How getting lost in the jungle inspired my approach to branding

Tembeling — the gateway to Taman Negara (that’s me — heading off toward the jungle!)

Before you set off on the four-hour river boat ride to reach the entrance of Taman Negara, the world’s oldest tropical rainforest, a handy sign lists all of the venomous snakes, spiders and scorpions that you risk encountering. Add in thousands of species of biting insects and even trees coated in thick spikes, and it’s very clear the Malaysian jungle is a hostile, tough environment — much like the world of entrepreneurism.

During my nine month sabbatical backpacking around the globe, I spent a few humid, mosquito-filled nights camping in Taman Negara with a French backpacker named Alexandre. Hiking though a landscape that is 1.3 million years old was an exciting, memorable experience, but staying hydrated, fending off the leeches and even following a path was challenging.

We had decided to follow a trail to a remote campsite a few miles from the base camp and soon found that enormous uprooted trees often blocked our way; animal tracks criss-crossing the route led us astray and the thick tangle of roots and mud slowed down the pace.

The moment we realised we were lost a wave of panic hit me. I began wondering which of the poisonous snakes and spiders we’d encounter first. Luckily, however, I had brought a compass with me. We knew there was no guarantee we’d find the path again if we turned back, so we made the decision to follow the compass dead west, towards the river.

We were able to use this compass with our very basic map and the nerve to forge a new path through the jungle, to find the river and get to our destination.

So how does this story help entrepreneurs?

As running a business can at times feel like a metaphorical jungle — full of obstacles, detours and hidden peril, it’s important that entrepreneurs also equip themselves with a compass, map and a clearly defined destination.

Your Compass: Why did you start this journey?

The business world isn’t easy to navigate through, so understanding the reasons why you get out of bed in the morning and what motivates you to keep pushing forward is important. These reasons should be used to craft an inspiring mission statement and a clear set of brand values.

Many businesses create mission statements that are focused on what they do, but when both mission and values are focused on why you’re in business, they become useful tools for decision making. When the business landscape shifts and new challenges or opportunities arise, your mission and values show the True North and will help take the anxiety of deciding which direction to take.

Destination: Where are you going?

Every journey needs a destination. Without a clear aim, all you’re doing is wandering through the undergrowth. Start by creating a vivid description of what you imagine your business will look like when you are successful. Describe what a typical would look like and the impact you’ll have on community, environment and your lifestyle. The journey to get there may be tough, so it’s important to have a clear vision to show that the destination is worth reaching.

Adventurers: Who do you want to join you?

Your destination can only be reached with the help of others (you won’t go very far without customers), so it’s essential to determine who will be able to help you along your journey. Developing customer personas ensures you’re targeting the right audiences and crafting a compelling business culture will help you attract the right talent for the task ahead.

Map: How will you get there?

A map uses symbols and graphics to represent landmarks and recognizable features. It shows its users which way to go. Your visual brand works in the same way. Logos, typography, colors and patterns are used to represent your mission, vision and values. Your brand is how you communicate visually with your customers.

A map that is clear, easy to interpret and beautifully designed, shows people that you know where you’re headed and your not just running into the deep, dark jungle without a plan. A strong brand therefore, will give people confidence that you’re a business worth getting behind.

Putting it all together

There’s always an element of the unknown when you head into the jungle of the business world — but by equipping yourself with a compass, a map and a clear goal, the jungle is a little less likely to swallow you alive. This set of brand tools will allow you to communicate your vision and will help take the anxiety out of choosing which path to take.

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Thank you for reading! Follow Brandtending for more tips and articles on how to nurture your brand and grow your business; or connect with us at — we’re a couple of brand nerds with a couple of crazy dogs who create brands for businesses who make, bake, brew, craft, grow & create.

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