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5 Secrets of Great Brands

A few years ago Marketing Magazine asked me what the common traits of great brands? There are many observable traits. Humans are attracted to lists, so here are just 5 secrets of great brands.

1. Great brands know you

Great brands embrace research and behavioural insights like their lives depend on it. In fact, they usually invest well above their competitors in research, monitoring and customer insights. Understanding the human condition and customer behaviour helps brands find valuable opportunities to be useful and relevant to their markets. In a world filled with brands competing for market consideration and preference, it’s the brands that know how to stay relevant that end up on top. A good example is Amazon, which built a formidable customer-centric brand experience in publishing and then expanded their mission to, ‘build a place where people can come to find and discover anything they might want to buy online’. (Amazon’s mission statement).

2. They know who they are and why they exist

It is well-known that we now live in an ‘experience economy’. Consumers today have the potential to be more brand loyal than ever, and expect to see ‘under the hood’ in order to best understand a brand’s value and how it aligns with their values, lifestyle and ambitions. Energy, investment and integration of a brand’s identity is now a business performance must. Today, leading brands are demonstrating their purpose and value through experiences, with a high degree of authenticity as judged by their customers (not their executive team!).

3. Great brands are meaningfully different

Great brands develop tangible differentiation through deep customer and market insights, not simple creative ideas. We all know brands that have been so determined to be different, that they either deviated from their core brand image or went places they had no permission going. For instance.

DisneyQuest – The theme park in a box. A VR interpretation of the very successful theme parks – just without the park…or success. Creatively this was a terrific concept – share the Disney story beyond California and Florida, however the core brand is based on brand family appeal, something that wasn’t carried into DisneyQuest.

4. Great brands operate end-to-end, inside-out and outside-in

Great brands invest and work tirelessly to make sure the brand is understood and lived inside and out. Making it on the inside is the only way brands ‘make it’ on the outside. As the former CEO of IBM, Louis V Gerstner Jr, said, “The thing I have learned at IBM is that culture is everything.” Employee and customer touch-point engineering may sound like jargon, but it’s one of the most important ways great brands build advocates. Omni-channel marketing is one thing – great brands aspire to be omnipresent.

5. Great brands have a great story, and employees that are well – cast characters

Every great brand has a story, and often a great story. People like to know why and where brands began and who created them. It satisfies our judgement habit, and helps us assess how well a brand meets our values and self-image. Employees that work for brands are in essence ‘organic billboards’ for their organisation’s brand. Intentionally or not, employees (particularly customer-facing employees) personify the brands they represent, almost as ‘characters’ in a brand production. Great brands highlight their great brand ambassadors – also sometimes known as their employees. Time and time again – the defining moment for a customers brand loyalty is enabled through a positive experience with an employee from a service brand; not to mention the limitless business productivity increases as a result of brand-aligned employee engagement.

(First Published in Marketing Magazine)

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The Brand Institute
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