Why Brand Strategy Matters

An interview with former Orbitz marketing executive Roland Jacobs

Global branding for a Fortune 500 company is one thing—and Roland Jacobs knows it well. Armed with a Harvard MBA, he was part of the brand management team for many years at The Clorox Company and then provided leadership as the Chief Marketing Officer for the successful launch of Orbitz.

But how does branding translate for less-than-Fortune-500 organizations that sell intangible services?

Recently CZ Marketing president Dave Goetz discussed the nuances of service branding with Jacobs, now co-founder of AspireOne, a branding practice that focuses on helping corporations, nonprofits, and churches grow to the next level.

The word brand seems so overused. Does thinking about the brand of one's organization really affect much?

Jacobs: The brand is the most valuable asset that the executive oversees. It directly impacts all key success measures: cash flow, quality of employees or volunteers, and growth potential. Brand strategy is not about having a great logo. It starts with clarity of your mission and goes all the way to the impact of your message—from mission to message.

How does a leader begin to think about the brand?

Jacobs: The most important outcome will be defining in a couple of words what the organization wants to stand for in the minds of its constituents. The human brain generally can't remember complexity. A brand typically comes down to less than three words. For Clorox, "unbeatable whitening"; for Harvard Business School, "Make a Difference."

It's not so much the short phrase, though—it's more that you understand what the brand is. Everything that the organization does should reinforce your brand depiction.

You use the words "brand" and "mission" interchangeably. Is that intentional?

Jacobs: Absolutely. The strongest brands are those that most clearly and concisely reflect their mission. And it starts with having the right mission. A mission that is distinctive, clear, understandable and unique. The brand is what gives the mission emotional resonance with your audience.

I've heard you use the phrase the "touch points of an organization"? What are those and how does a brand affect them?

Jacobs: Every interaction that a customer has with an organization is a touch point. Touch points may include the voicemail system that answers the phone or, if an organization has a lot of on-premise visitation, the entry way and reception area. Even something as mundane as an invoice or a notification says something about the brand. The professionalism and the personality that comes through in those mundane communications can make a huge difference over time.

Gulp, that just reminded me about our invoices ...

Jacobs: Even adding a little quote at the bottom of an invoice can bring a smile and build your brand.

So what's your definition of a brand?

Jacobs: It's a relationship driven by a promise or set of promises that an organization makes to its constituents. The quality of the relationship drives everything.

How do you know if your organization's brand is effective?

Jacobs: Effective delivery of a brand starts with a clear understanding of who you are and how you uniquely meet a market need. Doing the first part well—a clear understanding of who you are—is only part of the equation.

A brand breaks down if you don't have authentic communication and consistent delivery of who you are.

But the other part is uniquely meeting a market need. If there are other organizations like yours, and it's not clear to the average, disengaged target customer that you bring something unique to the table, you'll never have a chance to sit at the table. You need to find what unmet you are uniquely equipped to address.

Is looking at your competitors a good place to start?

Jacobs: You want to look at successful peers to understand what is creating a connection for them with their target audience. But the worst thing to do is to replicate what they are doing.

You must decide where you can meet a unique need that you are uniquely suited to meet.

Copyright © 2003 CZ Marketing

For more information about Roland Jacobs, go to .