The branding zone: where business strategy meets operational reality


Does your brand deliver what it promises? To make that happen, both strategy and operations must be on the same page.

Strong brands aren’t just the result of a brilliant brand strategy or excellent execution. In fact, the best brands are companies who have figured out the ideal mix of both. To illustrate the importance of that concept, I have often used this simple chart: The Branding Zone Model for Living Your Brand.

elements of well-crafted brand (1)

My favorite branding clients have been companies that “bend sheet metal for a living.” In other words, they are industrial enterprises such as Dresser Inc., or technology equipment suppliers such as ThermoQuest. Their executive teams are sharp professionals, but most began their careers as engineers or chemists, not business managers.

It is important for them to understand that an effective branding program is not just a “top-down” initiative based on business strategy, nor is it just about a hard-working operational ethic. Rather, it is about the unique combination of these factors.

Both the strategic elements (values-objectives-goals-products-services-policies) and the operational reality (individual commitment-team objectives-great execution) must come together in a coordinated fashion, and that coordination is an on-going effort that is never complete.

Pete Hayes, CMO, and principal of Chief Outsiders points out that chief marketing officers must be adept at driving cross-company alignment in strategy and implementation. “Many a CMO has lost their job because their strategy…even the company strategy…was not accepted or acted upon,” he says.

As a consultant, the last thing I want is a client who thinks I can deliver a brand all wrapped up in a bow, ready to be put on a shelf with a satisfied “now we’ve finished that” attitude. For the in-house marketing chief, that attitude is even deadlier.

A familiar slam on marketing people is that they “don’t think like businessmen.” But the best of them are thinking about the business in a global manner that may make their views uncommon or inconvenient in the C-suite, but all the more essential to the success of the firm.

Taking stock of your own company, are all the elements on this chart in proper balance in your brand strategy?

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