What Makes Great Brands Great?

Qorvis client logos as part of branding strategy.

Branding gives personality to a company or organization, enhancing its identification or memorability in the minds of customers, shareholders, employees and other audiences. A “brand” is a combination of what level of awareness people have about the company and its products, what they think about them, and – most importantly – why they think the way they do.

Branding goes far beyond designing an appealing logo – branding guides a person’s feelings and interaction with a company or product. It requires a great deal of strategy, creativity and discipline to build and maintain a great brand. Effective brand strategy establishes an explicit or implicit connection between the company, the product and the consumer. Over the years, brand managers and marketers have developed methodologies and principles applicable to almost any brand.

Here are seven winning ways to build a brand.

1 – Think Long term

Defining an identity is not a temporary exercise. Commitment, resources and long-term planning are critical to creating real brand value. The single biggest mistake I see companies make is branding for the short term.

This was especially true among many consumer products companies back in the 1990s, when products were launched quickly, supported lightly and disappeared just as fast as they appeared. This created a lot of “brand churn” as consumers saw little differentiation between products and, as a result, showed little brand loyalty. When making purchase decisions, consumers opted for the lowest price, resulting in lower profits.

Today, in an age of accelerating product proliferation, enormous consumer choice and growing clutter in the marketplace, a great brand is no longer a luxury but a necessity. More and more marketers are taking longer-term views toward brand building and making the needed investments. In turn, they are reaping the benefits of brands that can transcend markets, speak to many different customer segments at once and command premium pricing.

2 – You Can Be Anything, But You Have to Be Something

Almost any company, product or service is brandable. Think of Intel – it is a company whose product is invisible to the consumer yet it has one of the strongest and most memorable brands in the world. With the right communications strategy and program, you can ascribe a set of values, attributes and personality traits to a brand that will resonate with all of your audiences. But creating your brand doesn’t happen by accident. It requires a thoughtful process and methodology that helps you establish the right message, tone and manner. What you are afterward is the creation of a mental image in the mind of the customer that is unique and consistent with marketing strategy.

3 – Know Thyself

There is an adage that says, “If you don’t know where you are going, then any road will get you there.” This is especially true when it comes to branding. To establish the right brand values, you have to first understand your company, products and services – inside and out. And that requires research. Qualitative and quantitative measurement techniques provide the scientific basis and discipline to get to the core brand concept and the values that will guide the strongest consumer association.

4 – Reinvent Your Category

Creating a brand also provides an opportunity to raise the bar and lead your industry or sector. A brand can transcend market barriers and reach well beyond a single category. The best example of that is probably Nike, which has established a brand that goes well beyond athletic apparel but in many ways defines what it means to be an athlete.

5 – Tap into Emotion

Having a great product is important, but it is really just the required ante to be successful in the market. Studies repeatedly show that 85 percent or more of our purchasing decisions are in one way or another driven by emotion. To build a successful brand, the brand strategy must make an emotional connection at some level with all target audiences.

6 – Keep It Fresh

The story of a great brand is never completely told. It needs to continue to evolve over time. Great marketers accomplish this with narrative and storytelling that help bring the brand to life and keep audiences looking forward to the next evolution.

7 – Be Consistent

A challenge facing many companies is consistency. A clear and common theme, message and brand across product lines, divisions and geographies is a complex undertaking that often requires some form of internal “brand monitoring” to ensure a disciplined and consistent approach.