The Best Business School Brand Vision?

The Berkeley-Haas School’s vision could well be applied to other service organizations.

The Berkeley-Haas School under the leadership of Dean Rich Lyons has created a brand identity that could be a role model not only for other schools but other service organizations. The process included solid research, inputs from stakeholders, an excellent feel for the school’s culture and strengths and a very involved Dean. Far more than a communication guide, it stimulated extensive changes in programs as well as how they were presented.

The vision over several years was refined and elaborated as it and its many programs were stress-tested and implemented. The result is an extraordinary asset. (For full disclosure, I am a Professor Emeritus at Berkeley-Haas and had a small role to play in the creation of the brand identity.) The structure follows my brand identity model with four core identity elements and brand essence.

“Far more than a communication guide, it stimulated extensive changes in programs as well as how they were presented.”

The essence is “We develop leaders who redefine how we do business.” A different take on innovation and leadership, it aspires to redefine the business rather than simply refine it. The redefinition could involve the culture, the value proposition, the product market scope, social or ethical concerns, substantial or transformational innovation, and more. The essence differs from the tagline “Leading through Innovation,” which is an externally oriented expression of the brand. The essence nicely captures the four core identity elements and their elaborations which are:

Question the status quo.

“We lead by championing bold ideas, taking intelligent risks, and accepting sensible failures. This means speaking our minds even while it challenges convention. We thrive at the world’s epicenter of innovation.” Captures the aspiration of big ideas and the vitality of the innovation process.

Confidence without attitude.

“We made decisions based on evidence and analysis, giving us the confidence to act without arrogance. We lead through trust and collaboration.” I particularly like this one as it does reflect the attitude of the students and others and makes a statement about how Haas-Berkeley differs from its major competitors.

Students always.

“We are a community designed for curiosity and the lifelong pursuit of personal and intellectual growth. This is not a place for those who feel they have learned all they need to learn.” Supports the executive education mission and the confidence without attitude culture as well.

Beyond yourself.

We shape our world by leading ethically and responsibly. As stewards of our enterprises, we take the longer view in our decisions and actions. This often means putting larger interest above our own.” Gives the school and students a broader mission and purpose than being profitable. This identity has served to help communicate the core culture and programs of the school to a host of constituencies, but it has also driven change.


The curriculum has been adapted in part by adding an experimental learning component, a leadership development program, and an explicit effort to connect capabilities across the disciplines. The school has also added, modified and reframed research programs in order to deliver on the promise represented by the brand vision.

The amount of change and energy is remarkable. And without the brand identity, it would not have happened. The support and direction would not have been there.

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