DO-SAY-SEE: Three Pillars of Brand

You’re looking for a certain product or service. You go online. The design is dated, the photography is blurry, the website takes ages to load – and aaargh! Typos!

In just seconds, you’ve clicked away and that company has no idea that they’ve just lost a sale. 

Now consider your own brand and the first impression it’s giving your potential customers. Is it helping you win business – or lose it?

Many entrepreneurs don’t fully understand the power of great design in attracting the right customers. Worse, they don’t realise how bad – or no – design can actually do the opposite and repel them.

If you want to be seen as professional and charge your worth, you need to learn about, value and invest in your branding.


We specialise in working with ambitious entrepreneurial businesses for good. When researching the importance of brand in helping these businesses stand out, I found very little that talked about branding the way I approached it.

I’d spoken with hundreds of entrepreneurs and seen a pattern in how they build their businesses. I’ve identified the big mistake so many make – and seen my VISION Process™ methodology give them brand clarity, confidence and accelerated business growth.

I created the DO-SAY-SEE © model to illustrate the three pillars needed to build your brand:

1. DO

When you start a business, it’s natural to spend your time focusing on what you DO: your why, your passion; the products or services you sell and how you’ll deliver this. Your DO is essentially how you will make a difference, so it is vital to nail this aspect before anything else.

2. SAY

Next, you will usually focus on how to communicate your business. SAY encompasses the written or spoken word. Say is everything from your business name and strapline to your elevator pitch and the talks you give. It’s the copy on your website or brochure, your social media, blogs and books. You may spend some time working on this message by reading business books, investing in mentors, coaches or copywriters, checking out the competition or watching the pros.

3. SEE

Your SEE is the first impression you give of your company. This is about your customer experience, user-experience (or UX), imagery, colours, typography and design… It’s how you present yourself and the environment you conduct business in – Starbucks or a members’ club?

Time and time again, I see this last pillar not prioritised or given equal attention and importance to the other two. Poor old SEE is often DIY’d, done on the cheap or briefed out last-minute, like an afterthought.

(NB Branding also affects your SAY, i.e. messaging and brand voice, another reason to do it sooner rather than later).


So if you have a great product or service (your DO) and you SAY you have a great product or service – you have got to look the part too (your SEE) in order to instil trust in your customer. If this bit looks like corners have been cut, it casts aspertions as to what’s behind the scenes. Your SEE is quite often your shop-window, it’s putting your best face forward – so you have to get this right.

When these DO-SAY-SEE © elements all align and support each other, that’s when you can truly build an authentic brand that resonates with others. 

If any one of these elements is out of sync, you fall into the danger zones…




If you have a great DO+SAY, but then you hand over a scrappy business card or your website looks dated or your brochure is riddled with typos, you will turn off your clients in seconds. Your SEE is about your company  ‘looking the part’, dressing it for the job you want.

The main danger is that without a great SEE you become an INVISIBLE brand and lose business to your more attractive-looking competitors.


If you have an excellent product or service and great image to match (DO+SEE) but you can’t articulate your value, then you will be INCOHERENT to your potential customers.

This is when you go on a website and you can’t find the info you’re looking for, or can’t work out what they are selling or if they can help you. If people can’t quickly, clearly and easily understand what you do, they’ll seek help elsewhere, and again you’ll lose business.


The worst kind of company (in my opinion): if your company looks great and promises you the world (great SEE+SAY) but then fails to deliver, you have a business which I call INSINCERE. It will disappoint, get bad reviews and you will lose business.


In my 25-year career, I have not just been a graphic designer but in marketing and then in advertising, bringing big brands – e.g. Rimmel, Volkswagen and the Open University – to life in engaging, creative (and sometimes award-winning!) campaigns.

This multi-level experience – designer, client and campaign creator/manager –  means I understand my clients’ business from all sides – design, business and communication – and that gives me a unique perspective and approach to branding.

You see, any branding brief that’s not aligned with your business goals and vision is basically commissioning a pretty picture. It’s not enough to just pick a typeface, colour and image you like.

So what we SEE has to align with, support and strengthen what you SAY and DO.


In How to make people like you in 90 Seconds or Less, Nicholas Boothman states:

“(The)…key to ensuring that people like and trust you is displaying a consistent and congruous message across your whole body, as inconsistencies will bother people.”

…former UCLA psychology professor Albert Mehrabian …identified that credibility depends on …what you say, how you say it and your body language… If they’re not (aligned), your audience won’t feel you’re being honest…which diminishes your credibility and creates awkwardness.”

I remembered Mehrabian from my years in creative advertising sales…he also discovered that:

  • 7% of understanding is in the words that are spoken
  • 38% of understanding is the way that the words are said
  • 55% of understanding is in facial expression/body language
An ‘aha!’ moment

I was excited to realise that the reason my DO-SAY-SEE © model is rooted in, and mirrors, human behaviour.

Since babies, we’ve sought visual clues first to understand the world. Cavemen would look to see if it was predator or prey on the horizon, well before they could hear the roar or find out what they might do. We see how food looks first (mouldy bread? unripe fruit?) to see if it is good to eat or likely to make us ill.

Even packaging is fighting to grab our attention…


One of my favourite quotes on the power of SEE

We make a decision on whether we want to work with someone or not in under six seconds. This is usually entirely SEE-based – often before they SAY anything and certainly before you’ve found out what they DO.

Same rules apply for your company. Except you have much less time online, as on average we scroll through 96 metres of social media a DAY! That’s the height of Big Ben.

With that much scrolling, your SEE has to grab attention – and show up consistently to generate recognition – i.e. pre- ‘know, like and trust’.

So whilst you’re might be focusing on your DO, then SAY, then SEE…your client is coming at it from the opposite direction. 

1 second: Oooh! That looks interesting/cool/good/helpful/new/exciting! (SEE)

2-3 seconds: What is it about? When/where is it? Is it for me? Can it help me? (SAY)

4-6 seconds: I should click to find out more (DO)

SEE, SAY and DO…in that order – SEE?

Time to sort out your DO-SAY-SEE for 2021!

Book a FREE 30-minute Brand Clarity consultation HERE