I have often admired the metaphor “strategy is like skippering a sailboat”. In each case, when the wind shifts you have to adjust. A sailboat skipper needs to identify the new wind direction and make a judgment as to how strong it is and how likely it is that its strength and direction will persist.

Similarly, a business strategy has to identify new market and competitive forces, make deductions about them, and project their impact into the future. I am an avid bike rider and have been struck by how many of the key elements of brand building are represented in biking.

Just as a brand is measured by its brand equity including a group of associations, a ride is evaluated by its associations such as the workout (not too easy but not too much) and the scenery which drives its perceived quality. A brand has an internal team of specialists plus a group of external communication partners to plan and execute strategy. A ride involves a team as well — a group of co-riders that offers assistance when needed, advice, and emotional support, and partners in the bike shop that help select and maintain the bike.

Branding involves hills and valleys and a well defined goal just as a bike ride does. Each requires persistence and focus to get through the hills, some of which can be steep and long. By putting these qualities of effective brand building into another context, they somehow seem more vivid and obvious.