Brand navigation by North Star

Great Wave of Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai

Great Wave of Kanagawa by Katsushika Hokusai

Whether you’re a non-profit organization or a business, the marketplace has much in common with the sea.  It’s rough, dangerous, unpredictable, and survival is dependent on one’s exceptional navigation and leadership skills.

As an avid sailor, it is fitting that Michel Viau, President and CEO of Ove Brand | Design, sees branding as the North Star for companies large and small. Just as sailors used the North Star to determine their location, Viau says that the strategic branding process can give organizations and leaders a clear picture of who they are and where they are going. “A successful branding program can create clarity of expression and articulation, empowering organizations to cut through the clutter and reach their goals,” says Viau.

The strategic branding process requires companies to examine their mission, vision, values and brand promise; essentially, their DNA. Previously held assumptions about goals and objectives are tested and gaps in understanding identified. Ultimately, the process engages key stakeholders in dialogue and galvanizes them around a central idea about the company’s raison d’ètre and where it’s going.

It can be an uncomfortable process because it often pushes business leaders into new and unfamiliar territories. An authentic and long-term partnership between the client and an agency such as Ove Brand | Design is therefore critical. “Issues can arise when clients continue to see us as an external resource and expect turn-key solutions without us being involved in the organization,” explains Viau.

Corporate branding is a relatively recent discipline. It wasn’t until the mid 1990’s that businesses began to see themselves as the main expression of the brand. Prior to that, a company’s logo and product packaging were the main vehicles used to connect with consumers. “Back then, when a company said they needed to create a name, they didn’t say “we need to create a brand,” explains Viau.

Viau and his team of brand strategists, designers and marketing communications professionals were early adopters of a strategic approach to brand development, and have since helped build many successful brands, including BMO Financial Group, Sun Life Financial, SNC-Lavalin, the University Health Network and Toronto Pearson International Airport.

“My informal measure of success is seeing the impact of our work,” says Viau. “I’m extremely proud that we’ve helped create brands that work at the consumer level and are relevant and enduring in their expression over time.”

When asked what is the key to a successful branding program, Viau smiles and answers, “Never loose sight of the North Star.”

Note about the above article:  I’ve had the pleasure of working with Ove both as a client and an employee.  I’ve always admired Ove’s  unique approach towards building and strengthening great brands, and I’m pleased to be able to share it with others here.