The secret to a great brand?

In recent years it has become increasingly clear that success of any company is inextricably linked to the success of its brand.

As Martin Roll puts it: “Branding as discipline has evolved over the last couple of decades from being just an addendum to advertising campaigns, fancy ideas of the marketing department, optional function of the elite few to finally being recognized as a boardroom discipline that not only contributes to the top and bottom line of the company but also aids in enhancing shareholder value contributing to the market capitalization of the company.”[1]

In other words, responsibility for defining, developing and propagating the brand has moved to the CEO’s office. The traditional role of the marketing department in creating the corporate identity, the campaigns and the associated mechanics of brand dissemination remain crucial, but more than ever the direction needs to come from the very top.

If the CEO doesn’t have a brand purpose, the brand will have no foundation. If the CEO is not a committed brand evangelist, it will have no voice.

If the CEO is not a committed brand evangelist, it will have no voice.
It begins with a purpose

Every powerful brand begins with the organisation’s purpose: what Simon Sinek calls its “why”.[2] This should be clearly and simply enunciated in just a few words that hold the key to the motivation behind everything the company says and does.

Great examples include:

  • Nordstrom – ” … to give customers the most compelling shopping experience possible.”
  • Sony – “To be a company that inspires and fulfills your curiosity.”
  • Sweetgreen – “To inspire healthier communities by connecting people to real food.”

A compelling purpose is not necessarily about what the company does, but why it does it. And it can only come from a genuine belief. It can’t be formulated by a committee – it needs to be inspired by a deeply held conviction. Without that solid foundation, a purpose is merely an artificial construction that is unlikely to gather any followers.

Every great purpose begins with a single believer. A “messiah” whose belief is so powerful and so communicable that from the very beginning it enlists, inspires and empowers followers. Who could this be in any company but the CEO? Because if the company’s principal doesn’t originate and lead the ideology, no one will.

It would not be overstating the case to say that being the brand messiah is the CEO’s most important task. In so many examples of successful companies, the success stems from the evangelical fervour and abilities of the leader more than anything else. Often the greatest brands are linked to the names of individuals – Jobs, Gates, Branson, Disney, Musk, and even Trump.

Crucially, the underlying ideology of all of the brands connected to these names is at least as strong as the personalities involved.

A great personality can emerge from an undeniable ideology, but even the most charismatic person cannot lift a weak ideology into believability.

Even the most charismatic person cannot lift a weak ideology into believability.
Turning a purpose into an ideology.

A purpose can be inspiring and motivating, but it lacks true potency until it has become an ideology. That is, backing the deeply held conviction with a supporting set of beliefs and prescribed behaviours.

An ideological foundation gives people a reason to believe and a way to live their beliefs. It makes the purpose concrete and achievable, and provides a means of evangelising to each other, to customers and to the world at large. It gives people a reason to ‘buy in’.

Again, the development of the ideology is not something that can be delegated. It isn’t something that the CEO can sign off on, but a process in which she or he must be closely involved. It is the articulation of their vision, and should therefore as much as possible be in their own words. It can be a difficult creative process, and it may need revisiting at times, but it is crucial to the growth of the brand.

Turning an ideology into a culture.

Developing a potent ideology and formulating the beliefs and behaviours that underpin it creates the basis for evolving the organisation’s culture. If the ideology is sufficiently appealing and engaging, the retinue of followers will multiply – and this in turn strengthens the attraction of the ideology. It turns a group into a ‘tribe’ that other people want to join.

People who feel that they are part of something that is genuinely making a difference become evangelists for their tribe, and they build a culture around it. They are proud to live the idea and they safeguard its credibility and ensure it delivers on its promises.

That’s the secret to a great brand.



We are a creative management consultancy that brings together business strategy, brand and culture to create meaningful relationships. 

We work with ambitious B2B leaders to drive transformation and accelerate growth by unlocking competitive advantage within their businesses. We get to the heart of an organisation’s unique reason for being, its ideology, and build the brand from the inside-out by embedding it in the culture and in every customer experience.

Colin Mackay-Coghill
Posted by Colin Mackay-Coghill
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