Welcome to Your 2024 Branding Pep Talk

By Cristian,

With indications of a 2024 flush with financial opportunity, now is the time to make sure that your branding is optimized to capture your piece of the pie.

As a small-to-medium sized organization (as defined by Gartner as 1-999 employees or up to $1bn in revenue), your company’s branding needs to punch above its weight. You should aspire to be just as impressive to potential customers and employees as the biggest, most sought after companies in your space. Otherwise, prospective customers and team members may feel like they’re settling for something less—and that’s the wrong foot to be starting out on.

Here’s what I mean. My creative agency, North Street, is currently in the sales process with a management consulting firm, which is like a mini version of a McKinsey or Bain—the giants of that sector. This client has processes and outcomes like those of the industry monoliths, but at a much lower price point. What this smaller firm lacks in name recognition, cache, and headcount, they more than make up for with attributes like leadership experience, less bureaucracy, and more access to senior management.

When the prospective client asked me how to help sell through a rebrand to his top brass, I told him to ask management a very simple question: Do we want to be the organization that people settle for?

Of course not! They want to be the organization that looks like the score of the century. They want prospective clients believing they’re getting work that is on par with the McKinseys and Bains of the world, but at a budget that is more accessible. They want prospective employees believing they’ve been let in on some incredible secret: that they get to work for this small and mighty management consulting firm that resembles those market leaders but is probably a much more desirable and less stressful place to work.

This is how you want your firm to be positioned. Otherwise, you’re a lookalike in a sea of sameness. And this is where branding does the heavy lifting.

What is branding?

There’s no one way to answer this question. But, for me, branding (at least in the B2B space) is the verbal and visual language used every day and in every piece of external communication to convey that you are exceptional. While the verbal and visual elements of a brand are inextricably linked, they also serve different purposes.

Your verbal branding needs to succinctly describe the following:

  • Who you do work for
  • What the big issue is that they need help solving
  • How you are expertly qualified to solve this issue
  • What makes you tick

Visual branding communicates the sense or feeling that:

  • You are to be taken seriously
  • You believe and invest in quality
  • You are special or different

The components of a brand generally include:


  • Positioning statement
  • Brand pillars
  • Manifesto and differentiators
  • Messaging by audience type
  • Tone of voice
  • Tagline


  • Logo
  • Colors
  • Typography
  • Image/photo style
  • Iconography

Now, try taking an honest and objective look at your brand. Look at your organization from the perspective of a prospective customer or employee. What do they see and feel? Are they thrilled they get to work with or for you? Or, are they just settling for something that is less than what they really want?

When my agency brands or rebrands a client, we always must look at their direct peers and competitors. But we also want to know who their “aspirational competitors” are—in other words, the companies they aspire to be in the same league with but aren’t quite there yet. What are these market leaders doing and saying that can we borrow, adapt, or be inspired by? The purpose of this exercise is to imbue our clients with the swagger of a market leader, even if they aren’t one quite yet.

Can we afford it?

The better question is, can you afford not to? If you lose a handful of opportunities due to suboptimal branding, what’s the math on that? Hundreds of thousands of dollars? If an A player candidate passes on a job (or never even bothers to interview), what does it cost you to settle for a B player?

For B2B firms, the U.S. Small Business Administration recommends a spend of 2%-5% of your gross annual revenue on marketing and advertising. That’s a minimum of $400K for a $2mm business. Surely, a healthy portion of your marketing budget can be allocated to a brand revamp every 5-10 years.
If you’re not thinking this way, I guarantee that one of your competitors is. So, here’s a mantra for 2024:

Don’t be the organization that people settle for. Be meteoric, not middle of the pack.

This was recently published in the Vistage Trusted Advisors newsletter. You can read the newsletter here.

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