Saturday, September 26, 2009

Judging the brand – large and small

What makes a brand better? And what are the criteria we use to judge a brand's level of greatness? What makes it interesting and larger than life?

Does it need to be national, used around the world or consumed by millions? Does it have to be a household name? It is imperative that its name be part of culture or play a part in the social consciousness? Is it crucial that the marketing budget be huge?

Not really. Many great brands meet none of these points and many would prefer to keep it that way. So often folks talk about the big brands. The exciting initiatives developed, produced and sold on a national level to everyone. We'd agree, there are some big brands on the market doing some amazing things. But there are also tons of small to medium-sized companies putting together some great stuff too, right? And the point here is that we can learn from all of them – large and small.

Brands that resonate with consumers in a ways that are real. Brands whose very essences are continuing to connect with individuals on a daily basis. These are the brands that are establishing the Authentic Dialogue (see our post on 7/27/09). In each case, the brand is bigger than its name. More meaningful than its mark. Measured by more than just its shelf space. Bigger than just its ad budget. A product or service that has become meaningful in people's lives.

And it isn't necessarily some formulaic equation that results in the ultimate product or service with a cool name. It isn't always about the results from a pricey research study. No, in fact, in many cases it is more about a brand's purpose in the marketplace and perhaps in society. These are the ones to pay attention to – and some of the most interesting to follow. Brands that know their raison d'etre.

There a few brands that seem to know why they are here. Those responsible have a good idea about why this brand exists. Why it matters. Why you should care. It does not mean all things to all people. It is not trying to please everyone. Those involved are trying to be true to the brand (whether we are talking about owners, brand managers, marketing directors, assistants or warehouse folk). You can feel the passion they have when they talk about these products or services. They are speaking in a unified manner. Because these are brands that are the true reflections of a company's core values. These are the small and the large. The local, national and international.

Here are some brands that we admire in this respect.
  • Green Living, right here in Dallas, Texas, has known what it has stood for for years. The folks here at this local eco-shop were very green before green became mainstream. "Earth friendly goods for the home" sums it up quite nicely.
  • Tom's Shoes sells shoes and takes care of the less fortunate. They have a "One for One" policy. So with every pair of TOMS shoes you purchase, the company will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need.
  • Crooked Tree Coffee House sells a great cup o' joe, supports the city's artists and gives entrepreneurs an affordable alternative to office space. Oh, and on top of that they sell well-intentioned brands that help feed to the hungry and do right by fair trade and the environment.
  • Method, is not only a brand that is "against dirty", but one whose core values tie to leaving things better than they found them. Yes, the design is amazing. Yes, this brand has become "big time." But in all of their communication (whether in packaging, on the web or wherever) this brand doesn't stray from a sincere reflection of its core values.
  • Rogue Ales has a brand purpose that is much deeper than just an extremely tasty brew (and they are damn tasty). As the folks at Rogue say, they are "a small revolution." Check them out, they are definitely true to their movement.
The above may or may not have made your list. And there are so many more to discuss. So many interesting brand stories. So, we want you to contribute to this discussion. Thoughts?

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The Authentic Dialogue

The Authentic Dialogue
Striking up a real conversation with your customer can be tough.