Commentary

Preparing for Parenthood - From a Strategy Perspective

The past few months have been some of the most exciting for my wife and me, as we recently learned that we will soon become parents for the first time.

Since hearing the news, we have begun to change many aspects of our home so that by mid-July we will be ready to welcome our son into our lives. But in preparing for our baby’s arrival, I have also been struck by how important it is that we get even the smallest things right, of how the actions we take now will set our son on his path to the future and that we need to do everything in our power to prepare him for the life that we want him to be able to live.

Perhaps that sounds a little melodramatic, but let me explain.

A baby’s own verbal and visual identities

I cannot overstate the number of times that I have been asked if we have picked a name yet. And, in many ways, the degree of importance that our friends and family have assigned to this seemingly simple act is not entirely misplaced. It is true that a person’s name, like that of a company, serves as the first word in the story that they tell the world. But, just like a company name, our baby’s name will never be able to tell his whole story. Equally important is how our son will look and sound; in essence, how he will present himself to the world and how he will speak. In branding terms, his verbal and visual identity.

While the way our child sounds will play less of a role in how the world sees him before he is able to speak, my wife and I recognize that this will be hugely influenced by how we talk to each other. While colorful colloquialisms might have been the order of the day while hanging around with our adult friends, the same language will become highly inappropriate when there are tiny ears listening whose brain will absorb and whose mouth could eventually repeat.

In terms of how he looks, through the clothes we are buying, my wife and I are already building the foundation of our child’s visual identity. It’s clear that we are both intuitively trying to avoid the twin dangers of dressing our baby too grown up or, just as troubling, too “cutesy.” So far, I am pleased with the course we have set in this regard, although I admit that until now I had no idea of the love we clearly share for tiny OshKosh B’gosh overalls and miniature Levi’s jeans.

Finally, while his name and verbal and visual identities will play a large role in how our son will be perceived by the world, it is important to recognize that none of these elements will play as big a role in shaping who he actually is as his purpose and his values. Like all responsible leaders, whether they be of countries, corporations or families, we want to help our son play a constructive and positive role in the world. We want to help him to define a strong purpose that will guide his decisions as he navigates his way through the world. And we want to instill in him clear values, the behaviors that will help him to function as a responsible and successful member of his society.

I would never have imagined that my career as a strategist would influence how I think about bringing a baby into the world. But, it does make some sense. Both babies and brands need to be named appropriately and imbued with a look and feel and voice consistent with how they wish to be seen. Most importantly, as they grow, they both need to stand for something. Brands, like people, are most successful when they embody a clear purpose that is brought to life through strong values. And, if nurtured correctly, both brands and people can create great experiences for those around them. I know that our baby will do this, and I for one can’t wait to enjoy the great experiences that we will create together.

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