12 Principles For Building Successful Brands


Based on events of 2022, here are twelve do’s and don’ts to keep in mind as you build your brand in 2023.

Do’s

1. Do Know The Business In Which You Do Business

Please be specific. For example, you are not in the restaurant business; you are not in the fast food business; you are not in the casual dining business, you are not in the burger business. These are generic categories. These are not markets. A market is a specific group of people who have a specific need in a specific context. You are in the business of delivering an exceptional, relevant, differentiated, consistent eating experience time and time again. Brands are a promise of a relevant differentiated experience. CVS does not see itself as being in the drug store or pharmacy business. CVS sees itself as a provider of quality, affordable, convenient, wide-range health care services to help you feel your best.

2. Do Create And Deliver Your Brand-Business’ Brand Promise

Having a Brand Promise means that you know the brand experience you intend to deliver. A Brand Promise summarizes the special contract that exists between a brand and its users. A Brand Promise describes what a brand is intended to stand for in the mind of a specific group of guests and/or prospects. By consistently living up to the Brand Promise, you ensure that your brand(s) will be relevant and distinctive. Peloton has a great brand-business promise but it seems as if this promise is only for Annual Reports. Build your brand-business around your Brand Promise and let your customers and prospective customers know.

3. Do Be Willing To Abandon Practices That Do Not Yield The Results You Want

Just because you have been successful doing something one way for years does not mean that it will continue to be a successful approach. If the holiday Southwest Airlines debacle has shown us anything it is that with climate change generating ferocious, frequent weather events, a hub-and-spoke system may be more successful than point-to-point. Also, technology changes rapidly. Assuming that an outdated technology system can survive a crisis is brand-business mismanagement.

4. Do Continue To Build Brand Power

Powerful brands make money. The goal must be to become the identity that is most familiar, the highest quality and most trustworthy source of a relevant, differentiated promised experience. Example: Apple. Apple always tops the lists of most powerful brands. This brand power provides Apple with a pervasive perception of quality, leadership, innovation and trust. So much so that this year an automotive survey among 200,000 new vehicle owners with a list of 45 brands showed that 26% of these new vehicle owners would “definitely consider” purchasing an Apple vehicle in the future. Toyota came in first for “definitely consider” (at 38%) followed by Honda (at 32%). As of yet, Apple does not make cars.

5. Do Focus On Customer Problems

Please ask your customers what problems, worries, concerns they have with your product/service category, with your specific product/service offering. Asking customers what they want is not productive: you will receive generic answers. Asking people to complain and then finding a solution is the best way innovate and renovate. One of the biggest problems that Southwest Airlines customers complained about was the lack of communication. Of course, their flights were cancelled. But, Southwest’s lack of direct communication and inability to answer the phone was as serious as the flight disruptions and the lost luggage.

6. Do Create And Implement A Brand Architecture For Your Brand Portfolio

Brand Architecture informs how the brands within your portfolio interact. Without an agreed Brand Architecture, brands compete with each other internally rather than compete with competitors externally. There are 5 types of Brand Architecture: Hallmark, Solo, Extended, Family and Combination branding. Remember that it is not necessary to use the same branding approach across the portfolio. Marriott uses the Family branding endorsement approach for many of its brands: Courtyard by Marriot. But Marriott treats its Ritz Carlton brand as a Solo brand.

Don’ts

7. Don’t Reject Your Heritage

Your brand-business was built on something important. Your provenance is critical. You can be contemporary and still leverage your past. Old can be new. Brands such as Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Tag Heuer, for example, are considered adept at maximizing their genuine, authoritative heritage with an emphasis on the future. Car brand Jeep has four Willys models. The descriptor says, “Inspired by the original. Willys takes inspiration from the very first Jeep Brand vehicles built by Willys Overland in the 1940s. Willys today combines heavy duty Trail Rated component upgrades with classic Jeep Brand styling.”

8. Don’t Be Generic

Being generic, offering generic category benefits leads your brand-business to become a commodity with no relevant differentiators. When you stand for everything general, you stand for nothing special. Patagonia does not make outdoor clothing. Patagonia wants to be a brand-business that inspires and implements innovative solutions to our environmental crisis.

9. Don’t Focus Communications Solely On Price

Selling the deal instead of selling the brand cheapens the brand. Rather than saying “Great price” say, “Great brand at a great price.” Peloton spent a lot of marketing dollars on deals and price advertising. The brand-business’ core values were never articulated. Once the leader in indoor fitness, after years of price-based marketing, Peloton is struggling to maintain relevance in its fast-changing market.

10. Don’t Rely On Results To Decide For You

Data do not decide. People decide. Data do not speak. People speak. Use the data to understand and prioritize the decisions that need to be made. Please do not find yourself bogged down in the paralysis of analysis. When Dyson first came on the vacuum scene, competitors were convinced that fledgling Dyson would fail. Why? Data showed that noise was a problem and Dyson vacuums made a lot of noise. One global competitor even manufactured and sold a silent vacuum. The data were not correct. Noise was not the problem: it was the type of noise. Dyson’s noise helped people believe that the Dyson vacuum was powerful and had the strongest suction. The silent vacuum failed because no noise told consumers there was no suction.

11. Don’t Behave Inconsistently

Customers want consistency. Inconsistent behavior erodes trustworthiness. Erratic behavior and changing values confuse customers. Familiarity does not generate contempt: it generates comfort. During the pandemic, familiar brands such as Campbell’s and Kraft saw vastly higher sales. Clearly, Twitter’s daily changes matter to users and advertisers.

12. Don’t Be Complacent

Complacency stops ideas and innovations in their tracks. Complacency stops your brand from keeping up with its customers. Complacency lulls employees into inaction. Complacency crushes curiosity and creativity. When brands and their leaders become complacent, the brands suffer market share loss and under-performance. Complacency leads to brand irrelevance. Complacency stops brands and their leaders from looking outside at what other brands are doing and what are the threats. In 2016, Bloomberg Businessweek pointed out that complacency was at the heart of Levi Strauss’ struggles. The brand-business focused on churning out blue jeans missing the fact that yoga pants and leggings were alternatives for casual wear.

Who knows what this new year will bring for marketing. We cannot predict the future. But, we can prepare by futureproofing our brands. As strategies are generated and tactics defined, please keep this list of Do’s and Don’ts on hand as a guide for enduring, profitable growth.

Contributed to Branding Strategy Insider by: Larry Light, Author of The Paradox Planet: Creating Brand Experiences For The Age Of I

The Blake Project Can Help Differentiate Your Brand: Simply email us, for more about how we can help you define the unique value your brand can own in the marketplace.

Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Growth and Brand Education

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