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Brand Leadership Is Not A Compliance Exercise

Avatar of Dannielle Blumenthal
Dannielle Blumenthal

So yesterday a question came up about brand guidelines. Does anyone have examples, and if so can they share.

There are about a million examples. But they don’t necessarily help you build a brand.

The critical first step, and what most organizations can’t really cope with, is to think. Just stop, reflect, stop checking the iPhone for a minute, and make decisions that not everyone is going to like.

These are the questions that need to be asked. They are leadership questions, because where the ship is headed decides what color you paint the ship with and what you name it:

  • What are we good at? To the point where we are better than anybody else?
  • What are we passionate about and why?
  • Can we narrow that down to a very fine point?
  • Can we make it distinct from anybody “comparable?”
  • Why is our offering relevant to the public?
  • Is it so important that they’re willing to pay?
  • Are we a group of decent human beings, with values that support the rest of what we do?


Branding is surgery. At a very minimum, you cut out the cancer so the rest of the organism can live:

  • Are we ready to stop doing certain things and start doing others?
  • How about promoting people we aren’t comfortable with, and letting others go who we are?
  • Are we willing to hire people with technical expertise we can’t understand?
  • Are we willing to put different people in charge?
  • Will we confront and control toxic behaviors among the staff?

As a consultant I always wanted to do this stuff, and so did everybody else in the group.

But the customers always wanted guidelines, and pretty templates and graphics and fonts.

It is a lot easier after all to frame a poster with an asinine ad inside of it, than to really drill down and unearth the discomforts that pretty pictures paper over.

* All opinions my own.

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Peter Sperry

I would suggest remembering where the term originated. Brands were burnt into skin or wood to quickly communicate critical information. Everyone knew that a person with a T branded in their cheek was a thief and should not be trusted, a bar X on the side of a cow identified the owner, a slash through the label on a box of food indicated it was spoiled etc. From ancient to modern times, brands have communicated significant information in a matter of seconds. So what information do you want to communicate in the first 5 seconds after someone recognizes your brand. Don’t worry about the next hour, week, or year. There are other marketing tools for them. Focus your brand message on the first 5 seconds.

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