In this episode

At some point, businesses have to make a pivot, be that through mergers and acquisitions or rebranding. Crucial to this is the ability of a branding professional to get the people aligned and marching in the same direction. Engelina Jaspers, a corporate executive with 30 years of experience, has seen what it takes to make pivots successful. In this episode, she joins Gabe Cohen to share with us the wisdom she earned from her incredible professional journey in marketing and brand. From working with Kodak to being at the scene during the major merger of HP and Compaq, Engelina recounts the lessons she learned. She then gives an inside view of the rebranding of Flextronics to Flex, sharing the role she played, the challenges in the process, and the factors that contributed to their success. Tune in now to gain valuable insights as Engelina unveils the essential elements that drive successful business pivots.


About Engelina Jaspers

Engelina Jaspers is a student and teacher of marketing, brand, and career agility. Her 30 year experience as a corporate executive leading company-wide transformation, repositioning brands for greater clarity and impact, and building nimble marketing organizations comes through in her book, articles and workshops. Engelina is the author of Marketing Flexology: How to Outsmart Change and Future-Proof Your Career. To find out where you fall on the agility continuum, take her free Marketing Agility Assessment.

Read the episode transcript

Welcome to today’s episode of Humanizing Brand Enablement. Today I’m joined by Engelina Jaspers, who has an incredible and interesting background in the world of marketing and branding, having worked for some truly fascinating brands, including Kodak during its heyday. We’ll talk a bit about that. She also navigated through a major merger in the IT space in the early 2000s with the HP and Compaq merger. Then, we’ll delve into a significant rebranding story involving a major B2B global brand that most people have never heard of. The point here is that many brand stories and rebranding efforts occur with these major B2B brands that are unfamiliar to most of us. So, Engelina, welcome to the show. It’s great to have you here.

Gabriel, it’s wonderful to be here. Thank you for inviting me.

Let’s dig straight into your background because the Kodak story is a fascinating one and I think that’s really where you cut your teeth.

Yeah, absolutely. So right out of college, I gained valuable experience even before starting college because I worked three summers and two Christmases at Kodak, believe it or not, in the typing pool due to my fast typing skills. I was then hired after completing my four-year degree. Anyway, I gained my initial experience at Kodak, which at that time was a Fortune 20 brand and the fourth most admired brand in the world. They held 90% market share in film and 80% market share in cameras. Kodak was a household name, universally loved, admired, and respected. It provided a wonderful introduction to the marketing field. I say this because everyone I worked with on the marketing, brand, and communications teams was well-trained and seasoned, with a level of rigor and discipline that was unparalleled and deeply ingrained. I also gained some of that discipline when I later joined HP. However, Kodak was where I truly started my career. I spent some time on the B2C side, but most of my experience was on the B2B side, as it was not widely known at the time that half of the company’s revenue came from its B2B product offerings, although not as much of its profit, obviously.

What are some of those aspects—like the discipline and training—that you had at Kodak, which have stayed with you throughout your entire career? Which aspects do you believe have always been critically important but perhaps today don’t receive as much attention to their detriment?

Well, one thing in particular that I found to be a double-edged sword—troublesome on one side and enlightening on the other—was the agency brief and the agency briefing process. There was an actual document outlining how to conduct an agency briefing, detailing key elements that needed to be addressed before any funds were allocated or projects assigned to an agency. This document was reviewed either by the CCO (Chief Communications Officer) or the CMO (Chief Marketing Officer). It included all the fundamental questions that marketing and branding professionals should have considered before engaging with an agency: Who is the target audience? What are the objectives? How will success be measured? What is the budget range? Are there any potential challenges or concerns? These are crucial aspects that are often overlooked today to the detriment of projects.

You had to complete this creative brief and have it approved before receiving funds from the centrally managed budget to execute the project. If revisions were needed, they would guide you on what additional information to include or questions to address. Later, when I briefly worked on the agency side for about a year (which I hated), we often received urgent requests after hours for deliverables without a clear strategic foundation. For instance, someone would leave a message saying, “Hey, Engelina, I need four boilerplates or tech sheets for the XYZ project by 5 PM tomorrow. Can you prepare them?” This approach felt like a case of tactics in search of a strategy. It was crucial to understand the underlying goals and needs before jumping into tactical deliverables.

Kodak instilled a strong sense of discipline and structure in its marketing practices. They emphasized continuous learning and had a dedicated marketing education center where employees were trained to approach everything in a branded, customer-centric manner. Despite the company’s eventual challenges, these principles and practices left a lasting impact on me and my career.

So, it’s interesting. There was a study conducted last year called the Better Briefs Project. In this study, they surveyed approximately 500 marketers and 500 agency professionals. They asked the marketers how proficient they believed they were in writing briefs.

Oh, very good.

They then asked the agencies how well they thought marketers wrote briefs, and the discrepancy was significant. Only about 15% of agencies believed that clients wrote good briefs, whereas clients themselves estimated that 70% to 80% of their briefs were good.

It’s interesting to reflect, from your experience spanning a couple of decades, on how this gap still persists and how we seem to have lost focus on such a foundational process. Regardless of whether you’re working with an agency or not, the discipline and importance of a brief are crucial. Understanding what you’re trying to achieve internally is essential because often, even when the work is done internally within an organization, a well-crafted brief is needed to achieve internal alignment or to guide your internal teams effectively.

Yeah, yeah. And you know, it’s not just a pain in the neck; in reality, it’s a good internal discipline. It involves planning and strategy, making marketing more strategic by focusing on outcomes rather than outputs. Often, marketing is perceived negatively because it’s associated solely with tactics. That’s why marketing sometimes gets a bad reputation, Gabriel. It’s seen as the go-to for getting a logo, video, or data sheet, rather than addressing larger business challenges like growing customer retention or expanding the business. These more substantial challenges are far more interesting for marketing and branding professionals to work on.

In your mind, what were always the most important components to have in a good brief?

So the objective is obviously crucial, along with audience insights—whether they are external or internal research. Having a very clear objective without being overly prescriptive about the deliverables is key. It’s important to have an idea of the deliverables but leave enough room for flexibility. For instance, if an agency or partner suggests a different approach, like a series of six blog posts instead of a video, they should have the creative freedom to propose solutions that align creatively with your objectives using their marketing tools and tactics.

These are important aspects to consider. Additionally, timelines and budgets are also crucial considerations.

So after Kodak, you went through, as I mentioned, one of the biggest mergers in IT history. Many people listening to this might not remember or have ever heard of Compaq, but I recall that in the early to mid-2000s, Compaq was as prominent as Dell is today. What did you learn from that experience?

That was fascinating. After I left Kodak, I wanted to move away from Rochester, New York, and the East Coast weather, and pursue my career ambitions on the West Coast where HP was located. So, I joined HP and stayed there for 14 years. People often comment, “Wow, 14 years at HP,” but during that time, I worked under six different CEOs and six different CMOs. It felt like a different company every two years or so.

When I joined, the CEO of HP was Lou Platt, who was one of the last traditional HP engineering-type founders. HP has always been known as a company of inventors and engineers, almost like the stereotype of the “pocket protector” types. About a year and a half after I joined, Carly Fiorina came in as CEO, probably around 2000. She was brought in to transform HP’s image from a company of scientists and inventors to one that was more customer-focused, customer-facing, and exciting. She had a charismatic and dynamic persona.

One of Carly’s first major moves, which was quite controversial at the time, was to merge Compaq with HP. As you mentioned, Compaq was a household name based in Houston, Texas, while HP was located in the Bay Area, Silicon Valley, California. The merger was positioned as a merger of equals, although we all know how those often turn out. They combined these two massive companies and did an excellent job with training and change management during that time, which I really appreciated.

For example, they conducted workshops where they asked questions like, “If you were HP, what kind of shoe would you be wearing?” and similarly for Compaq. It was fascinating to see how they tried to blend these very different cultures. The Compaq culture was more about tackling problems head-on in conference rooms, while HP’s culture was more about thoughtful planning and methodical approaches—writing briefs, discussing, and then finding solutions.

There was a real clash of cultures. I remember having a fairly large team in the Americas region, and we were told that moving forward, 50% of the management team had to be from Compaq and 50% of the employees as well. They had strict guidelines because they wanted to honor the idea of a merger of equals, rather than just having one company dominate the other.

However, one challenge we faced early on was what I call “title inflation.” No disrespect intended, but a VP of Marketing at Compaq was at a different level compared to a VP of Marketing at HP—it was more aligned with a Director of Marketing at HP due to differences in title structures and culture.

As we integrated teams over the next 12 to 18 months, it became clear that some skill sets didn’t align, and we had to make adjustments. Overall, this merger had significant ripple effects and was a great learning experience.

What were the few things that you learned most from that experience that you sort of carried forward with you into the future that sort of always stuck with you.

Yeah, so what did I carry forward with me to really ensure success? One key aspect was addressing the title mismatch issue by making a concerted effort to meet with each and every person on the team. While it’s challenging to meet face-to-face with thousands of people, it’s important to do the hard work of connecting with individuals to understand their aspirations, strengths beyond their job titles, and overall background and experiences. Job titles don’t fully reveal someone’s capabilities or potential. It’s crucial to grasp the complete picture of who you’re hiring—not just their past experiences, but also their capabilities and future aspirations—to ensure the right fit for the organization.

Additionally, I developed a strong appreciation for change management during my time at HP. I learned a lot from HP’s efforts in culture change, spearheaded by teams in HR and marketing. They implemented programs to merge cultures effectively. I carried this forward with me, realizing that any initiative—whether it’s a rebrand, a merger, an acquisition, or a divestiture—relies heavily on change management and getting people on board.

Therefore, one of the most crucial skills for marketing and branding professionals today is the ability to persuade, align, and rally people toward a common direction amidst change. This skill is essential for success in driving organizational initiatives forward.

Before we move on, I’d like to delve deeper into that quickly because change management is a topic discussed frequently today, especially among client-side brand leads and CMOs who emphasize its importance as a key skill. Can you recall any specific stories or aspects of the change management process at HP that were particularly effective or well-executed?

Yeah, well, it was primarily the workshops they conducted and the guidelines derived from those workshops that stood out. What made it effective was the inclusive approach. It wasn’t just about issuing directives for the new world order and expecting compliance. Instead, they invested considerable time in helping everyone understand the vision, the people, and the culture involved in the change.

To truly get people on board, you need to ensure they buy into the vision, understand the timeline, and grasp the rationale behind the change initiative. The personalized workshops were instrumental in this process—they touched everyone individually and facilitated understanding. That, I believe, is the key takeaway from my experience with change management at HP.

So let’s dig into the main part of today’s episode, which is the Flextronics to flex rebrand case studies. Set it up for us. Give us a background on, give us a background on Flextronics and your role at the time. And why was an organization in this category looking to go through a rebrand?

Sure. After I left HP, they offered an early retirement package during one of their downsizing periods. If you had the right length of service and qualifications, you could take this package. Even though it was technically early retirement and I wasn’t quite ready to retire, the package was too lucrative to pass up. So, long story short, I transitioned into consultancy work and was enjoying some free time. Then, a year later, I received a call. Your former bosses can be wonderful sources of future opportunities, and it was one of the six CMOs I had worked with at HP—not the last one, but one of the six. He informed me that he had joined a company called Flextronics.

I was surprised and asked, “Flextronics? Who are they?” He explained that they were based in the Bay Area and were an outsourced manufacturing company. He expressed excitement about the opportunity to rebrand the company and bring it into the new age. I found the prospect intriguing, especially since I enjoyed working with Michael, who was my favorite CMO.

He invited me to join Flextronics to lead the rebranding effort. Flextronics, an industrial manufacturing company specializing in outsourcing, was established in 1969 as a family-owned business making circuit boards for Silicon Valley. Over the years, they grew into a $26 billion company with 170,000 employees across over 100 countries and 100 facilities in over 30 countries. Despite their impressive size and reach, they were relatively unknown, even in my own backyard—I had never heard of Flextronics.

$26 billion and 170,000 employees?

Yeah. 170,000 employees. 26 billion. Yeah. And so it was intriguing, but it was also in the industrial space, outsourced manufacturing space, which I hadn’t been as exposed to up till that time. I was B2C and B2B mostly. And so it was a new market for me, and it was a great challenge. I thought, yeah, you know, to be on the forefront of rebranding this huge company from Flextronics to flex was an honor and a privilege, and it’s something I jumped into. So they hired me.

So talk a little bit more about outsourced manufacturing. What would they do? What type of clients would they have?

They were a contract manufacturer, responsible for producing items like Apple iPhones and Logitech video cameras. They specialized in intelligent electronics rather than simple trinkets or low-value products. Their expertise extended beyond electronics to scientific applications, aerospace, transportation, agriculture, and more—essentially any sector requiring sophisticated manufacturing devices.

Companies would enter into long-term contracts with Flextronics, often competing based on price per unit. When I joined, our goal was to rebrand the company for the modern age, centered around themes like the “Age of Intelligence” and the Internet of Things (IoT).

In terms of customers, Flextronics had a well-defined set of clients with whom they maintained long-term relationships. These clients spanned industries such as automotive, aerospace, agriculture, and transportation. Despite their significant impact behind the scenes, Flextronics remained relatively unknown until the chairman of the board, nearing the company’s 40th anniversary, decided it was time to revitalize and raise their profile.

This initiative led to the appointment of my boss as the CMO, and subsequently, I was hired as the VP of Corporate Marketing and Global Citizenship. We aimed to not only enhance the company’s visibility and revenue but also to share their compelling sustainability story with the world.

But just to play Devil’s advocate on this for a moment, if you’ve got a business where you’ve got customers locked into long term contracts and where a lot of decisions are based on what the price per unit is, what was marketing and brand walking into here? How could marketing or brand help? Because it feels like the role of brand and role of marketing is pretty low.

Yeah, and there weren’t many seasoned marketing or branding professionals on staff. This is very common in manufacturing and industrial companies where brand value isn’t always recognized. It often takes someone at the board level, an external advisor, or an investor to emphasize that their share price, profit, and revenue could grow with stronger branding.

That’s exactly why they brought in Michael, the company’s first CMO, as a brand evangelist. He started building a team, and we got to work. At that time, the CEO, Mike McNamara, was on board with the idea that everyone referred to the company as “Flex” rather than “Flextronics.” So we pivoted and rebranded from Flextronics to Flex. We highlighted their applications and customer stories, focusing on being a “sketch to scale” provider in the age of intelligence.

“Sketch to scale” emphasizes not just manufacturing millions of widgets, but also the design, prototyping, and services leading up to manufacturing, as well as sustainability and end-of-life services afterward. We packaged these offerings as a comprehensive set of solutions, from “sketch to scale.”

Additionally, we showcased innovative startup companies from the Bay Area and beyond, illustrating how they partnered with Flex to bring products to market and scale up. This branding effort was significant, taking place around 2015, aligning the company’s new name and identity with its strategic direction. The CEO’s vision was clear: Flex was more than just an electronics company—it was a “sketch to scale” solutions provider in the age of intelligence.

These were the key concepts and words we developed to redefine the company’s brand and identity.

And that meant moving away from just pennies on the widget, right. To be able to achieve that, that’s where the opportunity to have more of a price premium, closer partnerships with customers, and be chosen for other things just based on competing on the cost.

We wanted to appeal to. Now, don’t forget the bread and butter and the way that the company was structured. This was one of the challenges. The way the company was structured out in the 100 facilities in 30 countries was they were rewarded for bringing in the manufacturing and cutting, or not cutting costs, being the most efficient and economical in that manufacturing process. There was a sense of skepticism—some questioning whether “sketch to scale” aligned with the bread and butter of what truly drove the business.

However, the lesson we learned here, Gabe, is that sometimes, to draw attention to your core business, you need to lead with captivating anecdotes on the fringes. These customer examples are intriguing stories that attract new customers, allowing us to showcase our full capabilities. While some industrial products may seem mundane, marketing plays a crucial role. As the saying goes, “There are no boring products, only boring marketing and marketers.” Our role is to make the product more exciting and relevant by telling compelling stories and enticing customers

Ultimately, our goal was not only to drive revenue from our core operations but also to develop other business areas into profitable P&L centers.

So talk about that internal buy in then. So you come in shaking everything, shaking everything up, going through the rebrand, leading with more sizzling anecdotes and making things more interesting. How was all of this perceived internally? Who were the supporters and how did you start to feel a sense of momentum to know that this was working?

Yeah, that’s a great question. It brings us back to what we started with: the change management and change leadership piece. An important aspect was interviewing everyone in the executive team, gathering their perspectives, and getting them on board. When we came back with the first draft, we interviewed them again, seeking their input and alignment. While dealing with the CEO and the supportive board chairman was crucial, involving all the line of business leaders was equally important.

The biggest challenge, or skepticism, perhaps, came from the manufacturing site leads and those in the field. Anything initiated by corporate is often met with skepticism, as they are concerned about costs and how changes may affect their operations and rewards. I found that conducting one-on-one interviews was more effective than group settings, although presenting during executive council meetings was also essential. There’s a different dynamic when you engage with individuals individually compared to a group setting.

Similar to the approach we took with the compact merger, conducting workshops and engaging directly with people, addressing objections and questions, proved effective. We pushed forward, and the initial phase—the brand launch—was relatively straightforward. We held a leadership summit to educate leaders from various countries and facilities, emphasizing the importance of launching internally before external announcements.

In early 2015, we had our public launch, announcing the new company name, identity, mission, call to action, and website. This generated excitement and positive responses, reflected in the increased stock price and investor interest. However, the real challenge began post-launch. Branding initiatives typically allocate funds for the launch phase, covering videos, customer experience centers, lobbies, and other central elements. Afterward, local sites must fund the rebranding of facilities, language translations, web domains, legal registrations, and more. There’s often no central budget for this activation phase, requiring collaboration with facilities and real estate teams to implement changes.

This challenge is common across companies I’ve worked with—budgets are typically allocated for launch but not for activation. Thus, guidelines, migration strategies, and careful planning are essential. I hope this insight is helpful.

No, this is perfect. We insert a gap because it makes it easier to edit on the backend. Can you elaborate more on this and the concept of having an activation budget? Since you didn’t have it and it had to be self-funded, what did that entail? Couldn’t those facilities or areas argue, “If there’s no central budget, it’s not coming out of my P&L”? How did you navigate through that challenge?

That’s a very good question. Because they could say, “I’m not doing it, I’m not going to take it on my budget.” Well, they were informed that they had an 18-month migration path, and we provided all the tools and resources necessary. Consider this: out of those hundred facilities, there’s probably three lobbies, an employee entrance, and two customer entrances per facility. I’m estimating, but that’s quickly 300 lobbies throughout the world. So, I collaborated with external designers to create lobby designs for various sizes—small, medium, large. We specified all the materials to make implementation smoother. We presented them with a roadmap, a mandate, and the necessary tools. The largest facilities were instructed to migrate first, with a prioritized timeline: some in six months, others in twelve, and the rest in eighteen or more months. Facilities with fewer customer interactions could take longer—24 or 36 months—but they were expected to budget accordingly from their current operations. They had to coordinate with their real estate and manage multiple budgets at the local level—real estate operations and P&L. It was a lot of work for the brand team to track everything—internal and external signage updates, from street signs to monuments. This is the hard work, not the glamorous launch part that most people associate with branding or rebranding. Often agencies handle the front part, leaving the challenging implementation to the marketing team. Without strong buy-in from leadership or local teams, progress can stall.

And that’s the activation implementation part—the tangible stuff. But there’s also the challenging aspect of embedding the brand to drive actual change through the people. Let’s discuss that part. How do you sustain the brand post-launch through the people aspect? This involves maintaining consistency while keeping the brand fresh in marketing design. It’s crucial to ensure that our brand is effectively delivered through our people. In your case, as with many B2B companies, interactions are often driven by people—through conversations and customer relationships. Even from an employer branding standpoint, considering HR, could you talk a bit about that piece?

So that’s essentially the brand experience: three phases—brand launch, brand activation, and then brand experience. How do you embed it? A lot of that involves providing enabling tools and guidance. While we weren’t providing funding, we rolled up our sleeves. For example, we received calls from the call center asking how to change their scripts when answering the phone. This made us realize the need to tweak their scripts to align with the new brand message and story in their daily work.

We had a central hub where we posted all this information and worked with local country leaders to provide revised battle cards and marketing collateral. It’s not just about changing collateral; it’s about scripts and day-to-day materials like posters in break rooms, which needed revamping to reflect safety and compliance rules in multiple languages. We created templates that could be downloaded and printed locally.

This process requires careful planning, as you mentioned earlier, with a detailed Gantt chart outlining all the necessary tasks. It truly takes a team effort to execute effectively. Instead of mandates, I prefer the approach of unleashing and enabling the brand. But to do that, you have to provide a lot of the tools and the templates to do so and listen and have a way for them to call who to call. And we didn’t have them all call. It’s like, “Don’t call Angelina”, you know, I don’t want to. I’m not going to field all these calls, but, we had set up a system that your point of contact is so and so they could sort through, and then we would meet and they would bubble it up and then we would prioritize and then we’d come up with our migration plan.

One of the stories I really like that we discussed before is about a learning you brought over from HP regarding the brand portal. It’s not just having a brand center or portal, which we know is critical in the process, but also the small details like what you chose to call it and the use of words and terminology. Can you talk a bit about that?

Yeah, so you know, that leads us into the whole discussion about the word “branding” itself, and how it can be met with skepticism or suspicion. So we referred to it as the communications hub or the “one voice.” At HP, we called it “One Voice, The Hub” instead of labeling it as the HP Brand Portal; we named it “Operation One Voice.” This approach helped people understand the importance of speaking with one consistent voice globally, which benefits both individuals and their organizations or countries. Similarly, I would suggest avoiding the term “brand” and opt for something like the “Storytelling Hub” if emphasizing storytelling, or simply “Our Story” to encompass all related tools. Using terms like “brand hub” can raise people’s awareness and caution levels unnecessarily.

One of the things that we always spend a lot of time talking about, especially in the B2B world, is this question of measurement, right? Sometimes, you have that conversation in order to make the case for the rebrand before proceeding, because oftentimes we should be thinking about measurement in advance. So sometimes, we can at least have a baseline to compare against.

Could you talk a bit about how you think about successful measurement in a brand initiative, especially when you’re speaking with C-suite executives? The measures that we typically have, if we just look narrowly at the world of branding and discuss brand equity metrics, can cause CEOs or CFOs to lose interest, as brand equity is not seen as something of tangible value. We’ve essentially forced them to learn our language. Could you discuss how you’ve successfully navigated this?

Yeah, you hit it right on the head. I think marketers, in general, and most professions, marketing is not a, but we have our own black box metrics that we get enamored with: brand equity, brand identity, brand strength, brand continuity, brand experience. And then you’re right, the CEO’s eyes glaze over, and they say, “Okay, we’ve got to focus on metrics that matter.” I call it the metrics that matter: our growth. Right? So all CEOs are brought in to grow the company for the most part. And that’s top-line revenue, bottom-line profits, and share price. Those are the three metrics that really matter.

And so it’s hard because, you know, you want to talk about your load time on your website, you want to talk about your marketing qualified leads, you want to talk about brand equity tracking, brand love. We even called it “Brand Love” at HP. And I thought, “Oh my God, that’s not going to go very well.” You know, she’s talking about how much brand love our customers have. It’s like, “Okay, and I get it.” As branding people, I get it. And certainly, if you’re the web team, you need to know what the load time is of your website. If you’re a social media manager, you need to know how many likes, followers, and retweets you’re getting. Those are important metrics.

If you’re a demand gen person, you need to know about marketing qualified leads and and all that. But does the CEO need to know those metrics? No, and they will. You will get so much more credibility if you lead as a business professional and you talk about metrics that matter, that matter to the CEO, that matter in the language of business, which as we all know, is accounting. You know, I hate to say it, but that’s the language that everybody measures. So it’s revenue, top-line revenue, share price, which we can affect through positive perceptions, and revenue and profit.

There are metrics that we can do that. Focus on that. So instead of talking about internal customer satisfaction, like “80% of our clients are happy with marketing support” or “our countries are happy with the support marketing is providing,”you’re better off joining forces with the sales leader and saying, “What is our share of wallet with these top 20 or top 100 customers quarter to quarter?”

Now it’s difficult because marketing likes to own metrics and feel like they own them. And so we’re really shifting from owned metrics to shared metrics. Is share of wallet just the marketing or branding person’s purview? No, but if we can work with them to say we are increasing share of wallet with these top 20 accounts and we did so successfully through a successful ABM program, through the content, through our demand gen programs, through our website, you know, whatever it could be, the videos, the customized videos we’ve done, you’re going to get a lot more traction, a lot more respect from the management team in my opinion.

How have you been able to find some connection or this notion of a contribution when it comes to the share price?

Well, share prices— I like share price because, and again, who really owns share price? The CEO feels good, the chairman feels good, the head of investor relations feels good, but so should the branding and marketing person. It should be a joint high-five from everyone. And it’s really based on what share price is based on—perception of future success. It’s about perception. And what’s perception? Marketing. It’s branding, it’s communications. If we can tell a great story about our leaders and our vision of where we’re going, that’s marketing’s role. Right. And we can help shape that. So who better to shape that? Now, we can’t say we were solely responsible for increasing the share price by $100 over six months, but we can certainly share that metric and then point to the fact that other people contributed to that as well. So I love the share price one because that’s about confidence, perception, leadership, management, and future direction, and the results too. But I love that one.

And then top-line revenue— you can show the share of wallet that I mentioned, but also how much revenue you’re bringing in, if you can, again, use a shared metric with sales. And then, you know, if we talk about profit, how effective and efficient is our marketing spend? So we should be talking about return on marketing investment, our people-to-program ratio. I mean, those are things that are tangible and measurable, and I find that language works much better with the CEO and the C-suite than talking about brand equity or brand love.

A lot of times, even with something like the people-to-program ratio, we often get asked for benchmarks so that we have a comparison point, especially for those of us who aren’t in the consumer world where you have Nielsen data and all these aggregate sources of data. How do you sort of benchmark if you’re in industries that don’t have as clear third-party benchmarks?

Yeah, so if you’re right. There’s data out there that you can obtain for B2B and B2C industries. You can make some rough estimations based on what you can find out about your competitors—how much they’re investing in marketing or sales and the approximate number of employees they have in those functions. You can perform back-of-the-envelope calculations, as I mentioned.

If you don’t have this information, you can benchmark where you currently stand. Many companies are currently at a 50/50 ratio—50% people, 50% program dollars. If you can demonstrate a steady improvement, even without knowing the exact benchmark, that’s key. For example, moving from 50/50 to 40/60, then to 30/70, and eventually to 20/80 over time shows progress. As long as you’re improving, a CEO would understand that you’re becoming more efficient with your marketing spend.

Another approach is to calculate revenue per marketing head, which is another effective method. But remember, instead of focusing on outputs like “we did 32 trade shows this year,” we need to emphasize outcomes. We must be business leaders first and foremost, specializing in marketing and branding, but ultimately, we are business leaders.

Yeah, I love the takeaway in this measurement piece, which is to lean into shared metrics. It’s better to take partial credit within a shared metric that has credibility than to own something that isolates you on an island.

Totally, totally. You said it much more succinctly than I could.

As you reflect seven or eight years on from that brand work, and even though you’re no longer at Flex, I’m sure you still take a peek every so often. How do you now look back on it with this longer timeline and assess the impact? How do you determine if that work has endured?

Yeah, no, it’s a good question. So I do take a peek at their website. I just looked at it a couple of days ago to see, and the gratifying part is that they still use a lot of the videos, imagery, and the beautiful graphics taxonomy and iconography that we created. That visual part still endures. They have kept that.

They have gone through a CEO change, which I think has influenced their outlook. Some of their language is still the same, though not exactly as it was. They have done a website refresh, but I believe the essence of being more than an electronics company, being inclusive, and stepping out from behind the shadows is still evident. They continue to keep up with thought leadership, which is excellent to see because that was one of the recommendations—to have something to say and say it succinctly and own a category.

Overall, it has been very gratifying to witness these aspects, but it’s expected to morph and change over time.

But it’s that storytelling that I think you’re most proud of, right?  And the sketch to scale story that really connects to the business impact and something that became part of the internal vernacular and then translated itself to customers as well.

Yeah, I ran into someone the other day and I mentioned that I used to work at Flextronics, now renamed as Flex. They responded, “Oh, I know all about them. They’re a big player here.” It was like, wow, that’s pretty amazing. Ten years ago, people would say, “Who’s Flextronics? Who’s Flextronics?” So that was gratifying, knowing that people now recognize them more, and they seem to be stepping out from behind the shadows and becoming more upfront with their storytelling.

When you think about some of the aspects that drove and helped that rebrand be successful, imagine you are sitting in front of a group of brand leaders working for B2B or other corporate brands, and they know there’s a reason for a rebrand. What are some of the factors or criteria that set you up for success that you would suggest others look at internally as predictive indicators of success on the back end? Conversely, what are some potential challenges or “watch outs” that you might need to address upfront to mitigate risks?

Yeah, so I think we touched upon some key factors. One is to secure buy-in not only from the executive team but also from local leaders. This is crucial because local leaders can easily sabotage the effort by dismissing it as something that won’t work in their region, like saying, “That’s corporate, not us; it won’t work in France or India.” Therefore, gaining their support is vital.

The second point is to position yourself not as the brand police but as the brand enabler. No one wants to be burdened with running everything by corporate, and realistically, corporate doesn’t have the bandwidth to review every detail. Instead, provide comprehensive tools and resources for local teams to execute independently, fostering a DIY environment. Centralize these resources into one accessible and downloadable platform. Consolidate all brand content into a single portal that everyone agrees upon. Avoid labeling it a “brand portal” to prevent pushback.

Another important aspect is maintaining version control. Ensure that all content is properly dated and organized, preventing confusion over outdated materials. Establish one definitive source of truth and storytelling within the portal.

Lastly, inject some fun into the process. Make the brand relatable and personal so that individuals can see themselves within it. Celebrate local successes by showcasing examples and attributing credit to those responsible. Highlighting these achievements fosters a sense of pride and encourages collaboration across regions.

Overall, our role is to support and empower local teams, allowing them to shine as the heroes implementing our shared vision. We work behind the scenes to facilitate their success, not to overshadow them.

And how much did it help that you had quite a charismatic marketing leader as well? How much of a role did that play?

Oh, absolutely. It certainly helps, you know, if you have someone who’s out there and passionate, able to paint a vision. I think that’s beautiful. Often, if the CEO can’t fulfill that role due to different skill sets and technical competencies, the CMO can step in and become that charismatic leader. So I think having someone believable and compelling for others to buy into is crucial. It’s not common for the CEO to be that charismatic leader, but it can happen. Elon Musk has proven himself to be that type of leader who doesn’t necessarily rely on a marketing department, so to speak.

Any advice for sort of mitigating against some of those potential downsides? You talk about the saboteur. I’ve always talked about it through lenses. There’s always a silent assassin. And the problem about it being a silent assassin is that if they are silent you don’t know where they’re going to come from.

Yeah, well, hopefully, you can make them less silent. Find out who they are; sometimes intelligence will tell you that so-and-so isn’t on board. Someone will usually give you a heads up. Then try to make them a hero—that’s the biggest thing. If you make them feel like it was their idea, it’s amazing how much further it’ll go.

There are natural leaders within a company that you need to tap into; they have significant influence over large groups of employees. So it’s a lot about word of mouth. However, dealing with silent assassins is tough because you often wonder where they came from. Hopefully, you’ve identified them; it’s important to visit different countries and meet these people in person. Talk to local employees, have a coffee chat, understand if they are on board or if there’s anything troubling them that’s hindering implementation. You’ll learn a lot from these conversations.

What did you find that did? So by going in person and visiting people, what do you see as the outcome of that?

Well, I think it disarms people. You know, I brought a lot of thumb drives because I said, “Here, not everyone goes to the brand portal and downloads. Let’s make it easy for you.” I would ask, “Can we put this on your computer? Let’s download all these templates now.” By taking this action, I’m actually simplifying the process and eliminating barriers.

It’s essential to bring tools and resources, show them, sit down with them, and then ask again what’s standing in the way. “What else would you like us to work on?” For example, we uncovered the issue with call center scripts. “I don’t have the resources to do this.” “Okay, we’ll assign someone to rewrite all these in the tone and language that you need.” This hands-on approach can be very effective in addressing concerns and providing immediate solutions.

It’s interesting, especially now in the sort of remote hybrid role, we forget about the importance of that one-to-one connection, of that relationship building that happens and how much of an important part of the job that is.

So important, you know, I remember during an HP example day, I had assigned. I went to the leaders and asked them to designate an empowered person to work with me on this transition, another transition. We all met in person, made some great decisions, and I highlighted and summarized them in meeting notes.

There was one woman who I knew was determined to disrupt this network. She claimed, “Well, I wasn’t there. I never agreed to that.” I responded, “But wait, you sent Alice as your representative.” She persisted, “No, but I wasn’t there.” I emphasized that she had signed off on it.

I made a point of highlighting the importance of empowering people to make decisions on behalf of their team, even if they couldn’t be there in person. Unfortunately, there will always be individuals who play games and deny agreements. In such cases, I follow the motto of “hug them harder.” Despite how challenging it may be, I strive to make them the hero in the situation. This approach often helps resolve conflicts and melt away resistance.

That’s a great point. I hadn’t heard that one before. And Engelina, thank you for sharing that. There are so many rich and practical, and I think more than anything, timeless learnings from that rebrand. It shows that there are many things you only truly learn from experiencing a rebrand or this type of job firsthand. Many of these lessons are not found in textbooks. It’s so helpful to hear these real-world stories.

I wanted to end with a few questions about you. Can you talk a little bit about what you’re currently doing? What gets you excited these days? Have you applied all this experience to your current work?

Yeah, actually, after I left HP, I found myself working on a lot of transformations. I was consistently called upon for transformation projects—whether it was marketing, processes, sustainability, people thought Engelina could handle it. It was interesting because I never really saw myself as a transformation specialist. Anyway, long story short, after I left, I realized that I needed to document all this knowledge. Like you said, Gabriel, you’re living day-to-day and learning, but until you step back and make sense of it all… So I put it all together in a book. About four years ago, I wrote a book called “Marketing Flexology.” The title isn’t a reflection on Flex or Flextronics; it’s “Flexology” because it’s about outsmarting change and future-proofing your career in marketing.

I had experienced many management changes and held various roles throughout my long career, and I wanted to capture that in the book. That was one exciting venture for me. Lately, I’ve been thinking about a sequel called “Brand Flexology” because I believe everyone needs to refresh their brand or undergo rebranding in the new age. Many of the same principles apply—using customer insight and agility to adapt quickly. It’s not just about art and science or brand and demand; it’s about insight and agility. These are the cornerstones that keep me excited.

I like to stay current as a lifelong marketer and consider myself a student and teacher of marketing and career agility. I enjoy anything related to AI; there are a lot of meetups now focused on learning new AI tools, which fascinates me. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I’m eager to understand what’s out there. I also listen to podcasts like yours, Gabriel, and appreciate the rich information you share with listeners.

Well. Thank you for the contribution through your book and your insights. And as you get further into the brand version of it, we’d love to, we’d love to have you back on.

Thank you. I appreciate that, Gabe.

All right, thanks for joining us, Engelina.

Thank you so much. I appreciate everything you do.