Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Brands - Part 1: What are your favorite brands?

As a marketing and branding professional, I view the world through “marketing colored glasses.” When I am in a store or restaurant, I watch employees and servers to see if their actions positively reflect on their brands and wonder how differently they might interact with their CEO if he or she were standing alongside me. Just like you, I have favorite brands, and while talking with a marketing colleague recently, we decided to share the reasons about our favorite brands in a collaborate post.

But first, what is a brand? While a brand strategy is the ultimate business strategy, it is often the least understood. Wikipedia defines a brand as a “name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. A brand is thus a product or service whose dimensions differentiate it in some ways from other products or services designed to satisfy the same need…A brand is the personality that identifies a product, service or company (name, term, sign, symbol, or design, or combination) and how it relates to key constituencies: customers, staff, partners, investors, etc.”

From Walter Landor, a pioneer of brand design and corporate identity: “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.”

From Michael Eisner, former CEO of Disney: “A brand is a living entity – and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.”

From John Stuart, former CEO of Quaker Oats: “If this business were split up, I would give you the land and bricks and mortar, and I would take the brands and trademarks, and I would fare better than you.”

Here are my favorite brands:

Tide: First sold in 1946, this laundry detergent’s distinctive orange and yellow bulls-eye has become a common staple of many American homes. Known above all else as a dependable product that removes dirt, the Tide brand is on six powders and liquid detergents in the US alone. In addition, the Tide Loads of Hope program provides relief in times of natural disaster or crisis by means of a mobile laundromat. One truck and a fleet of vans house over 32 energy-efficient washers and dryers that are capable of cleaning over 300 loads of laundry every day – and the Tide team washes, dries, and folds clothes for families for free.

DSW: As one of the largest retail shoe stores and online shoe stores, DSW stands apart from the competition. If you order items from the website, this is how they arrive: on the outside of the box, there is the message. “Highly Addictive Contents Inside,” and then on the inside, there is a note: “There’s so much fun stuff happening at DSW, thanks for being a part of it. –Mike, CEO and Shoe Lover.” Talk about customer service! There are also regular emails, a rewards program that allows members to accumulate points for cash coupons, and when you call the customer service number, the welcome message is “You are being transferred to the next fellow shoe lover.” DSW definitely understands its target audience of shoe lovers and creates a community of shoe lovers.

Starbucks: Founded in 1971 in Seattle, Washington, this coffee company has over 19,000 locations in 58 countries. The growth of the company created a revolution in an industry that had grown stale. People discovered that they liked ordering coffee in coffee houses or cafes and meeting people for coffee. The brand represents more than just coffee and also symbolizes the good work of the Starbucks Foundation, which nurtures young leaders, supports tea and coffee communities around the world, and focuses on green buildings for cafes. On a personal note, I always look forward to Gingerbread Lattes during the holiday season.

Apple: Beginning with the Mac computer and revolutionary Super Bowl TV advertising in 1984, this brand’s “Think Different” advertising campaign has become a company attitude that is second to none. Thanks to founder and visionary Steve Jobs, the company created trend-setting products that revolutionized industries from music with the iPod to smartphones with the iPhone to tablets with the iPad. All companies aspire to be the Apple of their industries.

Google: This brand has become a household word: the term “to Google something” means to look it up online, and everyone understands this. Despite numerous competitors in the online search space, Google has survived as the leader and has taken the place of online encyclopedias, dictionary, maps, and more. It is a quick answer provider.

The Shack: Also known as Radio Shack, this predecessor to big electronics mega-superstores, the new and improved Radio Shack rebranded as a one-stop technology store. While many marketers and the mass media questioned the new name, it was a departure from the company’s early days when the emphasis was strictly on radio equipment. Today, The Shack is a viable place to go for all types of electronics – especially while many big stores have gone out of business or shut down locations, such as, Circuit City, Best Buy, Office Max, etc.

Now, allow me to introduce Maren Finzer. Maren is a brand strategist in Seattle, Washington. She helps healthy, active, small-to-midsized businesses ignite their brands so that their customers choose them over everyone else. You can sign up for Maren’s free 10-part e-course to learn how to become the only choice on her website and also connect with her on Twitter.

Here are Maren’s favorites:

After recently spending an incredible week exploring and discovering Hawaii on the Big Island, here are some favorite brands from my visit. In addition, I have also detailed a few of my mainland top picks.

Sea Quest in Hawaii: This snorkeling adventure company was founded by a husband and wife couple of snorkeling enthusiasts. They’ve built a team that shares their brand values of snorkeling adventure, fun engaging personalities, and a depth of knowledge of the history and stories of the area. While the varieties of fish, coral, and turtles were expected, what was unexpected was the captain’s flexibility to take guests right into the action. We explored sea caves and lava tubes, were transfixed watching the manta rays, and were captivated to swim with dolphins. Everyone caught the snorkeling bug and did not want to leave.

Big Island Air in Hawaii: Pilot Tom Beard founded his airline business with a unique competitive advantage in mind. He wanted guests to experience the breathtaking beauty of the Big Island from a unique perspective – one that can only be seen from the air. To make his trips unforgettable, he had his planes built so that every seat was next to a window with raised wing craft and lots of leg room. We were captivated by the spectacular vistas of the ever-changing island: black sand beaches, towering sea cliffs, waterfalls in ancient rain forests and valleys, and most awe-inspiring, an active volcano with red hot swirling lava. Tom built a great brand and achieved its purpose: “Can only be enjoyed from above.”

Beach Tree Restaurant at the Four Seasons Resort in Hawaii: While the Four Seasons is an international brand known for its dedication to highly personalized service, this restaurant’s staff embodied the brand. It felt like a little piece of heaven: sitting on the beach, watching the sunset, listening to live Hawaiian music, dining on exquisite foods – all while being totally pampered. The staff captured the hearts of their customers – it was an unforgettable experience.

Tom’s Shoes: The descriptions of easy-going, comfortable, and inexpensive are not what differentiate Tom’s Shoes from other shoe companies. It’s the unique and compelling story behind the “one-to-one” movement that the company started. With each pair of shoes you purchase, the company gives a pair to a child in need. This puts a whole new meaning to caring.

Tennis Pro Mark Schneider: This coach is one of my favorite personal brands. You’ll find him on the courts of the luxurious Boulders Resort in Carefree, Arizona. What makes Mark stand out is Mark. Any tennis pro can teach tennis skills, but Mark teaches confidence. He’s a tennis coach and a confidence coach – and uses his engaging personality to draw the student in so he or she wants to perform better. His motto drives his passion: “Confidence leads to fun, fun leads to passion, and passion leads to fulfillment and success.”

With all these positive comments, we would be remiss not to include a few brands that are on the decline. Tune in on May 10 for Part 2 to see what brands have fallen flat for us. In the interim, what are your favorite brands and why?

1 comment:

  1. Hi Debbie. Love your post and always eager to engage with other brand authorities on this all-important, but often misunderstood concept. As a business instructor, course designer and brand strategist for a small stable of small companies I preach and attempt to persuade the notion of being "on-brand" in everything you do - whether as a company or as an individual. Honest, authentic, real and true are words that quicjkly jump to mind in this dimension of "brand"

    But everyone has/is a brand. The challenge is to create the kind of brand equity that influences mindshare, heart share and ultimately the purchase decision. Thus, as you so effectively point out, the base of any strong brand is a value to customers that reminds them when they need something, brand A comes to mind.

    My take on it is this, and I teach this mantra as well as counsel clients upon it. Shameless plug, it also happens to be the inspiration for the name of my company, Triceratops Brand Logic. Brand management must follow three tenets: compete, contribute and communicate. I'll share more on a separate post, but wanted to touch base and make your aquaintance. Look forward to more of your posts.


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