Why Every Project Needs a Brand (and How to Create One)

Project leaders who embrace a brand mindset will be in a stronger position to achieve their goals and deliver on the organization’s business strategy.

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Each version of the Android operating system is branded with a dessert-themed code name such as Ginger.

Image courtesy of Flickr user eszter.

Brands. Products have them. Services have them. Organizations have them. Even people have them (think Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey or Frank Gehry). And, we argue, the internal face of every company project needs one as well.

Broadly speaking, a brand can be defined as a unique value proposition expressed in a relevant and differentiated way such that it creates preference and loyalty among key audiences.

So why is project branding important? Because your project can suffer in the absence of a compelling brand.

Consider the project environment at innovation heavyweight 3M. CEO George Buckley recently described the uphill struggle he faces to rally teams and support for seemingly mundane projects not perceived to offer breakthrough potential. For example, there was the recent decision by the 108-year-old company to seek improvements in one of its oldest product lines — industrial-grade sandpaper. The project was strategically important to 3M’s organic growth goals, but employees shied away from it, preferring to put their efforts into more high-profile initiatives. Buckley lamented that projects that R&D teams do not find “sexy” often acquire second-tier status. He found himself propelling such projects forward by brute force, observing that his relentless emphasis on lower-profile projects in 3M labs “basically drove them crazy.”1

The situation at 3M is not unique. And although Buckley as CEO could commandeer project resources, most project managers do not wield that kind of clout. Many operate in authority vacuums where they have little or no formal control over the people on whom they must rely to achieve project goals. What’s more, project leaders, when they are able to rally teams, often focus too narrowly on the work to be done. In their preoccupation with task accomplishment, project leaders frequently overlook the importance of establishing, maintaining and communicating to key stakeholders a clear, consistent and compelling vision of project purpose, goals and benefits. Consequently, they miss important opportunities for gaining support and, in the worst cases, contribute to the untimely deaths of ill-branded projects.



1. D. Gates, “Boeing’s Jumbo-Jet Delays Worry Outside Engineering Experts,” Seattle Times, October 1, 2010.

2. S. Ray, S. “Boeing Aims to Reshape Culture Amid Woes,” Seattle Times, August 25, 2010.

3. T.M. Burton, “Flop Factor: By Learning from Failures, Lilly Keeps Drug Pipeline Full,” Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2004.

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Comments (12)
The Project Leader’s Branding Toolkit… – DevOps Infographics Resource Center – Programming and IT
[…] Source: sloanreview.mit.edu […]
Michael Parker
Project Branding is essential in corporate environments with numerous other projects or programs competing for the same human and capital resources. Our Online training program covers project tools and templates that can help not only brand projects but also structure and execute them. feel free to check it out and contact us with any questions; leansigmacorporation.com
Project branding is one thing I learned in MBA as well. However there are different project methodologies and branding may not work in some. For example, in Agile methodology or lean scrumban there would be continuous delivery of functionalities or enhancements to existing systems over a very short period of time (typically in weeks). In such cases I do not think branding will work. However project branding could work in a large waterfall based project where the timeline is longer and there is a need to continuously market the project and motivate the team members.Lean scrumban eliminates the need for branding as business will quickly see the results and determine if any changes are needed further. It has its own disadvantages though.
Davis Luther
"BRANDS. PRODUCTS HAVE THEM. Services have them. Organizations have them. Even people have them (think Steve Jobs, Oprah Winfrey or Frank Gehry)"

I'll add Michael Phelps and Brad VanAuken.
Good article, performance is assured when transparent information are available about the product of any project to public.

Muhammad Naeem ul Fateh, PhD
Mike Stapenhurst
Based on my own experience as a project manager for a large organization, I noticed successful projects had the following characteristics:

* A good project title that conveyed the essence of what the project was about
* graphic design to accompany the title
* Frequent and clear communications inside and outside of the project team
* Recognized priority within the organization

These projects had a lot of momentum and challenge. People wanted to be on the team!
Nidhi mahesh
its from project to project that an organization builds trust, and its apt that the branding efforts are also aligned. This would not only shape the brand personality of the company but also create greater bonding with the customers... an aspect mostly ignored by PMs and Marketing teams!!
A very good article which is drawing the  analogy of Brand management to the Project management principles. A new perspective ..
Siswanto Gatot
the project should becomes unforgettable moment for a team, since it is a symbol of competency and commitment. it is the task for project leader to make every person involved, have the same commitment and vision
A very useful article. I immediately shared the idea with colleagues. A simple idea, but a brilliant one.
Rakesh Sharma
The key is managing is the performance phase of the project. Would have appreciated some more information on this.. because here is where many a good projects wither on the vine.

A learning worth sharing about this phase - The perception of broader base of impacted team-members regarding how senior management perceives and interacts with the Project leader and her team is vital. Its important that they exude confidence, while acknowledging setbacks.

For projects that depend on external providers/ consultative Project Leaders - treat them well - even though they may be charging a lot for their time :)

-Rakesh Sharma, Zyom, Inc.
Good article...the 5P's can be applied to business development efforts related to sales territory management projects for achieving sales goals....Anthony, Bussinees Development Execiutive, IBM