How to Be the Brand

I’ve always been an article clipper:  newspapers, magazines, blog posts, websites (favorite online tools:  Netvibes & Del-icio.us) … I even have 20 colored clipboards hanging in my office with hot articles & ideas.

Russ Wiles at the Arizona Republic wrote one of those articles on January 22 (but AZCentral has since taken it down).  Here’s the title:

$400 billion man remains calm, collected
Vanguard chief unfazed by backslide in prices, market sluggishness

Wiles was interviewing Gus Sauter, the chief investment officer for Vanguard’s index funds group.  The writer could have focused the popularity of index funds and how they work.  Instead, Wiles chose a much more interesting angle:  Sauter himself.

You see, the Dow had taken a 213-point dip the day before their meeting.  Wiles wrote that he expected Sauter to be “sweating bullets, checking stock prices and interrupting lunch to call the office.  Maybe he would cancel on me altogether.”

But instead, their lunch was completely low key.  Sauter had an ahi tuna salad and didn’t take a single cellphone call.  He was “unflappable as ever” and “looks a half-dozen years younger than his age, 51.”  Sauter said “Big up or down days don’t impact us that much.”

Sauter completely represents the Vanguard brand, and Wiles’ story reinforced that brand identity in a powerful way.  If Sauter had been late, harried, distracted or barking into his phone, Wiles could have (rightfully) taken a very different approach with his story.  As a result, Vanguard’s index funds wouldn’t sound like such a stable opportunity for investors.

Behavior sends a powerful message to a prospect, a client and a reporter.  And an individual person’s actions can reinforce or contradict a company’s brand identity and value proposition.

How about your company?  What do you stand for?  And do you and your employees support it or contradict it?

Good food for thought?

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