Ten things good branding will do.

Branding is more than a logo, it profoundly impact both the company and its customer.

Breeds familiarity.

Expectations met through consistency (McDonald's)

Remember those road trips that lasted into the night on an interminable and unfamiliar dark stretch of highway, all the while hungry and needing a rest room? Suddenly, out of the night and looming over the horizon—the Golden Arches. Even if you never went to a McDonald's at home, what a welcome sight when out on the road and in foreign territory. It may not be haute cuisine, but you always knew what to expect and it made you feel at home.

Increases recognition.

Memorable imagery placed with a purpose (Shell)

I've actually seen gas stations with only the familiar scallop shell and their colors, red and yellow, and instantly identified them as a Shell stations. The word "Shell" never appeared on the canopy or the sign on the corner. They can do that because they've been around for over a century, and even though the scallop shell has little to do with gasoline, we still associate it with Shell. Interestingly, even though Apple stores have only been around for a decade, all you'll see over their door is their bite-out-of-an-apple logo—and everyone knows exactly what it is. (Maybe owning an iPad is just more fun than buying gasoline.)

Establishes position.

Positive differentiation through projected values (Target)

There's a great scene in the Morgan Freeman movie, 10 Items or Less, where he plays a wealthy movie star and is unsuspectingly dragged into a Target for the first time. He is astonished by the variety, quality, and prices. Target wasn't always like that. A brilliant retailer, Ron Johnson (later hired by Steve Jobs to develop the now wildly successful Apple store), reinvented Target and subsequently made it a fun place to shop. It's not Nordstroms, but neither is it Walmart. We know what kind of shopping is best served by a trip to Target—it's the first store you visit when you're moving your college freshman into their dorm and you're a thousand miles from home. It's fun, fresh, funky, and still somehow fits all ages.

Creates community.

Desire of presence through memorable experiences (Apple stores)

During a recent weekend visit to an Apple store, I happened to comment to an employee how many kids (teens) were in the store. He confided that during the summer and holidays they’ll spend the whole day there, just hanging out. If you haven't been to one, do yourself a favor and make your own visit. The entire mall will be dead, but the Apple store will be jamming. Seniors taking lessons, a student hanging out at the Genius Bar for help, children in the kid's area playing games, and some people actually buying stuff. Something for everyone, and who doesn't want to be surrounded by the coolest gadgets on the planet (yes, I've had the Kool-Aid)?

Drives strategy.

Defines marketable characteristics and attributes (Apple)

There is a not-to-be-missed TED talk by Simon Sinek, based on his book, Why. His premise is that "people don't buy what you do, they buy why you do it." He talks about the difference between Dell and Apple—Dell makes computers to make computers; Apple makes computers that are easy to use, built well, secure, and are beautiful to look at. It helps to explain Apple's growing market share against the tide of all the others on the decline. It also explains why Apple fosters such fierce loyalty that all the other makers must envy. It's much easier to develop a market strategy around an exciting and well-respected brand like Apple. In fact, they have to do very little at all to get people to camp out for 3 days to just to buy a phone or tablet.

Builds credibility.

Reputation and trust (Mercedes)

I’ll never own a Mercedes—for a variety of reasons. But I can dream. One of the early philosophies of Mercedes Benz was to build a car that a young couple would buy and hang onto for 20 years. At that rate, they'd be getting a pretty good deal, amortizing the high sticker cost over many years. However, it seems those who can afford one in the first place turn them over more often than that. But I digress. The point is (and not to pick on any one brand) that if you park a Mercedes next to a Chevy and ask an observer which has the better reputation, I predict the odds would be overwhelmingly stacked on the side of the former. And more practically, when we order plane tickets or think about going out to dinner, reputation plays large in our choice. Had a bad experience with that airline? Some people will never fly that airline again. That family diner has a reputation as a greasy spoon; the other has bright lights and a clean floor? You know which you would pick.

Defines culture.

Codifies personality through story and history (Nordstroms)

If you ever read the best-selling In Search of Excellence, you read stories about Nordstroms' unparalleled customer service. One of my favorites comes from the author, Tom Peters, himself. Just before the lunch break at a large conference, he was telling the audience that Bill Nordstrom, the CEO, always answered his phone personally. After the break someone in the audience raised the hand and announced he had called Bill Nordstrom at lunch. Mr Peters immediately thought "uh oh," this guy is going to make me a liar. Tom nervously asked the caller what happened when he dialed the number. The reply? "He answered it." Any brand we are talking about is either in the driver's seat of their story...or in serious trouble.

Fosters belonging.

Brings people together through a common bond (Cubs)

Despite living near Chicago for several decades, I'm not much of a sports fan, let alone a Cubs fan. But I do know lots of people who are both. And it's pretty much an accepted fact among baseball aficionados that Cubs fans are fiercely loyal. They have to be, following a team that has not won a World Series in over a 100 years. And there is a brand at play here—a powerful brand. One that has millions of people in California, Texas, and even in Massachusetts wearing Cubs’ jerseys and waving their pennants. It's not just merchandise or story or Sammy Sosas. It's a widespread community that links soccer moms on the West Coast with middle-aged businessmen in Florida and teenagers on the South Side of Chicago. That's a power that doesn't develop overnight—but is worth the long-term cultivation.

Increases worth.

The equity of a well-established brand (Lexus)

I share a little joke among advertising friends—when a big proposal comes through we say to the other, “hang on a second—I have to call the Lexus dealer.” Not sure how we landed on Lexus as the example—it’s a young brand compared to the venerable Mercedes Benz. But in its relatively short life, the name has become equated with success. Toyota made a brilliant move when they decided to make a luxury car. Don’t call it a Toyota. Call it something else, something special. Conversely, you can argue Volkswagen wasn’t as astute when they introduced their luxury model, the Phaeton, as still a Volkswagen. Who wants to have a $100,000 car with a VW logo on the grill sitting in their driveway, when you can have one with the Mercedes star for less? Those names and symbols mean something to the common person.

Maintains consistency.

Governs how people deliver and receive the brand

There is freedom in limitations. An oxymoron? No. Well, maybe. The point is that if we know where the boundaries are, then we have the freedom to go anywhere and do anything within them. No guessing. Branding must be consistently presented and vigilantly protected. Those presenting it will know how to do that and the audience will know what to expect. No confusion about who is who. All that is important is keeping the flag of the brand waving. But there's room for innovation, too—creativity and free-thinking. Good branding is able to do that while still retaining that same integrity that got the company to where they are today.

Other helpful branding links:

Brand Building Best Practices from UPS

Author: Brad

Tags: branding

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