Brand Identity and the CEO

This week I spent a few hours with a highly successful CEO discussing his brand identity questions and concerns. "What do the most successful brand initiatives have in common?" he asked. I shared an observation with him based on many years of having similar conversations and being involved in successful (and not so successful) branding programs.

There are a lot of reasons to embark on a major corporate branding program, but from the point of view of a CEO, most of them are simply not compelling. For many years I have watched marketers and design managers struggle to get large scale identity programs funded and supported by senior-most management. Even though there are clear breakdowns caused by the existing identity systems and designers believe they are presenting a clear, rational justification for investment?their attempts are rebuffed more often than accepted.

While designers think that because the expression of a brand is out of date or not working as hard as it should in a competitive context, it is obvious it should be changed. Sometimes there are clear business problems caused by poor brand architecture systems. Customer confusion, uncompetitive brand communications, and cost inefficiencies are painstakingly documented, and still senior management is left unimpressed. Of all the problems they have to solve for the entire organization, these opportunities just don't rank high enough.

So what compels them to invest in solving their brand problems? When a CEO perceives brand as tool to express his or her vision for the organization, they fully support it. When they understand that changing the identity program can be a vehicle for manifesting the organizational transformation they want, they hop on board the train. When the brand change becomes emblematic of the change THEY seek, we have a shot at creating a program that shifts the organization's culture as well as the market's perceptions.

Design (all design) is done to serve others. It is always about them, not us. The real customer/user of corporate brand programs is the CEO. Make your branding program serve his or her purpose, and you'll have the opportunity to fix all of your design problems at the same time.

To measure how strong your brand is copy and paste: ( Then click "Take the brand strength test". This is a short survey that measures the strength of any company's brand. It's a great tool to see where you are today.

Scott White is President of Brand Identity Guru (, a leading brand consulting and market research firm located in Easton, Massachusetts, USA, near Boston.

Brand Identity Guru specializes in creating corporate and product brands that increase sales, market share, customer loyalty, and brand valuation. Over the course of his 15-year branding career, Scott White has worked in a wide variety of industries: high-tech, manufacturing, computer hardware and software, telecommunications, banking, restaurants, fashion, healthcare, Internet, retail, and service businesses, as well as numerous non-profit organizations.

Brand Identity Guru clients include: Sun Life Financial, Coca Cola, HP, Sun, Nordstrom, American Federal Mortgage, Simon (America's largest shopping mall manager) and many others, including numerous emerging growth companies.

Scott White is a very enthusiastic speaker and has the gift of being able to explain the principles of branding in a compelling and entertaining manner so that people at all levels can understand.

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