Kellogg Dean Sally Blount’s Brave New Strategy

“The great thing about Kellogg that is different from any other school is that our faculty has known a bold leader who put a strategy in place,” Blount adds. “Our faculty is ready to do it again. A lot of schools have faculty who aren’t looking to be led and they aren’t looking for a bold strategy. Our faculty is hungry for it. It’s part of our culture. It’s how we got to be where we are. It’s make me appreciate why Kellogg as a dean versus another school. When you have a group that says what can we do next? How can we be at the forefront? And isn’t sitting on its laurels. That is pretty incredible among tenured faculty.”

Of course, the faculty still has to approve more concrete changes that come out of a strategic review. How that process plays out will clearly be a test of how persuasive Blount has been. “We’re four and one-half months into a nine-month review,” she says. “As we come out of that process, we will identify the three or four big ideas we want to be known for in 2020 and they will link to our curriculum and our research.” Those big ideas—which will include a new way to teach and talk about collaboration and marketing—will put substance behind the new brand messaging.


While this is the first attempt by Kellogg to formally brand itself, many other business schools have gone through similar exercises, including Harvard and Stanford. At Harvard, the “mission” or brand comes down to one simple sentence: “We educate leaders who make a difference in the world.” At Stanford, it’s “Change lives. Change Organizations. Change the World.”

“While I would argue that Kellogg had some of the most interesting moves in the late 80s and early 90s in our industry, there are some other peers who used branding brilliantly in the 90s and 2000s,” she says, declining to be more specific. “Because our essence was so strong, Kellogg never had to have an active brand strategy. It was emergent. At any place where you are attracting people to a unique experience, you’ve got to be able to tell people what that is about. And that’s why it matters to business schools.”

The approved messaging, which Kellogg has trademarked, is the result of a great deal of study and discussion, says Blount. The school produced several “brand essence” videos in the process. “It was feeling a little kumbaya for a while,” laughs Blount. “And then finally there was this moment when we all looked at each other and said, ‘We nailed it’: the essence of where Kellogg is and where it has to go. (See the video here).

“There is no other business school I think that can say we believe that business can be bravely led, passionately collaborative and world changing,” insists Blount. “But that is what Kellogg is about. Kellogg got on the map because we were different. We cared deeply about how you build a strong organization and how you get people to work together more effectively. We’re all about hard work and ambition but doing it with low ego. It’s all about pushing the agenda of the organization forward. It’s about reclaiming that and reexamining how do we teach that in the 21st century. There is no other school in the world that can claim that as readily as we can because of our history and our culture.”


Meantime, Blount says the school has $100 million toward the new building and will soon announce a major gift in the double digits. The new structure, which will be built next to the school’s executive education center, won’t be ready to move into for five years. Blount says Kellogg will give up its current home, the Don Jacobs Center, when the new building comes on stream.

When Blount joined Kellogg as dean, some 30 people reported to the dean’s position. Now she has eight direct reports and three of them are new hires while two more have joined Kellogg less than two years ago. Among the three new hires is Betsy Ziegler, a McKinsey & Co. partner and Harvard Business School alum, who is associate dean of MBA programs; David Eckert, another HBS alum and former Bain & Co. consultant who is now interim head of executive education, and Alissa Cornella, a new development officer from Ohio State.