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7 Steps to Healing Your Clients’ Brand Schizophrenia

Does your client have marketing delusions of grandeur? When they talk about “our brand” do you turn around to see if there is someone else in the room, since they’re clearly not talking about themselves? How can you help them see who they can become when they can’t see who they are? The bad news? Your client has Brand Schizophrenia – a common disorder in a marketplace that is changing faster than an animated gif. The good news?  You can help, using the seven steps below.


Over the past six months, I have been working with the Taproot Foundation, a pro bono group that provides marketing services to non-profits.   I’ve seen a lot of Brand Schizophrenia. It’s not pretty, but there’s hope. Here is one story from my experience:

Leadership Development in Intergroup Relations (LDIR) came to us for branding and key messaging. LDIR is a wonderful project, born from the pain of the L.A. Riots and dedicated to healing the evolving and increasingly diverse civic space. In addition to diversity and inclusion training, they provide intergroup training to both non-profits and corporations. They are part of the Asian Pacific American Legal Center (APALC).  That makes this client a single entity that offers multiple services to multiple clients and is part of the hierarchy of a larger, complex organization.  They were an elevator pitch on the way to a messaging breakdown

When I met with the LDIR client, it was immediately clear that we needed to clarify who they were and what they had to offer – and to whom. My Taproot team – myself as Account Director and Project Manager, a Brand Strategist, a Marketing Manager (Account Executive), and Copywriter got together.  We rolled up our sleeves – and the healing began.

 The 7-Step Process:

1.    Assessment through Current Understanding.  As Account Director, I met with the client on-site to learn all I could about their business.   We reviewed their current situation and needs.  We set expectations for deliverables and timeline. We established that Brand Strategy and Key Messages were in scope. Developing a Mission Statement and Tag Line would come next.

2.    Diagnosis – a two-part process

Internal Kickoff Meeting. First, I made sure all of my Taproot team members got to know each other’s backgrounds and areas of expertise. I reviewed everything I had learned about LDIR so far. Then we discussed what needed clarification.  The result? We knew who we were, what we knew – and what we needed to know.

External Kickoff Meeting.  The Taproot members met with the LDIR team. We got to know one other, discussed expectations, communications, and roles. I presented a project plan I created for LDIR (contact me if you want me to send this to you) and asked for feedback on the plan.  This meeting laid a solid foundation for everything that would follow

3.    Discovery. The goal of this stage was for the Taproot team to learn about various aspects of LDIR by interviewing stakeholders—and for LDIR to confirm what we had learned. This understanding would become the basis of the successful Brand Strategy.

  • – The Brand Strategist and Marketing Manager lead the Taproot team, conducting about 10 interviews with people involved in all aspects of the organization.
  • – The Brand Strategist audited the competition.
  • – The Marketing Manager evaluated the visual identity and positioning of a handful of competitors

4.    Rough Draft.
The Taproot team compiled findings from the discovery interview process into a presentation to present to and discuss with the client. Our Copywriter used these finding to create a brand strategy including several positioning options.

5.    Feedback. Our Copywriter took LDIR’s feedback, refined the positioning and brand strategy.

6.    The Solution. Drafting Brand Strategy and Key Messages. The goal of this stage was to gain approval on the final deliverables including a revised Brand Strategy, Key Messages, Marcom Audit.

7.    Summary. The team presented the (already approved) Key Messages and Brand Strategy and trained the client and client board on how to use them.


The client accepted our recommendation: That LDIR could and should operate independently from APALC and have their own identity, much the same way ESPN works autonomously from Disney with ESPN having their own identity. They further accepted their new elevator pitch - the distillation of their key messages and Brand Strategy.

I was pleased with how much I had to offer our client, building on what I have learned over the past 30 years working with some of the very best strategic minds in the advertising and branding business. I saw that using these seven steps, I was able to help LDIR understand who they were, make the needed changes and be well-prepared to be who they are in the marketplace  - and succeed.  I cured this client of Brand Schizophrenia.   And by using these seven steps, you can do the same for your clients!