So, two corporate executives walk into a bar...

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So, two corporate executives walk into a bar.

One says, “I’m tired of our logo color. What about you?”

The other nods in agreement.

*clinking of beer bottles*

“Why don’t we start using a different color?” one proposes.

More nods of approval.

“Good. I’ll tell the marketing team tomorrow.”

*camera pans out, fade to black*

If you’re waiting for a punchline, don’t bother.

This is no joke.

This has happened to me multiple times in my career as a branding professional and creative director. At some corporate retreat or networking function, senior executives have declared sweeping brand changes in a matter of minutes, often driven by surface aesthetics or just because someone’s favorite color is red.

I suppose I could go into some verbal rant here, but instead I’d like to offer an easy, quick evaluation tool leaders can use when they broach the subject with their marketing teams.

Here it is:

When you announce your decision, one of two things will happen. Either your brand champion will have a passionate response involving thought-provoking questions and a sincere desire to understand your process, or she’ll just smile and say, “Of course! We’ll handle it.”

If you receive the first response, you are one lucky leader. It means your brand champion is doing the highest priority task she has: guarding your brand with her life. And she’s trying to teach you what a brand is and why brand consistency is important. If you’re a very lucky leader, she’ll also politely remind you that the reason you hired her in the first place was to make these kinds of decisions, and she’ll probably reiterate relevant data points about your current branding. She might even suggest some additional brand awareness research options you could implement to gauge its health and effectiveness.

If this is your experience, you not only have a brand champion who knows her stuff, you also have an employee who’s empowered and engaged.

Good for you!  Do yourself a favor and listen to your brand champion.

If, however, you hear the second response, your luck has run out. It’s more than just the fact that she’s given up on producing quality work and honoring the standards of her credentials and training – she has lost faith in your leadership. She believes you are uninterested in what branding actually is, and uneducated on what she actually does for your organization. In short, your behavior has reduced her to the “creative girl who makes pretty posters.”

On a larger scale, you’ve also demonstrated that your brand is not a sacred, mission-critical relationship-building tool, but merely a symbol on your shirt.

“I’d never be that guy!” you shout.

Of course not. You know better. By now you’ve learned to trust all of your champions, to engage them through a unified mission and challenge them to constantly ask questions and innovate. You know that branding is serious business, and you’d never make light of it, no matter what your favorite color is.

You are a fearless leader who empowers, inspires and trusts the troops.

So you’ll never need to use this test.

Right?