What's your brand?

Rob Livingstone

Rob is a respected and experienced CIO, with more than three decades of industry and ICT experience. Over the last 16 years he has held the CIO role at several multinationals, most recently Ricoh. He is the owner of Rob Livingstone Advisory and a Fellow of University of Technology, Sydney. Rob delivers the Pathways Advanced and Business ICT leadership programs in conjunction with the CIO Executive Council.

In the last year or so, the word ‘brand’ has been appearing with increasing regularity and IT is no exception to this trend. Top athletes talk about their PB, or personal best. For CIOs, is your PB more important than your PB? By that I mean is your ‘personal brand’ more important than your ‘personal best’?

Marketing and branding are no longer restricted to the domain of the sales and marketing teams, whose primary purpose is to make their company’s products and services more attractive or appealing to customers than those of the opposition.

Opinion leaders increasingly emphasise the importance of CIOs having an effective and relevant personal brand. How does this differ from doing a professional job, with integrity, professionalism and consistency? I’ll let you ponder that one.

IT is one of the more misunderstood and sometime misrepresented functions within organisations, and as such, is ripe for the opportunity to appropriately brand itself. But how, and why bother?

Branding: The good, the bad and the ugly

The good: Putting forward a true representation of the capabilities, responsiveness and value that you and IT bring to the organisation can only be beneficial. There is no misrepresentation, and it’s about the effective and pointed communication of what is being done, and sometimes, why things are done the way they are.

Sometimes explaining why things are done the way they are is as important as the brand itself.

Branding also can have a cohesive effect on teams and departments, as long it is not managed like a reluctant family gathering! It’s a fundamental aspect of human nature to feel part of a group, and this instinct can align well with a well-considered brand, provided it is presented with appropriateness, consistency and integrity. After all, who does not want to be associated with something positive and of value? If you’re looking at branding, a question to ask yourself is:

  • Am I branding myself (as CIO);
  • A product (eg a system);
  • A service (eg service desk); or
  • A concept (eg IT as a value add)?
After all, branding is all about the delivery of consistent and known quality. If it’s there, let people know about it.

The bad: Paying greater emphasis to the cheesy tag-line, the merchandise, T-shirts — not to mention the platitudes and spin-over-substance — is not a helpful activity unless you’re in the merchandising industry itself. No amount of merchandising or ‘flash’ will convince people that things are really humming along, when they are, in fact, not.

Fix the problems before you attempt a branding program, otherwise the brand could be, in fact, a form of anti-brand!

The ugly: The pathological misrepresentation and ‘sleight of hand’ in the construction of a brand from nothing is where you don’t want to be. If you find this occurring, revise your battle plans or beat a hasty retreat.

So, what’s your brand?

In my view, as long as you align…

  • What you do and achieve, with
  • What you are seen to do and achieve, with
  • What you are perceived to do and achieve, with
  • What you are assumed to do and achieve

../you can feel that the message is consistent, and worthy of being considered a ‘brand’.

After all, it is merely an expression and recognition of consistent quality.

If you’ve got it, brand it!

Rob Livingstone is the former CIO of Ricoh. His ‘accidental’ introduction to the role of chief information officer came when he was asked to re-instate a failed ERP implementation and take over the running of the IT division in a previous organisation.

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Tags: IT, brand

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