Expert Interview with Richard Sauerman on the Importance of Branding

By Cheryl Morgan

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Richard Sauerman, i.e. The Brand Guy, has made a career of helping companies with branding - and not just for marketing or advertising purposes either.

"Branding is a leadership issue," Richard says. "By this I mean branding is something that sits at the heart of what you do as a business, and drives every aspect of your business: management, business strategy, marketing, sales, distribution, innovation, HR and culture, customer service - the full catastrophe."

To Richard, the best branding comes when you align what you SAY (marketing, sales, PR, advertising, corporate communications) with what you DO (HR, reward, recognition, culture, customer service, values and behaviors).

If you're 100 percent transparent in the way you walk your own talk, you'll earn the complete trust of your staff, your business suppliers, your customers, and your investors, he adds.

We recently checked in with Richard to pick his brain a little about his philosophy on branding. Here's what he had to say:

Can you tell us about your professional background and areas of interest?

I got my brand expertise working in the ad industry for 20 years (Saatchi & Saatchi London; Ogilvy & Mather; DDB; McCann-Erickson; George Patts).

I did the strategic thinking and brand planning for some of the world's most iconic brands and companies (e.g. Cola-Cola, Microsoft, Nestle, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, Reckitt Benkiser, Levis, Boots, Arnott's, Goodman Fielder).

I then set up my own brand consultancy in 2003 - The Brand Guy - where I expanded my "brand" area of focus beyond marketing into all areas of the organization: CEO, Executive Team, HR, Learning & Development, Internal Communications. I use brand and branding to help companies and people create the world they want to succeed in.

Companies I have worked for in this capacity include Vodafone, Macquarie Bank, AMP, QBE, nab, Talent2, CSIRO, Microsoft, Mortgage Choice, The Queensland Law Society, The Media Federation of Australia, Anglican Retirement Villages, Steadfast Insurance Brokers, BankWest, Clime Investment, PwC.

I self-published my positive psychology book in 2008 called Wake Up Tiger. It's a wake up call for people and workers who are dissatisfied with their lives, often even in the face of their "success."

The way I do branding that connects with and engages people is based on positive psychology. My approach is to feed the hungry spirit people have for their lives and their work by creating meaning, purpose and a sense of self.

Today, I run a small Strategy + Design + Communication company called Brandcraft, and I do keynote talks and run workshops on Brand, People and Communication at conferences and seminars.


What services do you offer through The Brand Guy?

Major branding projects.
Smaller branding projects.

These projects include some and/or all of the following:



  • Brand Strategy
  • Brand Messaging
  • Brand Architecture



  • Visual Identity
  • Brand Guidelines
  • Logo Design
  • Web Design
  • Annual Report



  • Communication Strategy
  • Brand Advertising
  • Corporate Storytelling
  • Copywriting
  • Employee Communications
  • Recruitment Advertising

In addition, I run workshops and deliver keynote talks on:

  • Peak Performance
  • Innovation & Creativity
  • Customer Service
  • Marketing & Branding
  • Storytelling


What do you think companies do wrong when it comes to branding?

Companies still treat brand and branding as a sort of marketing attachment to their business, not the "reason why" and "driving force" behind their business.

They use branding to create a marketplace positioning, and to drive their marketing and sales communications, without walking their own talk. In other words, branding is a sort of "spin doctor" thing that makes them look great, while in fact all they care about is profits and shareholder wealth.

The way to do branding is to start at the top - with your CEO and Executive - and to authentically be your brand.


Why does branding extend beyond advertising and marketing?

A brand promise is a promise made and kept; which is why I believe that branding is much more than just a marketing concept, and leads to more than just making ads.

I can make an advertisement for any brand or company that says and promises anything. The question is, "Do you walk that talk? Is this really who you are, what you believe, and how you do business?" Because if it's not, your brand is built on a foundation of self-delusion, and it won't be too long before people start figuring this out.

That's why "trust" in business is so low today. Because companies don't walk their talk.

I embarked on this direction in 2003, at a time when nobody was thinking about branding in this way and no agency was even open to the possibility of thinking about branding in this way. So the fact that I'm even asked this question just shows how much has shifted.


How important is establishing a strong brand when it comes to recruiting?

People talk - especially when it comes to where you should work and why. Having a strong recruitment brand is critical if you want to attract the best talent. BUT the only way to achieve this is to deliver to your people, because they are the true ambassadors and spokespeople for your recruitment brand. Treat them like dirt, and they will trash your brand. Treat them like rock stars, and they will build your brand. Simple as that.


What can businesses do to better establish and share their company culture in order to attract talent?

Invite people in to meet, greet and hear for themselves what working for your company is all about.


How should social figure into recruiting strategy today?

Facebook - no way. It's personal, not business (in my view).

LinkedIn - absolutely. It's the way to network and recruit, both active and passive talent.


What companies do you think do an especially good job at leveraging their brand for all aspects of their business?

Google. Boost Juice. JB Hi-Fi. Virgin.


What trends or headlines in the world of brand management interest you the most today?

    • Digital and social, and how the consumers of your brand messages are now becoming the producers of your brand messages.


    • The lack of trust in large organizations and institutions, and the role branding can play in helping your organization earn the biggest currency there is today: people's TRUST.


  • The role of brand in shaping and creating the future of companies and businesses, not just in driving their marketing communications.

Connect with Richard on Twitter.

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About the company...

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You might like these blog posts 9 Challenging Business Skills You Need to Master, How To Determine The Social Media Budget Your SME Business Needs, Why Continuity is Essential for Modern Businesses, and Website Speed and You.

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