highly effective brands

I attended our client Mercato Partners’ Sales Summit last week (an event for which we created the identity, Web site and signage) where I heard a number of great presentations, and connected with others. Among the presenters was Mark Hurst, a long-term business associate, who I’ve known since the early ‘80s. Mark talked about the relationship between brand strategies and sales strategies. After dispelling common brand misconceptions, showed a slide listing seven branding definitions—really more like branding attributes. Here they are, with my own elaborations and thoughts about each attribute.

A promise; an inviolate contract. Every brand should have a brand promise, the “take away” you should get from every engagement with the brand. Sometimes expressed as a tagline, or as the brand message on the home page of your Web site, but always understood as the promise delivered to you, the customer, from the brand owner.

Preemptive ownership of enduring benefits. If you’re the first brand in a new category, there is no competition. You preempt them. But “first to mind” is what counts. Many successful brands have not literally been first. Duryea built the first automobile in America, but Ford was the first brand to own a share of the mind (and the only American brand that’s doing well today).

Measureable value of trust with audience. Trust is the foundation upon which a brand is built. Customers trust your brand when their experiences consistently meet or beat their expectations.

A cluster of experiences. No single experience defines your brand in the mind of your customer. It’s a cluster of all the touchpoints they experience, from the way you answer the phone, to the way you solve a complaint, from your business card to your Web site, and from the appearance of your product to the appearance of your facility.

The thread that weaves into user fabric. Become the brand for which your customer believes there is no other substitute—the choice that happens by default. It’s natural, because you’re always there, because you are part of their lives.

An emotional connection with the users. You can’t win the hearts and minds of your customer with strategy. It requires an emotional connection. And that happens with implementation, not strategy. Design is where the rubber meets the road. Without great creative, there is no emotional connection.

A feeling you have about a product or service. We’re not as rational and pragmatic as we think we are. In fact, we’re predictably irrational. We base our buying decisions more on symbolic cues, like feelings, image and looks. We often buy to feel like we belong.