To Every Marketing VP: How to Talk About Brand so Your CEO Will Listen

The Role of VP of Marketing – It’s Not Easy

Is VP of Marketing one of the hardest corporate jobs? We think so. As a Marketing VP, you have a set of responsibilities that varies dramatically day-to-day – and company to company. You touch every area of an organization and engage with almost every member of the leadership team to solve your business’s most pertinent problems. People look to you to drive demand gen campaigns, build awareness for products and the overall brand, support sales teams, support the company’s HR, and fuel recruitment efforts. And, of course, no technology marketing job is complete if you aren’t working to get included – and/or maintain your place – in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant.

Even if you do all of these things well, though, nothing matters if you don’t have a strong brand strategy. Your brand strategy connects your work in marketing to the business strategy. It provides a backbone to everything you do. It explains what you do, why you matter, and what people should expect from you. If you don’t have a strong brand strategy, you risk confining yourself to the role of executor, not an essential member of the company’s leadership.

Whether you use an outside agency or bring together a team within your company, first off, you’ll need to convince the CEO to invest in the brand development process. We’ve found that this can be the most difficult step in developing your brand strategy because CEOs often don’t understand it! You mention “brand strategy” and you hear:
“We have a logo,” or, “I like our color scheme,” or “PR’s doing a great job getting us press.”

Maybe your CEO has had a bad experience with a branding project – and wants to avoid more of the same in the future. They respond to you with something like this:

“A brand strategy workshop? I don’t want to tell people my spirit animal!”

So How Do You Get Around CEO Misconceptions About Brand Strategy?

First, you need to explain that a brand strategy is just that, a strategy. It describes why and how you do what you do. It creates meaningful and emotional connections between the brand and both internal and external audiences. One of the most important elements of brand strategy is positioning. Positioning is about separating your company from your competitors, telling the market where you stand as a brand, and explaining the part of the market that you will own.

Then, depending on what you are trying to accomplish, here’s how you should talk about the business problems your brand strategy project solves:

  • Demand Gen: A strong brand will differentiate you from your competitors and convert leads
  • Go-to-market Strategy: When you’ve got a great brand story to tell – crisp and interesting – you can increase customer awareness. You develop pull for your brand and drive sales.
  • Recruiting and Retention: When you purposely build emotion into your brand, you create the potential for not just customers but also current and prospective employees to opt in.

Language Matters: Talk Business

For example, if the project you want to invest in will drive all marketing initiatives for the year, explain to the CEO that your “repositioning” project takes a new cut at the company’s go-to-market strategy, helps to differentiate the product, and increases productivity of the channel and grow sales.

If you want to do an employer brand project and must convince your company’s Head of People or HR, talk about “internal alignment”,“culture”, and“behavior”, and how your work will ultimately reduce turnover and recruiting costs. 

Though it sounds counterintuitive, when you take the word “brand” out of the conversation and focus on the business problem, you speak in a language that a non-marketing person can understand. You also introduce accountability – solutions to business problems have measurable and reliable results. When you use business terms to sell your brand project, you’ll have an easier time reaching your audience and, ultimately, be more successful.

Emotive Brand a San Francisco brand strategy and design agency.

You may also like this post about aligning business strategy and brand strategy for long term growth.

Comments (2)

  1. One way to get your CEO to listen is that your brand redesign will not cost a lot of money. You need to get everyone to buy into the values that your company espouses. That does not cost money but a little time and bringing the team together.

  2. the best way to convince your CEO is to explain that you will not need to spend a lot of money to get your brand back on track. You just need to get all of you employees together and get them to buy into the values that your brand espouses. Everything they do will need to sing off the hymn sheet that is your brand and there is no need for an expensive redesign.

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