—whether it’s the time pressure that forces our thinking to be simpler or whether it’s the performance pressure forces us to push for our best idea.  

In fact, I started to use time pressure to my advantage. Yes, I always hit deadlines. Don’t get me wrong. But I took projects to the breaking point of time pressure versus getting the idea even better.

All you have to do is be the most calm person in the room, and knowing the deadline is looming, be the one to bravely ask “So I know this is good but how do we make this idea even bigger and better?” I’m sure it caused stress for many people in the room. I get that. But this was that magical moment, with everyone’s back against the wall, when the work went from good to great all the way to amazing. I have never been one to procrastinate, but I know most people do.

It’s the same essential rule. The time pressure eliminates the over-thinking, it challenges us, forcing the best ideas to come out. Nine times out of ten, leveraging that breaking point, the work gets way better.  

Stay calm. And love the feeling of the unknown, longer than anyone else.

I always say, the longer I can hold my breath, the better the work gets.



To learn more about this type of thinking, you should explore my new book, Beloved Brands.

With Beloved Brands, you will learn everything you need to know so you can build a brand that your consumers will love.

You will learn how to think strategically, define your brand with a positioning statement and a brand idea, write a brand plan everyone can follow, inspire smart and creative marketing execution and analyze the performance of your brand through a deep-dive business review.

Beloved Brands book

To order the e-book version or the paperback version from Amazon, click on this link:

If you use Rakuten Kobo, you can find Beloved Brands in over 30 markets using this link:

And if you are in India, you can use this link to order:

Beloved Brands: Who are we?

At Beloved Brands, our purpose is to help brands find a new pathway to growth. We believe that the more love your brand can generate with your most cherished consumers, the more power, growth, and profitability you will realize in the future.

We think the best solutions are likely inside you already, but struggle to come out. Our unique playbook tools are the backbone of our workshops. We bring our challenging voice to help you make decisions and refine every potential idea.

We start by defining a brand positioning statement, outlining the desired target, consumer benefits and support points the brand will stand behind. And then, we build a brand idea that is simple and unique enough to stand out in the clutter of the market, motivating enough to get consumers to engage, buy and build a loyal following with your brand.

We will help you write a strategic brand plan for the future, to get everyone in your organization to follow. It starts with an inspiring vision that pushes your team to imagine a brighter future. We use our strategic thinking tools to help you make strategic choices on where to allocate your brand’s limited resources.

Our brand playbook methodology will challenge you to unlock future growth for your brand

  1. Our deep-dive assessment process will give you the knowledge of the issues facing your brand, so you can build a smart plan to unleash future growth.
  2. Find a winning brand positioning statement that motivates consumers to buy, and gives you a competitive advantage to drive future growth.
  3. Create a brand idea to capture the minds and hearts of consumers, while inspiring and focusing your team to deliver greatness on the brand’s behalf.
  4. Build a brand plan to help you make smart focused decisions, so you can organize, steer, and inspire your team towards higher growth.
  5. Advise on advertising, to find creative that drives branded breakthrough and use a motivating messaging to set up long-term brand growth.
  6. Our brand training program will make your brand leaders smarter, so you have added confidence in their performance to drive brand growth.

To learn more about our coaching, click on this link: Beloved Brands Strategic Coaching

To learn more about our training programs, click on this link: Beloved Brands Training

If you need our help, email me at or call me at 416 885 3911

You have my personal promise to help you solve your brand building challenges. I will give you new thinking, so you can unlock future growth for your brand.

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