When the brand strategy desire does not match the business reality

CEB, a subsidiary of Gartner, was a global best practice insights and technology company providing products and services to business leaders worldwide. Looking to identify new revenue streams, CEB leveraged learnings from their leadership councils and market insight reports that identified talent management as a significant issue needing to be solved. With this macro need identified, CEB began acquiring boutique talent management companies in both North America and Europe. Knowing they wanted to leverage the CEB brand across the talent management business, leadership developed a brand architecture strategy to achieve this. Unfortunately, CEB was having difficulty implementing the strategy and asked FullSurge to partner with them to identify the bottlenecks and to put a plan into place to move the talent management business forward.

Welcome to the white-collar wild west

FullSurge recommended CEB form a project core team comprised of representatives from across talent management. In addition to the kick-off meeting and subsequent regular presentations with the core team, FullSurge conducted 22 in-depth, one-on-one interviews with CEB brand professionals as well as leadership from the acquired companies. We reviewed the extensive library of internal brand and naming documents as well as strategy documents from across the organization. Lastly, we benchmarked key competitors to identify any category mandates and best practices.

Despite uncanny internal alignment on the desire to build the CEB masterbrand and execute it across the acquired talent management businesses, the reality did not match the desire. The organizational orientation was very CEB centric rather than customer-centric. Their matrix structure was limiting decision making and accountability. Sales was organized at the product level with no integration. Still having to move projects and initiatives forward, the organization kept pushing through based upon their unique world view. The unfortunate result was a massive proliferation in organizational approaches, constructs, offerings and brands limiting the understanding, acceptance, and usage of the brand strategy by the organization.

FullSurge recommended implementing a brand architecture strategy that was based upon customer needs rather than organizational whims. We developed the framework to achieve this and led the cascading and socializing of the new strategy across the organization. With this new knowledge and understanding by those activating the new architecture structure, the CEB masterbrand could be consistently leveraged, establishing awareness and relevance across the talent management business.

The unfortunate result was massive proliferation in organizational approaches, constructs, offerings and brands limiting the understanding, acceptance and usage of the brand strategy by the organization.
CEB Brand Architecture
A relationship spanning acquisition to spin-off

CEB implemented our architecture recommendations and then hired FullSurge to develop the naming strategy and guidelines to ensure the successful execution of the CEB master brand strategy across talent management. As part of this, we developed a naming training program and conducted training sessions for both their product and marketing professionals. When Gartner acquired CEB and spun-off the talent management business, FullSurge was hired by talent management’s leadership to lead the rebrand.

I have worked with Natalie on several global brand architecture and naming projects prior to bringing her in to help CEB, and I was once again very pleased with her work and the result it has had on our organization. She has the uncanny ability to quickly identify the bottlenecks holding an organization back. She helped us develop a brand architecture framework that was based upon key customer segments and market requirements, and established a naming system that enabled us to truly build the CEB master brand in the Talent Management business. I highly recommend Natalie to anyone looking to engage a brand architecture strategist!

— Rob Chen
Chief Marketing Officer, CEB

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