Matt Egan is managing director, strategy, at global brand experience firm Siegel+Gale. With 20 years of experience in marketing and brand consulting, Matt has worked with clients like HP, GE, and Marriott. His work has taken him around the world, from the USA to the UK, South Africa, and Asia.
Matt and I have worked together—when I was on the brand strategy team at HP, he led a team at Siegel+Gale to define the strategy for Hewlett Packard Enterprise, which “split” from HP during my tenure there. Turns out M&A is one of Matt’s areas of expertise.
I was excited to get a little of Matt’s time to learn more about his point of view on brand strategy, purpose, and M&A. Below, you’ll also find out how Matt started out in brand consulting, the link between branding and kayaking, and the three emojis that best represent brand strategy.
This post is part of a Q&A series featuring interviews with brand strategists, designers, and thought leaders. Click here to view other Q&A posts.
About Matt Egan and Siegel+Gale
Can you talk a bit about your personal and professional path to joining Siegel+Gale?
After college, all I wanted to do was move to New York City and work in marketing. With some halting French language skills, wine knowledge, and a degree in marketing, I was extremely fortunate to get a job at LVMH, which was an amazing introduction to the world of marketing. I worked on the juggernaut Champagne Veuve Clicquot, among other high-end brands. That job had a ton of perks (five-star dining, amazing travel), but intellectually, I was not stimulated. So, I conducted an extensive search and landed a job in brand consulting. Within two weeks, I was on a plane to Johannesburg to work on the rebranding of South African Airways, and in some ways, I’ve never looked back. I’ve worked all over the world and across so many different industries. The learning curve is intense. The work itself is varied and intellectually challenging. And if you’re lucky, you get to see a few of your ideas come to life in really big and interesting ways.
What makes Siegel+Gale different from other agencies?
At Siegel+Gale, we believe that simple is smart. Our simplicity ethos permeates everything we do. Our clients are drowning in complexity—too much data and, generally, too many opinions. They need a partner that can cut through the clutter and chart a path forward. It’s a compelling promise, and, as practitioners, it gives us incredible license to tell it like it is and cut to the chase on foundational recommendations.
What’s unique about your approach to brand strategy?
Brands are no longer just about words and pictures. They are about interactions and experiences. So, one hallmark is our ability to bring “experience thinking” to the heart of brand strategy. We work collaboratively—not only with researchers, writers, and graphic designers, but also with experience strategists and change experts. From the start, we imagine how a brand strategy might come to life and what types of organizational changes will be required to support it. It’s about making sure our recommendations are suited for the real world. And can sing outside of a sexy slide deck.
[We make] sure our recommendations are suited for the real world. And can sing outside of a sexy slide deck.”
What would be your dream client to rebrand?
I head to the post office about five times a year, and each time I can’t help but look around and wonder, “What does this experience say about our country?” From a brand perspective, it’s an absolute disaster. It’s clear that the United States Postal Service needs a wholesale re-imagination. It would be incredible to help them create a brand experience that lives up to the credo inscribed in stone above the James A. Farley Post Office on Eighth Avenue, “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.” With the right approach and thinking (and right funding), it’s definitely possible!
You’re an expert in many areas, particularly brand strategy for M&As. What are some tips for thinking about brand strategy in the context of M&A?
I’ve written about how corporate transactions create unique opportunities to create lasting brand value. True leaders take advantage of these opportunities to define a new future for themselves and their teams, and to build new brand experiences that motivate customers and mobilize talent.
Here are some “tips” to consider when embarking on any M&A-related branding initiative:
- Begin at the end: Prototype “end-state” scenarios, illustrating a range of future brand portfolio models. Consider the strategic tradeoffs of each situation. Socialize these ideas with peers and leaders to start the conversation about what an optimized brand can do for the organization.
- Take the luggage, leave the baggage: Take a careful inventory of all brand-related assets across the shared enterprise. Assess each asset for its strategic value, and decide whether to continue, evolve or retire it.
- Point toward purpose: While deals can create chaos and uncertainty, they also create a moment to think clearly and ask vital questions: What exactly is the purpose of this new company? Who will it serve? What difference will it make in the world? A powerful purpose can also serve acquirers as they integrate new acquisitions.
- Trust radical transparency: A transparent process builds trust with your most critical stakeholders. Customers feel listened to and are grateful to be part of the process. Equally important, transparency lets employees feel like they have a stake in the game.
- Be nimble, be quick: Make sure your marketing leaders have capable teams that are comfortable with an agile process and high-speed development. These teams need institutional commitment and significant resources to stay the course to the finish line.
What’s the relationship between a company’s purpose and its brand?
This is a question we deal with a lot. There is no set relationship. Done right, purpose can be incredibly powerful. And for some organizations, it’s the unifying principle at the heart of the brand. Others may have a well-defined purpose, but a distinctive brand positioning that is more pointed toward customer benefits or some other market need. I remind people all the time: this isn’t chemistry. There are not fixed elemental properties, and there’s not only one way to do it.
This isn’t chemistry. There are not fixed elemental properties, and there’s not only one way to do it.”
What is the number one myth about brand strategy?
That it’s all about a great line. I’m still surprised by the number of people who equate brand strategy with a tagline. If a tagline crystalizes a brand promise or resonates with a target audience, that’s an incredibly powerful thing. But a tagline does not a strategy make.
I hear you’re an avid kayaker. How does kayaking influence brand strategy—and vice versa?
Sometimes you need to just get out there and paddle a bit. The rest will come.
Q&A Bonus Round with Matt Egan
What’s playing in the office (or home office) while you work? (What music? Podcasts? Nothing?)
While working, Spotify’s Classical Focus playlist inspires both productivity and calm. It sets the perfect temperature. Outside of work, my music taste is much more varied—from 80s New Wave to recent bands forced upon me by my teenage daughter. Because of her, my taste spans Liszt to Lil Peep.
What’s a personal routine or ritual you adhere to?
I’ve always struggled with rituals. In fact, I’ve found that folks too firmly rooted in routines can struggle with the vicissitudes of brand strategy consulting! That said, no matter what’s happening at work or in play, my day always begins with an early-morning walk with my dog, Junior. I’ll admit I am not always thrilled about forcing myself out of bed, but it is genuinely rewarding to get outdoors each morning and allow Junior to remind me about the excitement of a new day.
What’s a brand (or something in the branding/design world) you’ve seen that you believe is making a positive impact on the world? Anything you want to encourage people to support?
I’m a big fan of stalwart brands that are making an impact and may not get the attention of flashier startups. So, allow me to praise a recent client: Newman’s Own. Hollywood legend Paul Newman started one of the very first cause-related brands by selling salad dressing to his Connecticut neighbors and donating the proceeds to charity. Over decades, and almost by accident, this grew into a massive not-for-profit operation that supported a huge range of charities across America.
We recently partnered with Newman’s Own and the Newman’s Own Foundation to help them establish a simplified, shared purpose: To nourish the lives of children who face adversity. This focus unlocks renewed clarity for the organization—from product development to their giving strategy. It’s been exciting to watch this renewed brand purpose come to life. So please revisit Newman’s Own, check out their mission, and stock up on frozen pizza (it’s good stuff!).
What are you reading right now?
Like my taste in music, my taste in literature varies. But my current reads share a theme: fear. My daughter introduced me to the Japanese horror manga series Uzumaki: Spiral Into Horror. My partner recently gifted me Close to Shore: The Terrifying Shark Attacks of 1916. Despite the setting, this is not a beach read.
Which three emojis depict brand strategy?
Rob Meyerson is a brand consultant, namer, and author of Brand Naming: The Complete Guide to Creating a Name for Your Company, Product, or Service. He also runs Heirloom, an independent brand strategy and identity firm, and hosts the podcast How Brands Are Built.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Who is Matt Egan?
Matt Egan is managing director, strategy, at Siegel+Gale.
What kind of company is Siegel+Gale?
Siegel+Gale is a global brand experience firm.
Why makes Siegel+Gale different from other branding firms?
Siegel+Gale has a “simplicity ethos” that permeates everything they do. They cut through the clutter and chart a path forward for their clients. They believe “simple is smart.”
What is unique about Matt Egan’s approach to brand strategy?
Matt Egan believes brands are about interactions and experiences, not just imagery and words. He and his colleagues at Siegel+Gale bring “experience thinking” to the brand strategy work they do for clients and work collaboratively with experience strategists and change experts.
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