What happens when a powerful, world-leading company, one so
famous in the minds of clients that it never before had a need
for marketing, suddenly finds it needs to reach new clients?
As Goldman Sachs did just 7 years ago, you build a marketing
department and brand identity rules from scratch.
“We didn’t have to do much communication before,” says Wendy
Cimino, VP, Brand Marketing Group, Goldman Sachs. “We were
private, there were no mandates. People aspired to be a Goldman
As the world and the nature of investment banking changed in
recent years (Goldman Sachs went public in 1999) the Company
needed to increase its customer base.
After building an in-house marketing team, hiring an agency, and
conducting initial market research, it was time to craft a
consistent brand identity.
Cimino and her team came up with a three-step attack for solving
Goldman Sachs’ visual identity problems:
-> Step A) Aesthetic audits & choices
“Why is this blue okay and this blue not okay?” Cimino knew that
the existing marketing materials looked good—but from one program
to the next, they did not look the same.
“There was no common thread,” she says. “We had to find out what
the Goldman Sachs look should look like. We spent a lot of time
debating aesthetics: why is this blue okay and this blue not
They conducted an audit of all the Firm’s materials and decided
what they wanted to maintain and what needed to change. The
audit brought to light a few needs:
1) Consistent logo guidelines. What should the size, color,
and type be? Was it okay to write over it or put it over an
2) Templates for ongoing programs. Every time a research
report or pitch book was created, it should look the same.
3) Guidelines for one-off projects, to make sure they had the
Goldman Sachs look.
“We didn’t want to be cookie cutter and stodgy,” says Cimino,
“but everything should look like it was coming from the same
-> Step B) How do you use the logo in varying situations?
The Company’s brand strategy, Cimino says, is monolithic: Goldman
Sachs is their one brand.
Which is wonderful, except for all of those situations that
will inevitably arise when other brands are involved.
“When we were co-branding or needed to name a new product or
acquire a new company, we had to ask what the identities in all
those situations looked like,” Cimino says.
The question boiled down to: How exactly should the logo be used?
“We were dealing with [logo decisions] as they came about without
precedent or structure.” That had to stop.
Cimino's team laid out previous examples and asked themselves
three key questions:
1. When can we use the logo with co-branding?
2. When do we want the brand to be silent?
3. When is Goldman Sachs dominant and when is it recessive?
This enabled them to decide how the logo should look in each
situation and create a brand architecture. Here are three real-
life examples of how this worked out:
Example 1) Highlighting a particular line of business
“When you think of investment banking you think of M&A, IPOs,
bonds,” Cimino says. “We’ve gotten into asset management, too,
but there are also stand-alone asset management firms who are our
The perception, she says, is that when an investment bank does
asset management, that is not its main business. “We needed to
show a commitment, and we felt we could support that by creating
an identity for it,” she says.
The solution: A divisional identifier. The Goldman Sachs logo
with the words Asset Management to the right of the logo box,
which is used on all materials.
“In other divisions, like the Equities division, we don’t do
that,” Cimino says. “The Equities division is intrinsic to
Goldman Sachs, whereas asset management was not.”
Example 2) Acquiring a company.
Some companies are simply absorbed into Goldman Sachs but others,
especially those with strong brand equity in their businesses,
needed to keep their own identity.
“We knew we were never going to dilute the strength of the
Goldman Sachs brand or logo,” says Cimino. “So we decided that if
we weren’t going to home-grow a business or integrate the
acquisition, then we’d maintain the equity of the company and
just enhance it.”
They do that by endorsing the acquired company, keeping the
company logo, with “A Goldman Sachs Company” underneath.
Example 3) Launching new products or services.
Ninety-five percent of Goldman Sachs' products do not have an
actual brand. Sometimes, they want to create a product or
service identifier, especially when the product is useless unless
linked with Goldman Sachs.
The visual identifier (the name of the product with a horizontal
line and Goldman Sachs underneath) allows them to get the product
to market quickly, without spending a lot of time or resources
creating a new brand identity.
Each of these visual treatments (and others) represents different
situations, and each allows the core brand to stand strong while
being protected from situations where the company has less
-> Final Step: Rolling out the new brand Company-wide
“We wanted to be sure we had input from all constituents before
we considered it fully baked,” she says.
It took about a year to get input from all key players and come
to an agreement about each visual treatment. The time allowed the
momentum of the program to build so that it was more of a soft
launch rather than a light-switch approach.
However, there was a formal roll-out, with the CEO endorsing the
program and mandating its use, which “helps us get everyone to
conform,” Cimino says.
While Goldman Sachs' marketing department does not have the budget
to conduct a brand tracking study, Cimino says they are sure the
branding initiative is working.
“Aesthetically, it’s clear that a distinct Goldman Sachs look is
being created,” she says. “From a strategic standpoint, we are
able to get new businesses going quickly without holding them
over branding issues, so our time to market is not delayed.”
Want to meet Cimino in person? She will be at the IIR show, Brand
Identity and Package Design, in Chicago June 23-25. Info at