Branding with Simplicity at Siegel+Gale

“If you lie, you die.” While severe, truer words have never been uttered about brand building in the digital age. Siegel+Gale Chief Strategy Officer David Srere joined us for a conversation about simplicity, organizational purpose, brand experience, and, of course, how one goes about quantifying all of this. Enjoy this week’s episode of the On Brand podcast.

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About David B. Srere

David first learned the art of simplicity from a college history professor, who refused to read beyond the first three pages of any assignment his students turned in. “If you couldn’t say it in three pages, it just wasn’t worth saying,” he recalls. David did more than just learn the lesson; he became a lifelong proponent of the power of a clear, credible, compelling story.

As Chief Strategy Officer, David applies that philosophy to his oversight of Siegel+Gale’s strategic practice areas and activities. A noted authority in the corporate branding field, he has pioneered the notion of organizational purpose as an integral part of the brand development process. David believes that “giving employees an emotionally based reason to come to work every day, to make them feel part of something meaningful and larger than themselves, is the difference between good companies and great companies.”

Under his leadership, Siegel+Gale recently expanded into China—the latest achievement in a career that includes terms as Co-Managing Director of the New York office and Group Director, Strategy. David continues to work on what he describes as “Big Think” engagements for clients including American Express, SAP, Motorola, and HP. He writes and speaks regularly about organizational purpose, strategic differentiation and corporate values, and is regularly quoted in the Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, and other major business publications.

Episode Highlights

Siegel+Gale specializes in simplicity in all forms. Why is simplicity so hard for us? “It’s not easy. As the old saying goes ‘If I had more time, I’d write you a shorter letter.’” David reminded us that there is a powerful (and simple) formula for simplicity …

Clarity + Surprise = Simplicity. It’s the surprise that packs the punch and helps ideas and brands resonate. David shared the highest praise he’s ever gotten from a client, “He said two things. (1) You totally understand us and (2) we never would have thought about it like that.” Sometimes you need eyes from “outside of your fishbowl” to deliver the clarity of simple insights.

Why organizational purpose matters. “Purpose is an opportunity to do something well.” Employees go to work for many reasons. Sometimes it’s to collect a paycheck or qualify for insurance. But if there’s vision from the top that can filter down to individual employees it often makes them more engaged, happy, and productive. It also makes them powerful brand ambassadors.

How has digital changed all of this? Years ago an upset customer told 20 people and maybe a few stopped going to your business as a result. Now those upset customers are telling the world through social media. There’s got to be a “connection between what a brand promises and what they do.” You have to live your brand promise. “If you lie, you die. People want authenticity and today they can check you on it.”

From American Express to the IRS. Siegel+Gale has helped organizations of all sizes solve business problems through simplification. Be sure to listen to the full episode for David’s story about measuring the quantifiable impact of brand experience for American Express and how Siegel+Gale helped create a “kinder, gentler IRS.” As David said, “Solving problems is why we’re in business.”

The 3 most important branding questions. “We start many projects with three questions: (1) What does your company stand for? (2) What do you do uniquely or better than most? (3) Why should people care?” If you ask these questions internally, you’ll start to see trends and gaps. When you connect these ideas, you’ll uncover your own “distinctive truth” and you’ll be closer to establishing purpose, consistency, and authenticity.

What brand has made David smile lately? Even though “everyone says Apple,” David reminded us that Steve Jobs exemplified the visionary leadership he discussed on the show. “He was the truth and he made people live that in the brand.” Another brand that’s made David smile lately is REI, an outdoor retailer. “When you walk in, their authority and expertise is everything.”

To learn more about David and Siegel+Gale, head over to

As We Wrap …

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