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Last spring, I learned that I'm a distant cousin of Mississippi civil rights and education pioneer James Meredith....


On Monday, I returned from attending the dedication of a statue and monument honoring him on the campus of Ole Miss, which finally admitted him as its first black student in 1962 after a firestorm of white opposition.
The ceremony was tremendously moving and inspiring, with amazing keynote speakers like actor Morgan Freeman and Georgia Congressman John Lewis. Each speaker lauded Meredith for the significant changes that his actions brought about in propelling the University of Mississippi toward integration and greater education opportunities for all.
But the back story is perhaps more fascinating. Before Sunday's dedication events, Meredith explained to me and my husband John that he plans to retire the brand character he called "James Meredith," and return to the original brand -- his real name, J.H. Meredith.
"For the last 25 years I have been trying to find the right time and occasion to bury 'James Meredith' since his mission has been completed," he said.
He recounted the day when, as a teenager, he tried to get a driver's license. The young white clerk, he explained, refused to give him a driver's license with the initials that were shown on his birth certificate: J.H. So, right there, he made up the name "James Howard Meredith," and for nearly the next five decades, he intentionally used the "James Meredith" brand character to achieve his aims in every way he could. Since 1962, the brand icon "James Meredith" has represented the work of a courageous black man to seek equal first-class citizenship and educational rights on par with white citizens.
I don't think it will be easy for Meredith to retire the brand icon "James Meredith." It has powerful and deeply historical meaning for generations of blacks and whites alike. But Meredith's desire to evolve his iconic brand character is a deeply personal one, and arguably, a more important one.
We professional service marketers often think about evolving a brand or a brand character, seeking compelling reasons to move our organizations to embrace the changes we believe are appropriate. How many of us have as compelling a reason as J. H. Meredith?

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Suzanne Lowe is founder of Expertise Marketing, LLC and author of The Integration Imperative: Erasing Marketing and Business Development Silos – Once and For All – in Professional Service Firms and Marketplace Masters: How Professional Services Firms Compete to Win. She blogs at the MarketingProfs Daily Fix and her own blog, the Expertise Marketplace.

Before founding Expertise Marketing in 1996, Ms. Lowe spent more than a decade leading the marketing programs for top-tier management consulting and business-to-business organizations. Before that, she spent more than a decade managing and implementing strategies for political candidates and organizations.

She spearheads the only widely disseminated research initiative on strategic marketing perceptions, practices and performance of professional service firms around the globe.

In addition, Suzanne Lowe has written or been quoted in nearly 100 articles on the topic of professional services marketing strategy. Her work has appeared in the a rel="nofollow" href="https://harvardbusinessonline.hbsp.harvard.edu/b01/en/hbr/hbr_home.jhtml">Harvard
Business Review, BusinessWeek.com, CMO Magazine, Harvard
Management Update
, and scores of profession-specific magazines and journals, including MarketTrends, Marketer, Marketing the Law Firm, Accounting Today, Engineering, Consultants News, Structure, Journal of Law Office Economics and Management, The Practicing CPA, Environmental Design and Construction, Massachusetts High Tech, Massachusetts Lawyers Weekly, and the Legal Marketing Association’s Strategy. She is a contributor to the second edition of the book Marketing
Professional Services
, by Kotler, Hayes and Bloom. She has also been instrumental in the development, writing and publication of five books and nearly 50 articles and book chapters for her consulting clients.

Suzanne speaks regularly around the world to leading trade associations, industry groups and in-house firm audiences. Her work has also been presented internationally, most recently at the American Marketing Association's annual Frontiers in Services conference. She facilitates a Roundtable of Chief Marketing Officers from some of the world's largest and most prestigious professional service firms. She has guest-lectured at the University of Chicago Graduate School of Business and designs and delivers customized executive education programs in marketing for professional service executives.

She advises the leaders of professional service firms, from small start-up practices to large global organizations.

Ms. Lowe received a B.A. from Duke University.