Warriors of the heart
lead tech branding
February 1, 2006
BY MICHAEL KRAUSS
of today’s best branding work is being done in the least
likely places--technology companies dominated by engineers and
finance executives. Companies such as Intel, Emerson and GE are
case study brand leaders.
I think it’s because they attract “warriors of the
heart,” brand-builders such as Intel Corp. CMO Eric Kim,
Emerson Electric Co. CMO Kathy Button Bell or the recently promoted
General Electric Co. CMO Beth Comstock.
Ralph Oliva, executive director of Penn State’s Institute
for the Study of Business Markets, based in University Park, explains
the “warrior of the heart” concept: “To the
Native American tribes, the warriors were not the people who made
war,” Oliva says. “The warriors are the people strong
enough to bring change to their tribe. They had to be the toughest.
They had to be people willing to lead the tribe to new and different
places so that war was not necessary. They could foresee the changes
needed ahead of the battle in order to avoid conflict,”
Brands have strategic power to move businesses ahead. They help
companies maintain pricing and retain loyal customers. Yet most
CEOs and corporate boards have little clue about their value or
their management. Branding is seen as voodoo in most boardrooms,
especially after the dot-com bust.
In companies dominated by electrical engineers and financial executives,
you don’t expect much appreciation of brands. Branding requires
a comfort with the emotional mind that left brain-dominated cultures
often lack. Yet here are Kim, Button Bell and Comstock leading
their company’s brands.
I cheered when Kim and Intel CEO Paul Otellini announced the rebranding
of Intel with an updated logo, a move away from the Pentium brand,
the elimination of the dropped “e” from the logo and
the addition of the tag line: “Leap ahead.” It’s
a smart and gutsy move.
Intel’s branding of the PC processor is legendary. For years
I’ve opened branding seminars asking if anyone knew the
name of the carburetor in their car. No hands rise, just perplexed
looks. Then I ask, “What brand microprocessor lives in your
PC?” Hands fly up. They blurt out, “Intel; I have
Many companies would ride the Intel logo and brand into the sunset.
Corporate inertia, bureaucracy, fear, uncertainty and doubt work
against major shifts. Not at Santa Clara, Calif.-based Intel,
the company former CEO and Chairman Andy Grove built. Grove, an
engineer, created a culture that allowed branding to blossom.
Grove invested in branding in good times and bad.
Credit Kim for being a warrior of the heart. The Intel CMO moved
from Samsung just a year ago and put in place a bold branding
program to position Intel for future growth.
Emerson’s Button Bell is a marketer with plenty of yin and
yang. She can explain the 52-week high share price like a Wall
Street financial analyst in one breath and moments later sounds
like a Madison Avenue creative director.
Her instincts in selecting the new Emerson logo and choosing color
schemes for her advertising were brilliant. I laughed when she
described her travails as she worked to help her CEO “fall
out of love” with the wrong logo choice. Then I marveled
as she described Emerson’s financial performance-oriented
Button Bell joined the St. Louis-based global provider of technology
and engineering solutions in 1999. When she arrived, Emerson Electric
Co. was a conglomerate of 60 leading operating companies, each
with its own autonomous and independent global brand. Emerson’s
former CEO Chuck Knight literally wrote the book on business performance.
Yet he recruited Button Bell, an athletic goods marketer, to reposition
the diverse maker of power tools, compressors and electrical equipment.
Emerson is second only to GE and ranks ahead of Sony on Fortune’s
list of most admired companies in the electronics industry.
Emerson stock recently hit a record high of $77.84 while the company
finished 2005 with record sales of $17.3 billion, up 11%, and
record earnings up 14%.
“We can take a little bit of credit for doing a good job
reflecting what is happening in the corporation,” says Button
Bell with typical understatement. Button Bell’s branding
program aligned the previously independent brands--such as Copeland,
Ridgid, ClosetMaid or Liebert--under a new global brand architecture
and identity. Her effort empowered the individual brands to focus
in their niches while linking them into more potent groups of
solution providers, all “overbranded” with the global
approach enabled Emerson to sell locally while leveraging its
global scale. “ExxonMobil spends millions,” Button
Bell says. “When we sold one company at a time, we didn’t
have critical mass. We didn’t show up on their radar.”
Today, Emerson shows up on ExxonMobil’s radar at a time
when large organizations are streamlining procurement and reducing
their total number of suppliers.
Button Bell knew her mission was to earn Emerson greater awareness
and respect in the marketplace and to motivate Emerson’s
110,000 global employees.
Says Dana Anderson, president and CEO of DDB/Chicago, Emerson’s
ad agency, “Kathy’s challenge was to come into an
organization where as the marketing person you are the odd one
out. Kathy was highly persuasive and credible. You really have
to earn trust to be an effective b-to-b marketer.” Or, as
Ralph Oliva would say, traits of a successful “warrior of
Then there’s GE’s former CMO Beth Comstock, who changed
her company’s trademark tag line, “You Bring Good
Things To Life,” to “Imagination at work.” Comstock
launched the Fairfield, Conn.-based company’s impressive
$1.5 billion ecomagination marketing campaign.
GE CEO Jeffrey Immelt recently named Comstock president of NBC
Universal digital media and market development group, a line operating
unit at NBC. It appears successful warriors of the heart can do
more than brand building. They can run and transform businesses.
Watch for Kim and Button Bell to be promoted to lead their tribes
Krauss is a partner with Marion Consulting Partners based in Highland
Park, Ill., and can be reached at Michael.Krauss@Marionpartners.com