Handout & Notes from Yesterday's Branding 101 Talk

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This is the event we're talking about. Also see the conference agenda.

You can watch the video of the talk. (Or, for fun, this is me having stage fright.)


Here are some key takeaways from the discussion:
  • Brands matter because they lend equity to your organization. Equity is the difference between your positive image and the image of an organization that isn't doing anything special to enhance customers' perceptions of it.
  • Most branding is actually just ordinary common sense. The point is to be both conscious of your brand, and reflective.
  • You are branding yourself and your organization at all times, whether you mean to or not. You are a brand, your organization is a brand, and so on. (Highly recommended: "The Brand Called You.")
  • Life isn't fair and neither are people. They judge you based on how you look and the vibe they get from you. The vast majority of communication is nonverball, and people make snap judgments.
  • Factors outside your control affect your brand. You have to cope with those factors and not get defensive.
  • If you aren't measuring it in some way, you aren't managing it. But don't measure a thousand different things.
  • Branding is not about being thin and beautiful. It is about adding value in the eyes of your customer. Most customers value authenticity, technical expertise, hard work, consistency and integrity. 
  • Look for objective data to support your conclusions. Anecdotal feedback isn't enough. Don't be biased when you ask questions. Don't punish the messenger.
  • Lipstick on a pig is not the same thing as rebranding. You actually need to change something real and significant.
  • Vision, mission and values matter. Organizations whose role is primarily customer service benefit from emphasizing them, because VMV creates a certain kind of culture that customers return to again and again. However, this is true only if your organization lives by them and isn't hypocritical.


Branding the State Procurement Office
2017 NASPO Eastern Regional Conference
Baltimore, Maryland, May 1, 2017
Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D.

Session Description

What is the “brand” of the central procurement office in your state? This interactive presentation will explore branding best practices and how they can be used to communicate the value of central procurement to stakeholders.

Learning Outcomes

  • Consider current stakeholder impressions of state central procurement 
  • Recognize practical, best practice approaches to branding, marketing and communications 
  • Organize the most effective principles presented into a branding strategy that communicates the value of the procurement team 


Part I: Branding Overview
Overview of branding, with a focus on branding a function as versus branding a product. What do we use branding for, and why is it particularly effective with respect to elevating the effectiveness a seemingly ordinary, behind-the-scenes function? Discussion of a results-oriented approach versus an image-oriented approach; indications that you are succeeding.

Part II: “Outside-In” Focus
An interactive exercise in which participants identify not only what they do, but also whom they serve, and view customer service as “a two-way street.” Working as a group, we will elicit a prototype construct of the central procurement environment: what it is, who the players are, what their expectations are of one another, and how they can reasonably be met. Pain points faced by participants will be identified—typically these have to do with stress, blame, disrespect, conflict, and so on. Speaker and audience will role-play typical service scenarios as they currently are versus how they would optimally play out. Speaker will encourage participation by the audience to make this a lively and empowering portion of the session.

Part III: Vision, Mission and Values
Key to any branding exercise is the development of a shared culture. The term “culture” generally refers to “how we do things around here,” and can be reduced to a shared vision, or abstract goal, such as “How do we make the world better?” Following from the vision, there is a mission: “What part do we play in realizing the vision?” A mission typically focuses on a common task or set of tasks that deliver concrete benefits to the audience. Beyond that, a common set of values can be identified: “What are the 3-5 principles we live in our daily work lives?” The more participants adhere to a shared vision, mission and values, the more consistently positive and therefore valuable their service will be.

Part IV: Rebranding
This part of the lecture will focus on the specific next steps participants can take in their own environments to leverage the benefits of branding. Assuming they have a clear sense of expectations, and a clear sense of “self and identity” as a procurement professional in hand (vision, mission and values), they can go on to identify any gaps between the current state in which they serve customers and a desired future state that will deliver the rewards they seek. Time permitting, we will bring a few participants on stage to envision themselves undergoing this exercise.

Part V: Feedback/Q&A
Dr. Blumenthal will be available to answer questions and answers at the end of the session. Group feedback/Q&A will be followed by an opportunity to ask questions on an individual basis.

Social Media Guidelines
The speaker grants permission to session participants to video record and quote session content over social media, e.g. Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. Descriptive hashtags to consider include #brandingprocurement, #NASPObranding, etc. No permission is granted to record or share the remarks of other attendees at the session. Please respect their confidentiality and ask their permission if you want to share a colleague’s remarks. (No permission is granted that conflicts with event guidelines provided by NASPO.)

By Dannielle Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author's own. This is a personal account unrelated to and not sponsored by the author's employer or any other entity.