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Architecting a Global Brand – Part 2

Having created and shaped several successful brands during the past 20 years, including FrontBridge (acquired by Microsoft), FileNet (acquired by IBM), AST Computer (acquired by Samsung) and now Pegasystems, there are several keys challenges that must be addressed to successfully build and maintain a global brand:   charter; structure or architecture; investment; management; alignment; and advocacy.   Part 1 covered the first two challenges and Part 2 will cover the remaining four.

The third key element is brand investment, and this aspect is typically centered on the brand building and investment philosophy the company or firm has in place.  Is brand building considered a strategic imperative, a competitive differentiator, or merely an outcome of marketing communications?  If it’s the latter, it will be difficult to get much attention or support around initiatives that require funding. As in life, companies, like people, invest in the things that are important to them, and having a brand development line item is the only way to ensure that brand building can be a strategic, rather than a tactical consideration.   At both FileNet, and now Pegasystems, the executive team and the board of directors have supported the need to invest in brand development on an ongoing basis.

The next key challenge is about having a clearly articulated brand management system and process in place to manage the brand.  There are almost as many unique approaches to managing brands as there are brands; however, best practices in every industry, whether B2B or B2C, dictate that have a systematic approach to brand management can dramatically increase the speed and efficacy of brand building.   Brand management is a discipline, just like accounting or architecture, so having a well-defined approach can greatly accelerate the path to successful brand management.

One such approach is called the framework for PowerBranding™.   In the book PowerBranding™, that I co-authored with Marty Brandt, the framework (see figure 4) articulates four key elements or layers that must be addressed to systematically to effectively manage a brand or collection of brands.  The first layer is brand foundation and it consists of having a well-defined brand mission, vision, values and a sustained financial commitment.   The second layer is brand strategy and it consists of articulating the differentiating positioning, personality and experience that brand represents and having an integrated strategy across all customer touch points to ensure maximum brand impact.  The third layer represents the actual brand management practices including the system, structure, process and measurement of brand status and progress against stated brand objectives. The fourth and final layer is brand implementation, including the target markets and customers, marketing mix, programs and communication tactics designed to reach and influence customers and prospects.

Figure 4. PowerBranding™ Framework

In addition to a brand system, many companies create comprehensive brand management guidelines that define everything from brand architecture and naming conventions, to acceptable brand or visual expression, to collateral and editorial guidelines and more.  Adopting and promulgating a comprehensive brand handbook or guide is an effective way to drive global consistency, especially if the brand guide clearly articulates all the do’s and don’ts of proper brand usage.  The more countries and languages in which a company markets their products and services, the more prone to local interpretation – or mis-interpretation – brand usage can be, so having the guide translated, as appropriate, is also helpful.  Ultimately, proper brand management requires some level of ongoing brand audits for compliance and a designated enforcement resource to ensure brand standards are adhered to and implemented in a proper and consistent manner.

Brand alignment means ensuring that all global regions that have some level of marketing autonomy are aligned to the need for global brand management.   I first encountered mis-alignment when I was at AST Computer in the 1990’s.  I conducted a global brand audit and discovered that our fast growing APAC region was using a distinct color palette, tagline, and visual style.  Getting remote regions to understand and buy into the need to have one corporate brand is often very challenging, especially when such regions are often run by entrepreneurial leaders who want to do things their own way.  At AST, enlisting the APAC region to help define the new brand guidelines and incorporate some of their brand creativity to allow for local expression was a successfully avenue to foster alignment.  Simply dictating “this is how it should be done,” without participation and buy in, would have likely resulted in tacit agreement, but de facto defiance.

Finally, brand advocacy is the last and perhaps most important element.  The larger an organization, the harder it is for the CMO to be everywhere and touch everything related to building, let alone maintaining, a global brand.   At Pega, we have created a simple brand personality acronym to help every employee get involved in brand building.  Our four brand attributes are Passionate, Engaging, Genuine and Adaptive, and we’ve created a video compilation entitled, “How PEGA are you?” in which employees from our US, European and Asia Pacific regions talk about how they embody the four key personality traits.  The video is available both on our intranet and on our main website under “careers” as a tool to communicate our unique character to prospective employees.   Getting brand advocates at corporate headquarters is rarely difficult; the bigger challenges are to find them, inspire and support them across the globe.  When brand advocacy becomes synonymous with company advocacy, marketing can better ensure that the brand is being supported, online and off-line, in print and in person, day or night.  It’s often been said that a company’s people are its best assets and it’s equally true that the employees are the best brand advocates.  Getting them to own their part in creating and perpetuating the company brand is critical to ensure consistent customer experience and maximize the impact of all branding.  “Living the brand” is about being true to the core values and culture of a company; it’s what establishes and separates strong, enduring brands from those who aspire to be.

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A dynamic, senior-level technology executive with a proven track record building businesses on a global basis. As Chief Marketing Officer for Pegasystems in Cambridge, MA Johnson is responsible for worldwide marketing strategy and execution. He oversees corporate marketing, field marketing, industry marketing, product marketing, marketing programs, marketing communications, analyst and public relations, and global web strategy. Previously, Johnson was the Vice President of Marketing at Guidance Software (GUID) and Vice President of Marketing and served as an officer for FileNet Corp., a $400+ million enterprise software vendor acquired by IBM in 2006. Prior to that, he was Vice President of Marketing for FrontBridge, an email management vendor acquired by Microsoft. Johnson led the company’s re-naming and re-launch, built the marketing team and delivered integrated marketing programs to support significant and sustained revenue growth. He has also served as Director of Marketing for Symantec, with worldwide responsibility for the Norton brand, and as Senior Vice President of Marketing at Ethentica, an enterprise security vendor. Johnson received his bachelor of arts from the University of California, Santa Barbara and his master’s in business administration from Pepperdine University. He has also published several articles on best practices in high tech marketing and co-authored the book, PowerBranding™