CLIENT NAME: USC Marshall School of Business

PROGRAM TITLE: MKT 533: Strategic Branding
PHASE OF WORK: Course Syllabus

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PROFESSOR: Sasha Strauss -
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Ponce de Leon sailed the Atlantic in search of the “fountain of youth,” a mystical oasis that could
(allegedly) keep its visitors robust, vital, and ever-adaptable to a changing world. This course
won’t go so far as to promise everlasting life, but listen closely and you’ll discover how to create a
brand—and, even more importantly, a powerful consumer relationship—that’s built to thrive.

Drawing deeply from nearly 20 years of professional experience in the world of brand strategy,
Sasha Strauss is excited to share with you what he and his colleagues at Innovation Protocol have
learned about how brands are constructed, sustained, and enabled to flourish.

What elements combine to create a McDonald’s, an Apple, or a Nike? What missteps have
caused less successful brands to stumble or vanish?

Why do the best brands matter so deeply to their target audiences? How can you make sure you
matter to yours?


Sasha Strauss worked for several of the world’s leading communications consultation firms—
including TBWA/Chiat/Day, Rogers & Cowan, and Siegel+Gale—before setting off to begin his own
venture with Innovation Protocol, a brand strategy firm working exclusively in the service of
category innovators. Sasha has shared his experiences in branding with universities, businesses,
and professionals around the world and has been commissioned to teach Fortune 1000 executives
the ins and outs and ups and downs of brand development. His firm’s clients have included
Warner Bros., Johnson & Johnson, PayPal, Evite, and ADP.


This course is specifically designed to address strategic brand development—the research,
planning, and construction necessary either to refresh an existing brand or to create a new one.

Much like a human being, a brand possesses a distinct voice, tone, character, and point of view.
We’ll discuss how and why these elements should remain focused, clear, and consistent. We’ll also
address how to organize, package, and name product portfolios by way of brand architecture.
We’ll even dig into visual strategies for elevating audience recall.

This course is not a study of brand management or its related concerns, including pricing,
distribution, shelf placement, partnerships, or promotions.

Similarly, this course is not a study of brand marketing—the active communication of a brand that
has already been built. So we won’t be discussing how to select a marketing channel, how to
assess impression opportunities, or how to build a great website or sales presentation.

This is a course in brand strategy—that exciting point of intersection between advertising,
marketing, and emotional attachment.


Here are just some of the topics we’ll be discussing this semester:

Brand Elements: What are the necessary components of every successful brand?
Brand Research: What are the best ways to study a brand’s business and engagement?
Brand Platform: How does a brand strategist develop a comprehensive messaging system?
Brand Architecture: How is a brand’s portfolio of elements best defined and managed?
Brand Naming: What are the various methodologies for creating verbal and written identifications
of a brand?
Brand Visual Expression: What visual assets can be employed to effectively communicate a
Brand Extension: How can new brand offerings be developed by way of identification and analysis
of market opportunities?

Case Studies: Stories from the front lines, as told by Sasha and other brand strategy professionals


Kapferer, J., (2012). The New Strategic Brand Management: Advanced Insights and Strategic
Thinking: Kogan Page (Fifth Edition).

Reis, A. & Trout, J. (2000). Positioning: The Battle for Your Mind: McGraw-Hill.


Your final grade in this course will be determined by a range of evaluative measures, including
reading-oriented quizzes, solo brand audit challenges, class attendance, participation (both
through the course’s official Facebook page and in class), and a team brand audit.

Class Attendance & Participation: 10% of grade
Attendance will be taken each week. Your engagement with the subject of brand strategy, in
class and on the course’s official Facebook page, will not go unnoticed. Be respectful, be
inquisitive, and have fun!

Reading Quizzes: 20% of grade
To ensure that students comprehend and engage with the assigned readings, this course will
include four, short, in-class quizzes. Quizzes will address assigned reading material, but may also
include information from lectures. Your lowest quiz score will be dropped, and the three remaining
quiz scores will be averaged to determine your overall quiz grade.

Solo Brand Audit: 30% of grade
Beginning on the second week of the course, Sasha will assign five students (or slightly more,
depending on class size), an individual “brand audit” challenge. Each subsequent week, these
research-oriented assignments will be presented to the class and/or to Sasha. These assignments
will continue for nearly the full duration of the course.

Team Project: 40% of grade
In the final weeks of the course, you will be asked to demonstrate not only your mastery of brand
analysis, but also your ability to work well as part of a team. With a group of fellow brand
strategists, you will research, interrogate, and engage with an assigned brand—then, you’ll deliver
your findings in an in-class, group presentation. Specific details will be provided once class
registration is finalized after Week Two.

The final weeks of this course will serve as presentation sessions that are crucial to student grading.
As such, it is mandatory that students attend these sessions. Ten (10) percentage points will be
deducted from a student’s grade for every presentation day he or she misses. Extremely rare (and
administration-approved, in writing) exceptions will be made, on a case-by-case basis. If you
know or suspect that you will miss a presentation day, please notify your teaching assistant, David
Radcliff, as soon as you become aware of this possibility.


Any student who requires academic accommodations based on a disability must be registered
with Disability Services and Programs (DSP) each semester. A letter of verification for approved
accommodations can be obtained from DSP. Please be sure this letter is delivered to your
professor (or to your teaching assistant) as early in the semester as possible.

DSP is located in STU 301 and is open from 8:30a.m. – 5:00p.m., Monday through Friday. The phone
number for DSP is 213-740-0776.

For more information regarding disability services, visit


USC seeks to maintain an optimal learning environment. General principles of academic honesty
include the concept of respect for the intellectual property of others, the expectation that
individual work will be submitted unless otherwise allowed by an instructor, and the obligations
both to protect one’s own academic work from misuse by others and to avoid using another’s
work as one’s own. All students are expected to understand and abide by these principles.
SCampus, the USC Student Guidebook, contains the University Student Conduct Code (see
University Governance, Section 11.00). Recommended sanctions are located in Appendix A.

SCampus can be read at, or at

In cases where academic dishonesty is suspected, the student(s) concerned will be referred to the
Office of Student Judicial Affairs and Community Standards for further review.

Details of the Review process can be found at

Failure to adhere to the academic conduct standards set forth in these guidelines and by our
programs will not be tolerated by the USC Marshall community and can lead to dismissal.


The following course schedule is subject to change, as needed, to accommodate for speaker
availability and/or class comprehension of lecture topics.

Week One – August 29, 2013
Introduction to Course
Explanation of Individual Brand Audit Assignments

Week Two – September 5, 2013
Team Project Assigned
Five Individual Assignments Due – Group One
Readings Due: Chapter 1 of Kapferer; Chapters 1-2 of Ries & Trout

Week Three – September 12, 2013
Five Individual Assignments Due – Group Two
Readings Due: Chapter 2 of Kapferer; Chapters 3-4 of Ries & Trout

Week Four – September 19, 2013
Guest Professor, Jon Cohen – Vice President & General Manager of Innovation Protocol
Five Individual Assignments Due – Group Three
Readings Due: Chapter 4 of Kapferer; Chapters 5-7 of Ries & Trout

Week Five – September 26, 2013
Guest Lecturer, Martyn Christian – Chief Marketing Officer of Kofax, plc
Five Individual Assignments Due – Group Four
Readings Due: Chapter 7 of Kapferer; Chapters 8-9 of Ries & Trout

Week Six – October 3, 2013
Guest Lecturer, Miles Beckett – Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer of EQAL
Five Individual Assignments Due – Group Five
Readings Due: Chapters 8-9 of Kapferer; Chapters 10-12 of Ries and Trout

Week Seven – October 10, 2013
Guest Lecturer, Cammie Dunaway – President & Global Chief Marketing Officer at KidZania
Five Individual Assignments Due – Group Six
Readings Due: Chapter 10 of Kapferer; Chapters 13-15 of Ries & Trout

Week Eight – October 17, 2013
Midpoint Grade Assessment Day
Five Individual Assignments Due – Group Seven
Readings Due: Chapters 11-12 of Kapferer

Week Nine – October 24, 2013
Team Meetings with Sasha
Five Individual Assignments Due – Group Eight
Readings Due: Chapter 13 of Kapferer; Chapters 16-17 of Ries & Trout

Week Ten – October 31, 2013
Halloween – Come in costume! (Class Participation Points!)
Five Individual Assignments Due – Group Nine
Readings Due: Chapter 14 of Kapferer; Chapters 18-19 of Ries & Trout

Week Eleven – November 7, 2013
Five Individual Assignments Due – Group Ten
Readings Due: Chapter 15 of Kapferer; Chapters 20-21 of Ries & Trout

Week Twelve – November 14, 2013
Guest Evaluator(s) from Innovation Protocol
Five Individual Assignments Due – Group Eleven
Readings Due: Chapter 16 of Kapferer; Chapters 22-23 of Ries & Trout

Week Thirteen – November 21, 2013
Team Presentations
Five Individual Assignments Due – Group Twelve
Readings Due: Chapter 17 of Kapferer; Chapters 24-25 of Ries & Trout

Week Fourteen – November 28, 2013
Team Presentations
Five Individual Assignments Due – Group Thirteen
Readings Due: Chapter 18 of Kapferer

Week Fifteen – December 5, 2013
Team Presentations