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Top grade brands have a lot in common

I just returned from the two-day winter meeting of the Brand Establishment in San Diego where Certified Brand Strategists from around the country gathered to discuss brand valuation, brand-business alignment, and best practices we can use to help clients grow their businesses. To get our brains moving after a couple late nights in the Hard Rock Hotel bar, the brand experts were asked to share what their most and least favorite brands are right now and, more importantly, why.

When this question is asked, it’s easiest to name large national brands that everyone knows is either a Grade A brand or a pig wearing lipstick. But, if you look deeper into your daily life, you’ll also think of local or regional brands that fall into those same categories for the same reasons.

This is because being a great brand has nothing to do with the size of the organization, the logo on the door, or the billboard you see on the way to work. It has everything to do with the interaction you have, the feeling you get, and the word on the street. This is not marketing. This is business. And here is what successful brand-driven businesses have in common:

An inspired purpose

If you have ever seen Simon Sinek’s TED Talk called Start With Why, you know the most successful organizations understand “why” they are in business. In San Diego, our brand strategists mentioned several brands that clearly have that sense of purpose.

Tesla is striving to create a world without carbon emission vehicles. SpaceX wants to enable people to live on other planets. And P&G’s Always brand seeks to empower women and celebrate being a girl.

All of these have a vision you can get behind if you share those values. It is much more intriguing than saying Tesla makes cars, SpaceX builds rockets, and Always is a line of feminine products.

Employees who love going to work

Every CEO boasts that “our people are the best in the industry” and whether they are right or wrong doesn’t really matter. Do those people share the vision and values of the company? Do they live the brand and know how to give customers the same experience? Do they love going to work? At all great brands, they do.

According to a Certified Brand Strategist from Ohio, Cleveland-based Vitamix is successfully challenging large national brands because the health-driven culture is pervasive inside the company. The company hires health-oriented employees and gives them healthy lunches, exercise classes, health checks, and other perks that support a healthy lifestyle. That focus and passion is credited with the success the company has achieved in the market.

A consistent customer experience

All fans of the 1980s sitcom, Cheers, know the lyrics: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came.” Can you say the same about all the brands you interact with each day? Me neither.

Fortunately, there are some great companies out there that are always glad to see you. The brand strategist from Massachusetts thinks Sephora has mastered the beauty products shopping experience across all touchpoints – from online to in-store. She believes customers always walk away with the feeling that Sephora genuinely wants to help you look your best. A second strategist summed up as “they are on your face, not in your face.”

A passion for sharing their passion

The most successful brands can’t contain themselves. They feel compelled to share their vision and values with the community around them – a true sign that they are in business for more than profit.

A brand strategist from Texas loves Tom’s shoes, but believes their brand loyalty comes from their ambitious commitment to give a pair of new shoes to a needy child for every pair they sell. Vitamix also scores high with active support of community programs that encourage enjoyment of plant-based whole foods.

So who are the losers?

Our discussion about the least favorite brands could have gone on all day. Suffice it to say a lot of telecommunications, retail, transportation and pharmaceutical companies were on the list. On a positive note, companies in those industries have a great opportunity to create a competitive advantage by becoming a brand-driven organization!

Best tip of the day

One of the brand strategists from Illinois tipped us off to a small Wisconsin brand that is doing a Grade A job with smoked meats, especially bacon. It’s called Nueske’s.  I plan to check them out very soon!


Posted by Grant Kimball
February 20, 2017