Integrity Branding

Some hear the word branding and immediately think smoke and mirrors. Manipulation. Hype.

And sure, there is plenty of that out there. But the beauty of our digital marketplace is that manufactured hype tends to flame out at warp speed. Milli Vanilli anyone?

What sticks over the long haul is integrity branding. Keeping your stories, actions and visuals—in all their forms—consistent with what you actually deliver. Always aspiring to your highest purpose and doing your absolute best to align your brand promise with the authentic you.

When an aspect of your being is out of sync, out of integrity, it draws a laser-focus from those who watch you. It creates doubt, uncertainty and, at its worst, leads your best audience to disengage. Case in point: Yahoo!

Struggling to re-define itself while employing a revolving door of CEOs, Yahoo! touted its roots in Silicon Valley as an early internet player. Being one of the gorillas of the Valley is part of their mystique. Long hours are expected and celebrated, along with the flexibility to decide where and when. It’s hard-wired into the culture.

So the HR memo requiring all employees to work from an office ignited a firestorm. And it didn’t just tick off some affected employees (which is bad enough in a tight market for a floundering company). It hit a nerve with their users, customers and future employees. It was an equal opportunity piss-off.

Adding fuel to the fire? CEO (and new mother) Marissa Mayer who avoids any personal impact by installing a nursery next to her office.

A better bet would have been to be brand-consistent. To build—rather than destroy—brand integrity. To put real, concentrated effort into making the office experience so exciting and collaboration-packed that employees want to come to work. Entice them with the carrot vs beating them with the stick. It’s 2013, not 1953.


  • Branding really matters; I talk to colleagues about it; I talk to clients about it. Your Yahoo point drives home the need to stay true on message; in politics, we often speak of staying on message; deviating makes you look less than competent and often worse than that. Back to Yahoo, I really did not object to getting people back to the office; working alone I miss the interaction and I find amazing ideas come to me in meeting with clients, prospects, networking colleagues and other people interactions; it may not relate at all to the people with whom I interact but I interaction helps me realize a concept or more that I put to later and good use. You point out where Mayer messed up; not in realizing the utility of getting the workforce back to the workplace, but in how to realize that goal. The president of a union I advise negotiated child care for his members earlier in his career. It has come up a lot as he now pursues public office; the failure of Mayer and those around her to look at how to make the workplace more inviting, including day care on and/ or off-premises, flexibility to attend child and school function, etc. really exhibits how people very intelligent and skilled in some (many) ways lack some of the same in other areas.

  • Rochelle

    Hi Corey–thanks for your thoughts! I think what bothered me with Yahoo! is the heavy-handedness they used with this message–it felt very old-fashioned and dictatorial. And the ability of the CEO to make it work for herself but not for others just adds fuel to the fire. I will be curious to see how it all plays out…

  • You open up with a really good point about how branding is more than manipulation and hype and it’s about personal integrity. In the last few years, I’ve had the opportunity to console and advise some long-time friends who lost their jobs in corporate taxation. I’ve reminded each of them that they are a brand and people recognize their names. My message to them was don’t sell yourself short – you are an important commodity, established in your career and you should approach your job search as someone who adds value to an organization.

    I know that’s off the topic of where you went with this post, but what made me think of this story was how in my field, people don’t realize that they do become a brand and need to act like it too.


  • Rochelle

    Good point Nancy–we are all brands on some level. “Corporados” can use the equity they’ve developed in building their reputation to transition to a new job or even start a business. Of course it just points out again the need to develop solid relationships along the way…..

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