From Seed to Sequoia: Timing is Everything

What type of plant would you like your brand to be? A dandelion, whose seeds spread like wildfire, can sprout almost anywhere, take almost nothing to grow, and, likewise sprout, grow, and return to the earth before you know it? Or, would you like your company more closely to resemble a sequoia tree, who, from a seed no larger than the seed on your hamburger bun, grows to be the largest living thing on the planet, and capable of living thousands of years.

Marketing companies can learn from these silent teachers. I’m always struck and humbled by California’s sequoia trees, their simplicity, and their success. When comparing the most successful brands to sequoias, I find a wealth of interesting parallels, some of which we’ve discussed in previous blogs. Specifically, in areas of strategic planning, both for big-picture decisions like what your brand offers, and for more specific decisions, like those we make on a particular marketing campaign, timing matters.

A Matter of Timing.

Even before a sequoia seed hits the ground, timing dictates everything. Sequoia seeds are light—very light—so they’re able to be carried by the wind. This is crucial to get the seed far enough away from the massive root systems of the parent tree. This lightness presents a problem, though. Those little seeds can’t sink down through the leaf litter to hit pay dirt and start growing. To make sure the timing is right, ingeniously, the seed cones of sequoias stay shut—sometimes for decades—until the time is right. What opens them? Fire. Those little cones are designed to be woken up by forest fires, when, ideally, the flames will have cleared out all the twigs and leaves getting in the way of their big start. Perfect timing is built right into their DNA.

As any successful entrepreneur will tell you, timing matters for newly budding companies, too. When the seed of a good idea meets the fertile soil of the perfect market conditions, magic happens. If you were to invest 10 million dollars in self-driving cars in 1999, you probably would have lost most of your investment. The soil wouldn’t have been ready for that seed to take root. When you look at highly successful startups like AirBnB, you’ll be able to perceive that, yes, their idea was a good one, but equally important, the timing for the launch was exquisite, able to fill a need in a novel way. In word, the whole enterprise just clicked.

Cast Carefully.

To take our metaphor in a different direction, that established sequoia knows just when to cast its seeds for ultimate effectiveness. Marketing and advertising needs to be approached in this way. If a relatively new company comes to us looking form Orange County, and they say, “Hey I’ve got a million to spend on advertising. Let’s do it,” we politely let them know that marketing is essential, but they need to invest in establishing a clear brand image before they “cast their seeds to the wind.” Marketing without that first step of generating a strong brand image would be like the sequoia letting all its seeds go without fire first clearing the way. Hardly anything of importance would sprout.

In marketing then, as well as in key decisions, do your best to know your environment, for when the right kind of seed meets the ideal environment, the results can be astonishing.

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