Highly Effective Brands

A couple of weeks ago I was interviewed on the Silicon Slopes Live Podcast, and one of the questions I was asked was “What are the best brands out there in your opinion, and why?” Although my answer was brief, the question made me think more in-depth about what makes a highly effective brand and if our point of view at modern8 aligns when taking a closer look.

In my interview, I defined branding as an emotional response to design that lives in the mind of your customers—reiterating that your brand is not in your logo, your website, your marketing materials, and your catchy headlines (as quippy as they might be). These are merely tools that identify your brand. Our belief and point of view is that you DO have the ability to influence and control the emotional responses of your customer through the design and communication of the strategic pillars that define who you are. Here are those pillars paired with case studies of some of the most highly effective brands in the world, IMO. 

Position– We define this as the ONLY ONLY. What is the only thing that you offer that no one else offers. Do your customers identify you as being the only one? In journalism, the primary facts that need to be understood are WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, and HOW. The technique tells the reader whether the rest of the story is worth reading. The same approach tells your customer whether they should be interested in your products or services. Here’s how brand strategist Marty Neumeir describes the process for Harley-Davidson:

Who: Harley-Davidson
What: The only motorcycle manufacturer
How: That makes big, loud motorcycles
Who: For macho guys (and macho “wannabes”)
Where: Mostly in the United States
Why: Who want to join a gang of cowboys
When: In an era of decreasing personal freedom.

Your Only, Only statement becomes the litmus test for future brand decisions that will keep you on target while ensuring you maintain your difference from the competition.

Promise– We define this as the pledge you make to your customers when they do business with you. Every brand should have a promise—a takeaway. This might be expressed as a tagline or as the brand message on the homepage of your website, and it is always understood as a promise delivered to the customer from the brand owner. Starbucks promises that as a brand they will “Inspire and nurture the human spirit—one person, one cup, and one neighborhood at a time.” Starbucks views themselves as a company that brings more to the world than a great cup of coffee. It views itself as a lifestyle brand to consumers with a promise to affirm that. 

Perspective- We define this as the way your brand sees the world or reacts to specific situations. It defines why “People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” Simon Sinek, who coined the phrase, uses Apple as the best example of a company that leads with a clear and differentiated point of view, which is arguably the reason Apple is the most recognizable and effective brand in the world because “With everything we do, we aim to challenge the status quo. We aim to think differently.” As customers, we like to align ourselves with companies and brands with similar values and beliefs to our own. We often buy to feel like we belong. 

Personality– This is defined by modern8 as a collection of human based adjectives that describe your company’s characteristics, culture, voice, and qualities. Customers don’t buy experiences and products rationally. They are highly influenced by the way they feel and relate to your brand. Disney exemplifies their brand consistently through every detail and experience, and utilizes key adjectives that are integrated into their language to communicate their personality, like magical, friendly, and happy. You’d be hard pressed to find someone, despite their age, who wouldn’t feel those emotions and use those adjectives when stepping into one of Disney’s parks. The personality of Disney is how they win the hearts and minds of their guests. And this is what creates brand loyalty. 

Highly effective brands use design to communicate and connect to their brand pillars. Typically, the initial point of entry is visual, for instance, the Disney scripted logo centered upon a castle, a Harley-Davidson whizzing by, and a beautiful Apple computer being used in your neighborhood Starbucks. We are now living in a design and brand centric world. Design is where the “rubber meets the road.” Without great design based on a strategic foundation, there is no emotional connection and no lasting value.