Corporate Swagger – It’s More Important Than You Would Think


“We have lost our swagger.” This was the response from a CEO of one of our clients as we were discussing his perspective on why their once powerful brand had waned. I followed up by asking him, “How has that loss of swagger manifested itself in the way the company operates”? “We don’t think of the big ideas anymore, we seem to lack the chutzpah to take on our bigger competitors for the big deals and there is a tendency to not take on projects that are a bit out of our reach,” he replied. Coincidentally a few weeks ago I was having a meeting over coffee with an individual who recently (in the last 18 months) retired from being the COO of a very prominent Fortune 500 company. Since his “retirement” he has been ramping up a start-up venture leveraging his many years of industry experience. He noted how he felt one of his biggest obstacles was that he no longer had the swagger of his former employer to accompany him in important meetings. Curiously I asked about how the swagger worked when he was with his former employer. He told me, “When we would walk into a prospective client’s office everyone knew there was no difference between our competitors’ products and our products. But that didn’t matter to us. We presented ourselves in such a confident manner that most clients felt like they might be making a mistake if they didn’t purchase our product.” Strong, admired corporate brands have a swagger about them. A corporate brand’s swagger can become one of the powerful intangibles that differentiate one company’s products from all others. Strong personal brands have a swagger that entitles them to certain relationship advantages in business and personal endeavors. Where does swagger come from? Swagger with the most gravitas is earned and exudes a well-deserved confidence. Swagger without authority is perceived as arrogance. Some might describe these people as, “all hat and no cattle.” Swagger comes from the confidence of the organization that they are truly different and can make a difference. These strong brands intrinsically believe who they are makes what they do a cut above other organizations. Institutionalizing swagger takes time and a strong corporate sense of identity. In my experience and observations there are three drivers of organizational swagger: an organization with a strong sense of self; leaders that embody and exude the organization’s swagger and a conscious process to perpetuate the understanding and confidence of the organization’s qualities throughout the organization, especially those that interact with customers and prospects. Perpetuating a strong corporate sense of identity begins with defining an organization’s brand platform. An organizational brand platform is its expression of its culture in the context of how the cultural values, experience and vision creates distinctive value for its customers. In essence a brand platform is a statement of its corporate character in terms that matter to its marketplace. For a more detailed description of a brand platform Often times the difference between one person and another or one company and another is a perception of an intangible quality that is unique to that person or company. When the person or company is aware of this intangible differentiation they present themselves with a certain swagger – an intangible quality that separates them from others. Does your organization have a swagger that exudes confidence or arrogance or is just plain lacking in presence?