Although the ICD (Institute of Corporate Directors) conference on branding that had been planned for 2020 had to be cancelled, Claude Delage (Siparex, Desjardins Capital) and Christian Pichette (BrandBourg) recently held a discussion with the scheduled speakers to mark the one-year anniversary of that event. The aim of the exchange was to share insights on the role that branding played in the year 2020. Here is our conversation with Richard Chénier, Executive Director of CENTECH.

BB: The title of the conference was “Branding: an indispensable tool for aligning the company’s strategic plan and positioning.” Could you explain what this means for you in concrete terms?

RC: Brand strategy has to be based on a company’s strategic plan and positioning. It must successfully convey the image the company wants to project and the message it wants to communicate. It must help to build the bond and create the specific type of relationship we want to have with our customers. But it should also inspire all employees to proudly identify with the company, while helping them to understand its culture and personality. Branding is a synthesis of what our organization is and aspires to be.

BB: What were your greatest achievements in the last year (since the Covid-19 pandemic began)?

RC: We’re proud of how quickly we were able to adjust the way in which we deliver our services, despite the complexity of the task. The good news is, it didn’t slow us down much and we still have high-calibre technology entrepreneurs joining our incubator. We also launched an independent investment fund associated with Centech’s operations: Boreal Ventures. It’s a $26M fund that will make a big difference to the companies we support. This past year was also one where we succeeded in accelerating the process of establishing a team and an organizational structure that are worthy of our ambitions.

BB: Did the pandemic create an opportunity for you to reposition or pivot your business?

RC: Yes, this year did represent a challenge to aspects of our value proposition. It led us to question some preconceived ideas about parts of our organization and, above all, it allowed us to reconnect with the real needs of our customers. Frankly, setting aside the negative aspects of this health crisis, it was a great opportunity to refocus and align the team on our fundamentals. We are now poised for the recovery.

BB: You come from the technology sector, where branding seems to be less well understood. Why is it so important to you?

RC: Beyond providing a product, our company relies on branding to create the link between what the people inside and around the organization do, and our customers and the community. So it plays a significant role.

BB: How do you measure the value of the intangible asset that is the brand?

RC: First, you have to define the brand well and take proper care of it. Then, you need to accompany it with key messages so that it succeeds in reaching and speaking to its target markets.

BB: If you had one single piece of advice for an entrepreneur/CEO who hasn’t yet leveraged the full potential of branding, what would it be?

RC: First, you need to clearly define your brand — its image, personality and the various forms in which it is expressed. Your brand must quickly become a clear, central, unifying force. Second, to avoid creating confusion, you must resist the temptation to create a hodgepodge of logos and brands for your company without consolidating the brand image of the flagship. Finally, make sure you allow your brand to evolve along with your company, both in terms of visual identity and key messages.

Richard Chénier, Centech's General Manager.


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