The value of brands and what project leaders can learn from them

– what would it take to differentiate yourself and your project from others? What would the value be?

To most project managers and professionals my guess is that the word ‘brand’ evokes a certain sense of ‘marketing non-sense’ and ‘showman-ship’. Why would a project or even worse a project leader need a ‘brand’?

As it turns out, the project management world has an opportunity to learn from our product and brand management colleagues. The value and equity we can derive from ‘marketing’ our project using a brand can help set it apart from others and help get our project prioritized and noticed.

MIT Sloan’s – Management Review recently put some focus on this in an article titled “Why Every Project Needs a Brand (and how to get one). In reference to the project brand they wrote, “Broadly speaking, a brand can be defined as a unique value proposition expressed in a relevant and differentiated way such that it creates preference and loyalty among key audiences. So why is project branding important? Because your project can suffer in the absence of a compelling brand.[i]

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So, what are those key pieces of information that project leaders can learn to leverage so your suffer in the absence of a compelling brand? Here are a few to start with, if you have others that you would like to share, feel free.

Project Naming: this is the brand management process of deciding what a product will be called. A project manager can think of her project as a product, considering the stakeholders and the project members. Naming a project or product is a critical part of the branding process, it will help everyone involved to identify with the vision of the project and to be consciously reminded of the future outcome and benefit of the project When naming a project you must take into account the many uses of your name in documents and dialogue and ensure that it is a name that helps people to ‘get it’ easily.

The process of naming your project should be done deliberately and by involving your team members, ensuring that it is something they will be energized and inspired by.

Some key steps include specifying the objectives of the branding, developing the project name itself, evaluating names submitted by the team, and choosing a final name.

When brainstorming about a project name, the following ideas might be useful:

  • it strategically distinguishes the project from other projects by conveying its unique positioning
  • it holds appeal for target audience
  • it implies the project’s future benefits and outcome
  • it helps to motivate team members to work on the project and helps executives to promote it.

Selling a vision: Just as brands help those who market products or companies convey the purpose and value to their target audience, so can a project manager help convey the vision of their project through a brand.  In most cases your project is competing for attention and funding with many other projects and you with many other project managers. Developing a brand for your project and maybe even for yourself can help you set yourself apart and help you convey your vision, benefits and value or your project. To help you get started, spend some time thinking about statements in the following four areas that help you convey the project:

  1. Unique value proposition – what is the unique value your project is bringing to the table
  2. Unique selling proposition – your elevator pitch
  3. Slogan or Mantra – what is going to make it easy for people to know what you are working on
  4. Positioning statements – targeted towards different people you may encounter


Brand Equity: in essence the value you get from employing a brand for yourself and/or your project versus those who do not spend the time doing so.  Thinking about the brand equity you may be building through your efforts can help determine if the time and investment is worthwhile compared to your peers and competing projects.

According to Wikipedia, Brand Equity is “the marketing effects and outcomes that accrue to a product with its brand name compared with those that would accrue if the same product did not have the brand name. Fact of the well-known brand name is that, the company can sometimes charge premium prices from the consumer.”[ii]

How might this translate into a project management setting? If the process of branding is done correctly for your project, it might mean that when funding decisions are made by your executive team, you would see additional benefits by the “awareness” of your project and garner opportunities to showcase your project and its benefits/outcomes/value in forums not otherwise open to you.




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