“An organization bound by love is far more powerful than one bound by fear.”
My years of experience crafting brand strategies for both large corporations and small firms have convinced me of one principle above all others: brands are built from the inside out. The best brand strategies in the world will not succeed if there is not a culture – driven from the top – of creativity, authenticity, and humanity. Great cultures perform miracles, for both shareholders and customers.
As proof in point, I offer Herb Kelleher, founder of Southwest Airlines, who is justifiably credited with fostering one of the most emotionally intelligent and resilient companies in the airline industry. Sifting through my files many years ago in my office at the McCombs School of Business, I found the text of Kelleher’s commencement address delivered to the school’s BBA graduates in 2004, entitled “Fourteen Ways to Be a Leader.”
I quickly realized I had discovered a golden treasure of brand wisdom, and to my astonishment, I couldn’t find it published anywhere online. I contacted Kelleher (retired as CEO of Southwest at that point) and asked if the school could publish the notes as a ten-year commemoration in 2014. He graciously gave permission, with one requested change to point number four, which he had reconsidered since delivering the address.
Kelleher passed away this week. I’m pleased to publish his remarks one more time, in memory of a brand genius and a truly remarkable entrepreneur and business builder. Continue reading “How Kelleher Built the Southwest Brand from the Inside Out”
“We have a mission statement posted in the lobby, but who knows what our vision is now.”
Ernest Auerbach knows his way around the corporate world, including the carnage that often follows after a merger. As a corporate general manager with a global portfolio of senior positions from Xerox and CIGNA to New York Life and AIG, he has seen the ugly when, in his vivid words, “mergers trumpeted as made in heaven end up in hell.”
He warns that mergers sometimes fail because the hard work isn’t done after the announcement confetti is swept up and everyone files back to their office (or collects their severance check).
“Some mergers work well, but it takes good strategic work at the front end and excellent post-merger work afterward,” Auerbach says. Continue reading “What happens to your brand after a merger?”
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.
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.
Continue reading “The branding zone: where business strategy meets operational reality”