The Brand-Formation Road Map

The Brand-Formation Road Map

The time had come to refresh the brand. Over four and a half decades, Korn Ferry had grown into a $1 billion company with a global reach that was but a twinkle in the visionary eyes of our founders, Lester Korn and Richard Ferry back in 1969. Tinkering with an icon, however, is not something to be done lightly or without good reason. With that in mind, here are some highlights of what we learned through the process—a Brand-Formation Road Map for posterity.

  1. Have good reason grounded in market demand, not marketing desire. For Korn Ferry this was a no-brainer. We have expanded the value we provide to clients as we help them address a wide array of talent and leadership needs. Plus, given numerous acquisitions completed over the years, we had gone well beyond our original business and the brand equity associated with the organization.
  2. Honor the past but build for the future. We took with us our history and progressive evolution since our founding in 1969 by two forward-looking, West Coast-based executives who shook up what was then the pedigreed, East Coast world of executive recruitment. Our new brand needed to honor that past, while taking us boldly forward.
  3. Although tedious, get buy-in from everyone. The rebranding process had the commitment of senior leadership from the start. Although that’s absolutely a requirement in professional services, it isn’t enough. We wanted feedback and buy-in from across the firm— all lines of business, regions, and levels. Additionally, we surveyed our friends and competitors, shareholders, and industry analysts. Our Brand-Formation was the worst-kept secret, and purposefully so. We talked with colleagues, clients, candidates. We wanted this brand to be embraced by everyone, so that it would reflect everyone.
  4. There is always a need for Arts & Crafts. White boards, glue sticks, cutting things out of magazines – collages of images. Team meetings and take-out food. These are the essential ingredients to spark a meaningful Brand-Formation discussion. We looked at hundreds of images, logos, slogans, and examples of marketing language. It all went into the mix to discover what our brand was all about.
  5. Work with the best. We partnered with top branding talent with vision, commitment, and experience. These people understand that a brand isn’t just some artistic squiggle on a letterhead or the corner of a business card. It’s the look, feel, culture, commitment, professionalism, character, and emotion of the Firm and the men and women who represent it.
  6. Make the process meaningful and holistic. The rebranding process reflected what is happening across the Firm as we continue to drive critical business outcomes for our clients. Brand-Formation became a unifying theme as our Firm continues its journey from many to one.
  7. Remember the people. A brand’s reputation must be backed by the people who serve our clients and candidates—literally changing lives and the futures of organizations. People are the brand ambassadors, representing the values and competencies of the Firm.
  8. Analyze, analyze. Every element of a design is there for a reason—shapes, angles, line thickness, visual image, color, meaning, and message. Just as we, as a Firm, bring an unparalleled depth of scientific analysis to talent management, we made sure our branding process had the same analytical integrity.
  9. And finally, make a bold statement. With the unveiling, we brought forth a new brand that was confident, classically modern, and rich in meaning. Our brand conveys boldly our ability to design, build, attract, and ignite talent—to drive dramatic change in the organizations we serve. It’s a big job, but we believe our brand—like the Firm it stands for—is more than up to the task.

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