Breathe Life Back Into Your Brand & Business

I just came back from an amazing stay at the Canyon Ranch Spa in Lenox Massachusetts. It was a wonderful moment of relaxation and renewal, and some quality time with girlfriends. And while I was supposed to be relaxing, and not thinking about work…well you know an entrepreneur's mind and business is never really closed. So I couldn't help reflecting on what I was learning about taking care of my mind and body and how many of these lessons could also apply to taking care of, and building, healthier brands.

Here are my observations on building fit brands- directly from the spa.


One of the amazing things about Canyon Ranch is that it offers so many different types of classes: yoga, stretching, aerobics, aqua fitness, Pilates, Zumba, and outdoor sports –and that doesn't even cover the half of it. Every day, every hour you can choose from a cornucopia of different options. Despite this abundance, I observed many guests staying firmly in their comfort zone of one preferred fitness activity for the entire week.

I understand this. Really I do. It's scary to try something new. We're afraid we'll look foolish in front of other people - fall off one of those large exercise balls. I get it. But really what's the worst thing that could happen? You lose control of the ball, roll across the room, have a good laugh and get back on. (I am speaking from experience here- this has actually happened to me). But if you stick with it, and push past the discomfort, you might just learn something valuable – how to tone a new muscle, spice up your traditional exercise routine.

The same is true in branding. You've got to try new things to keep your brand and business fit. You need to experiment with new media channels, try a new sales approach, test a new tagline, go to a conference or class on something that you are curious about, but may also find intimidating.

Your brand, like your body, needs to be challenged. If it gets used to the same old routine over time that routine becomes less effective and your brand will become weak and maybe even flabby. Keep it fit with new challenges, constantly push beyond your comfort zone.


Okay, I have to admit that I was one of those people I was speaking about above. I'm comfortable with any aerobic exercise (low impact, dance, aqua fitness, tennis) but the part of the spa that intimidates me is the yoga studio. While many people find their bliss in downward dog and chanting chakras, I find I have entered another planet when I walk through the yoga studio doors. One where I don't quite speak the language, and I never quite have the right clothes. (I love the way yoga pants look on other women…but not on me). But this year, with a gentle nudge from my friend Bonnie, I made myself venture into this foreign land of Zen and sun salutations.

Well, how did it go? Well, I'm not sure I am quite ready to turn over my monthly salary to Lululemon and become a full time yogi, but there was one thing that hit a nerve and that I think is really important to brand building… it's remembering to breathe.

That sounds obvious right? But I didn't realize how little breathing I was doing, until the instructors continually called our attention to the importance and power of deep cleansing breaths. Why? Well there are a whole bunch of physiological reasons why breathing is important (bringing oxygen to the blood stream, lowering blood pressure and heart rate etc.), but here's what really stuck with me. When you let your mind wander- you most often think about the future – and more often than not, those thoughts are full of anxiety and worry. When you focus on your breathing (the sound and feel of it in your belly and your chest), you are forced into the present. This is a very interesting place to be in, and one that we often don't spend enough time in, in life or in branding.

There is so much written now about "mindfulness" and to be honest, most of it feels a bit too Oprah for me. But when I think about mindful branding – that's a concept that interests me. To me this means making sure that what you are delivering in the moment to your customer or your client is of value. That it is really connecting and meeting a need. It's not worrying about how to get more new business from this customer or what new flavor or service or model you are going to come out with next season. It's living in the here and now. It's celebrating a current success, a good meeting, a powerful idea or solution. It's focusing on making someone's life or business stronger today. Fixing a problem right now.

Don't get me wrong; I am a big fan of continual innovation. I love to keep things fresh. But sometimes I think we are all branding in the future, and not in the present. So ask yourself are you making the most of your brand and your business right now? And don't forget to breathe (preferably through your nose, and deep into your belly as I have now learned).


In addition to the wonderful exercises classes at Canyon Ranch, they also have a top-notch wellness spa. Filled again with every type of massage and body treatment imaginable, aromatic oils, exfoliating scrubs, and eucalyptus steam rooms. If you can imagine it, they can deliver it. This kind of pampering might be dismissed as indulgent, but I think it's really essential. We build up so much toxic sludge – in our knotted muscles our skin, our hair- it has nowhere to go. You need to stop every once in a while and clean house.

This is the same for branding - and the beginning of the New Year is a great time for a cleanse. Take stock of the toxic elements in your business life and get rid of them. Maybe it's clients or partners that drain your energy, the mailing lists you are on that you alwaysdelete without reading, that pile of magazines or articles that you will get to some day (if you haven't read them by now…toss them in the recycling bin).

Whatever it is, make some changes that help you feel refreshed. Getting rid of old experiences, contacts, resources that bring you down will make you feel energized, lighter and open and ready for new experiences.


My last lesson from the retreat? Well believe it or not all that running around from class to class, self-improvement lecture, spa treatments…well it can be exhausting. Instead of feeling renewed and refreshed, if you are not careful you can actually come home from Canyon Ranch or any other spa feeling exhausted and in need of a vacation from your vacation.

The same is true in our business life. If we are not careful, we can run ourselves ragged doing too much to build our brands and businesses – and then go into bouts of exhaustion (even sickness) which can make us fall further behind. It's hard work building a brand and starting a business (I know this just how hard first hand). And sometimes you need to take a break. Goof off – see a movie. Cancel a meeting. Say a polite "no" to someone who wants something from you.

One of my favorite places at Canyon Ranch? A quiet room with a stone fireplace and a comfy couch. The perfect place to relax from all the relaxation.

Sometimes you just need to take a nap. An important lesson for wellness and for branding.

Julie Cottineau  |
Julie Cottineau, founder of the brand consultancy BrandTwist, has been an executive at Interbrand and VP of Brand for Virgin, and regularly posts free, actionable branding advice like this on the BrandTwist blog and newsletter. To learn even more about brand building, check out her new 8-week online course, Brand School, that gives you all the knowledge and hands-on exercises you’ll need to build a profitable brand