C-Suite Leadership

The Four Essentials CIOs Employ To Perfect The IT Brand

IT is a brand, whether you know it or not. You are regarded by others, and eventually compared to other departments. The CIO is the Brand Marshal, and there are four essentials you must employ to perfect your brand and to stand out from the rest.

Scott Smeester


March 16, 2022

Photo credit:
Oleg Laptev
“There is always room at the top to be the very best. Mediocrity is very competitive.”
Peep Laja

A brand is your company’s identity. Branding is not about specific products or services, but it is what others have come to regard about your company. Hopefully, consumers and end users love it and competitors cower before it. 

Traditionally, we have regarded a brand as belonging to the company alone. Though IT or other departments do not engage in branding themselves, they nonetheless become “regarded,” and take on an identity.

It is an overlooked dynamic of the IT that you lead. 

Among all the other hats you wear, Brand Marshal is now among them. You are responsible for how IT is regarded. And though you are not in competition with other departments, you are compared to them. I want you to stand out.

There are four essentials to perfecting your IT Brand. 


Marketing genius Seth Godin says, “You can’t begin by saying, ‘How do we make it just like the others and make it remarkable?’ You have to say, ‘How do we make it different from the others so that it is remarkable?’”

As a leader, you have the ability for your team to stand out. The key is to not try to be different in a number of areas, but in a few, or better, one.. Is it in being responsive? Is it in presentation? Is it in communication or service?

You must dial in on what will be different about you. Clutter is a sin. Focus is everything. Choose.

We will discuss this more in point 3, but to get you thinking…What is the one thing most people in your company would change overall, or the one thing that prior to your leadership frustrated them about IT? 

Don’t Move Off Of Truth

You will always align what you do with what you say. When you find yourself out of alignment, be transparent.

A transparent brand is a trusted brand. Imperfection is compelling. Perfection raises questions as to what isn’t being seen. Imperfection raises relatability. 

When you become regarded as something, that something becomes the bond between you and others. It gives you legitimacy. When you fall short, you are able to say, “Nothing matters to us more than X. We failed in it. Here is what we are doing about it.” And people will believe you.

Staying on truth means you focus on the bond. No matter what you are regarded for, being truthful is the higher regard, and the one bond you have is more easily repaired. 

Stand Out Based On The Change People Seek

Status quo is the enemy. But the status quo has too many frontlines to battle on. So you need to pick your battlefront.

Your brand is how you are regarded, and you are regarded for what makes you different, and what makes you different becomes the bond whose truth you never move off of.

People’s desire for change is your place of highest regard. Find what is frustrating and fold everything you do around the change people seek.

We brought up some possibilities earlier: Is it something that is frustrating company wide (silo mentality, executive aloofness, withholding of information, etc)? Or is it something in the history of IT (delay, lack of communication, bad blood, etc)?

Perhaps your company has a negative reputation in a given area. Maybe a recent change in leadership was made to bring about a correction. Perhaps when people talk about your culture, a negative theme rises.

Find the point of change to be different. Name the status quo of it as your enemy. 

Champion your brand insanely. One of the ways to stand out is to, well, stand out. If you are the “on-time” people or “inclusive” people or “keep IT simple” people, go crazy with it. People call you what you call you. Just back it up and stay on truth.

People First

No matter what area you choose to stand out in, you choose it because of the difference it is making for people. People care about themselves. You need to care about one thing most for them.

People don’t choose the best option. They choose the least uncertain option. You must become a point of certainty for them, if even in one area. 

Whatever you stand out on, you will do so generously on behalf of people, drilled down to what matters to them that you consistently deliver on. 

Know your principles first, then build best practices around them. 

Alignment Survey

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