Review – Taking Brand Initiative

Taking Brand Initiative

Taking Brand Initiative: How Companies Can Align Strategy, Culture, and Identity Through Corporate Branding.
Mary Jo Hatch and Majken Schultz (2008)
Jossey-Bass
288 pages

Taking Brand Initiative was written by internationally recognized organizational experts Mary Jo Hatch and Majken Schultz who bring the organizational theory of VCI alignment to the study of brand and organizational change.

The authors argue that the corporate brand provides an incredible opportunity to integrate strategic vision (V), organizational culture (C), and stakeholder images (I) of the company. In doing so it is possible to achieve business objectives with employee efforts in alignment with customer and other external stakeholder expectations. “(T)hey form an integrated, expressive, and satisfying whole that builds strong corporate reputations while integrating organizational behavior behind delivery of the brand promise to all the stakeholders who make up the enterprise.” (p12).

The model provides a way to understand organizational identity by balancing the perception of those inside the company who ask “who we are and where we are going” with other stakeholders’ perceptions of “who they are and where they are/should be going”. As with individual people, the organization is healthiest and best able to function when its identity is whole and expectations of it are consistent. Here, the corporate brand provides a unifying theme for this identity.

The model and its use in managing change was illustrated with case study examples from the Corporate Brand Initiative CBI), a partnership between several international companies including the LEGO group, Nissan, SONY, ING Group, and others. Working with the companies, the authors related the experiences of applying VCI alignment theory with brand as an integrating focus to achieve better business outcomes and more functional organizational cultures.

For us as communicators, this book reminds us of the importance of looking at the organization from the inside and the outside, and identifying where we need to clarify goals and expectations. Marketing and Public Relations messages need to be planned with respect to leadership messages to employees, recognition systems, and reflected in the culture of the organization. The brand can function as a common means for understanding the promise to customers, the character of the corporate entity that provides it, and the personality of the organization at work.

Professor Hatch teaches at University of Virginia holding a PhD in Organizational Behavior from Stanford and an MBA in Finance. Professor Schultz teaches at Copenhagen Business School with her PhD earned in Organizational Studies from that institution.

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