What's the Jamais Vu of your business?


What's the Jamais Vu of your business?

In our quest to explore a plausible brand & positioning strategy for our clients, we come across a very practical challenge. Where do we dig to find the brand core? Where do we start?

It is fair to start where the seeds of the brand might be. The leadership - founders & brand owners generally give shape the initial core. Hence it makes sense to search within the core values of the company. So with an intention to assess the foundation of existing brand’s culture, practises and rituals; we dig in using words, images and stories.

When we conduct brand workshops with our clients, we focus on three things 

  • Excavating: Mining for the raw insight and core brand essence
  • Chiseling: Making sense of core values and sharpen the concepts & theories
  • Articulating: Identifying meaning and message

This post is about a segment of the first stage (excavating). Where through discussions, some new, untouched & virgin areas around the brand essence are exposed. We call this segment Jamais Vu.

Jamais Vu, the opposite of Deja Vu, is a phenomenon where a familiar situation, word or setting seems unfamiliar or unmemorable. Like it's happening for the first time. 

All businesses use specific words, terms and phrases so frequently and imprudently, that they become meaningless. In most cases they are TLAs (Three Letters Abbreviations), but sometime these are useful concepts; real words that lose their meaning because they are bundled by generalisations and reckless usage. 

A lot can be learnt about a business, brand or culture, only if we can unlock and explore the coded meaning behind these token memes.

For instance, some famous Jamais Vu in business of marketing consulting are “innovation”, “storytelling”, “content”, “disruption” and “TG”. Attend any marketing conference, or meeting, and if you don’t hear these words, you can be certain that you’re in the wrong room. These words are tossed like everyone understands them and no attention is paid to what they really mean. 

The word “innovation” has been so used widely and wastefully that it means nothing to most people. In a typical organisation, everyone seems to be using the word but they mean something else. In print media businesses, where I come from, for Sales department “innovation” meant premium advertising, new client, new business, an opportunity, a lead etc. For marketing team the term “innovation” meant values like dynamism, adaptive, ahead of competition, awards, and uniqueness. For the print advertisers/clients it meant clutter-breaking, first in category, impact. The true meaning of the word is subjective and transient. 


Trust, is another famous Jamais Vu when it comes to brand values.

Ask any brand owner to list three unique things their customer value about them and “trust” will be mentioned. (at least once, if not thrice). Trust, is a brand value that every brand shares, there is nothing unique. In fact, “Trust” is not a brand value, it is a human value, hence ambivalent and fuzzy. “Trust” needs to be broken (pun intended) into finer pieces to unearth what makes the relationship trust-worthy. We can break it with receiver-giver framework (interpersonal relationship vs organisational relationship) or the time-factor (the longevity fo business relationship). Sometimes delivery failures, followed by accountable actions, can also build trust.

Identifying and decoding Jamais Vu

Stories help a lot. For example, in a specific case the trust was observed as a fuzzy brand value. After recounting the anecdote it was established and validated that trust was felt more by the brand than the customer, which is important. Because being worthy of trust shows that the people are sensitive and if other values like warmth etc. are validated, it can lead to a great brand personality. 

Reciprocation of "trust" from a customer may unearth other finer nuances of the word like ease of interaction & friendly customer service, which may lead to actionable brand insights like constant communication and customer inclusion etc. 

Your turn...

What are some of the Jamais Vu of your business? Explore them and find what’s hidden, because they hold tremendous value for your brand & communication strategy. Shout out in case you need any help.