What is a Star Brand & What They Get Right
The first principle of star brands is clarity. The ancient Greek maxim of "Know Thyself" that speaks to the importance of self-awareness of the individual, also applies to brands. Brands that are clear on their purpose, that they're clear on what has helped them in the past, what has set them back in the past, and what will make them grow in the future, will be ahead of others that don't have this clarity. This includes understanding who are your customers, what are their needs, what are the most important insights that you will tap into so that you can connect with them heart and mind, and also will allow you to have the right effective communication. So clarity is very hard to achieve and as people say, strategy is sacrifice. It requires a set of choices to arrive there, but once you do, you can't help but continue to stay on that path and the consumers will follow. A great example of this is McDonald's. Whether you like McDonald's or not, as a consumer, the reality is as a brand, it...
is a brand experience that has been incredibly consistent, incredibly clear, and you know what you get. And consumers know what they get, no matter where they go around the world. So, that clarity has really helped this brand over the years be the star brand that they are today. So that's principle number one, clarity. The second principle is consistency. And star brands are consistent and recognizable. And this speaks to both their branding and their communication. But, this is easy to show on paper. It's very hard to execute in reality, because consistency requires a lot of discipline, of all the people that touch the brand. But the good news is really it pays out, because frequent exposure to the same set of branding devices, communication, and brand experience, is what allows us as consumers to remember what a brand is all about. Just like you proved, there's certain brands, from the Starbucks to Jaguar to Volvo, to Mini Cooper. They're ingrained in your head, and that's typically not done in one exposure. That happens over time. That's how that brand has been invested in you, in terms of being able to keep that relationship. And the more memorable the brand, the more top of mind it is, the more likely you are to enter in a relationship with the brand, and that's how also sales are generated. And that's why also, you have to be very careful in terms of changing your branding elements too much, because you have been investing in building a specific image with your consumers over time. So you probably have heard many stories of brands that have changed their logos, have changed who they are, and that has really not worked in terms of them losing a large amount of consumers. It's because consistency in branding and consistency in who you are and how you show up makes a big difference when you are talking about brand building. My favorite brand is Coca-Cola. So I have both an emotional attachment to the brand, but also when it comes to consistency, they're best in class when you think about the Coca-Cola red, when you think about the shape of the bottle, and their font. You know, you might even just see the font without those other elements and you can recognize. You know which product. And it's taken them years to accomplish that, but imagine how powerful it is that you just show an element and consumers can recognize it. There is a lot of money in that, and we'll talk a lot about ownable assets as we go through the class. So, we're gonna move to the third principle, which is higher order benefit. And what this means is that star brands aspire to deliver beyond the product and service they sell to contribute to a higher cause, a higher ideal in the world. So this is about surpassing just the goods that you sell, and to really looking to make a meaningful difference with the consumers out there. According to a study conducted by Millward Brown and Jim Stengel, they studied multiple brands, and they came to the conclusion that the 50 fastest growing brands in were the ones that had an ideal and that they were executing the brand, they were making decisions on strategy, and on innovation, following that higher order purpose. So it's not only that it's a great sign of character, a brand that has a higher order purpose. It also makes business sense. So that's one of the principles of star brands, and one of the brands that do this best is Patagonia. Are you guys familiar with the brand? So, actually their mission is that they want to build the best product, causing no harm, and by doing so contribute to implement and find solutions to the environmental crisis. That's an incredible goal worth aspiring to, and you can see how they do this day and out with the products they offer, with how they behave, with their marketing, with what you experience in the store, with what the employees talk about the brand, right? So, you can clearly see when a brand is already playing in this type of higher order business (laughs) than just mere transactions. So, this is a lofty goal, but one that is definitely worth aspiring to when you're role modeling these brands. We're now into characteristic number four, emotional connections, and there's very few brands out there that consumers willingly tattoo themselves to display the brand. And that's not, and that ... We have an example here in the audience, but that's also not uncommon for Harley-Davidson. That brand has transcended anything beyond motorcycle purchase, to really being a lifestyle brand, one that you want to associate yourself if you're the right consumer. That is what emotional connections are. The star brands establish a relationship with the consumers, not transactions. And they're nurtured by the deep understanding of what you want as a consumer. What is that need that I'm trying to solve for you? And they build ways on how to reward the consumer, so that you're actually in a partnership with the brand, and that way the emotional connection is what actually ensures that people buy you and stay with you, because you cannot have a sustainable business if someone buys you only once. It just doesn't work. That's why we have to go way beyond just the convention of putting the product out there and hope that someone buys it, into really transcend and thinking about what is the type of relationship I want to buy with my customers? You want to strive for a longer, deeper relationship with your customers. And the reality is that brands and consumers behave just like human relationships, right? You date at first, you're getting to know each other. Everyone is showing their best, their best behavior and the things that they offer, and then you decide whether you want to enter into a transaction or not. And in this case it's whether the consumer wants to buy the product or service. And that's when you're just in trial period, right? So, you enter the transaction by starting using the product or the service, and then you might judge whether you want to keep using it and buy it again, or that might be the end of the relationship. And this cycle happens in every purchase occasion, right? So using the mindset of relationship building when we talk about brand building is very helpful to know what are the things you have to do along the way to make sure you're building that with your customers. Principle number five, we talk about superior benefits. The benefits a brand offers is what sets them apart from competition. That's why you're in business. And the more distinctive these benefits are, the more appealing they will be to your customers and also the more distinctive, the more customers are willing to pay for them. 'Cause they want. You want to be desirable. And star brands focus on offering relevant and authentic superior benefits. They're not in the business of selling me too products. They excel at delivering, communicating, and nurturing those relationships in a way that the consumer really ideally cannot live without that product. Or it's the number one choice when it comes to that category when they're buying. Again, it goes back to the top of mind. You could have mentioned many cosmetic brands, but no, there is one, and you have a story behind it and you even work for them, right? So, imagine the type of relationship that that brand established with you, right? It is because you find that not only their products, it's all these other steps and characteristics. You can do a check the box. You can see that actually all of them are true. Jim mentioned his favorite brand was Apple. And actually Apple is a great example of superior benefits, in particular that these benefits don't have to be purely functional. Like Apple could have chosen to just speak to us about the list of features, like any technology company does. But that's not what the brand does. They focus more on the emotional benefits and aesthetic benefits that the product provides, or even the promise of unleashing your creativity via a product that is superiously designed and the experience of using the product. So when I talk about superior benefit, it's not about just functional performance. In certain categories, that might be what you need to set yourself apart, but when you think about emotional benefits, that's fair game as well, provided you're doing them better than anyone else. So think about superiority to set yourself apart. The last characteristic is commitment to learning. And star brands behave like learning organizations. And what learning organizations do is that they learn from the past, quickly adapt, and get ready for the future. They start with a compelling vision of where they want to go next, and this will make sure that they're always investing in the next move, and the next customers, and the next products. And that's what will guarantee that they will stay ahead. So Google is a great company when it comes to innovation and being committed to learning. When we think about 10x projects like the self-driving car. Right? That goes well beyond imagination. That goes well beyond the boundaries of today, and more importantly goes beyond their main product, which is search services. Because they know that there's other venues, and other opportunities that they have as a business. And the important part here is to think about what are you doing as a brand, even with the employees that you have or yourself, in terms of documenting what's working, what's not working, and having this ability to adjust as you go. You are not stagnant. Brands are not stagnant because your consumers are non-stagnant. Needs change all the time. And I love thinking about this, you know, idea of evolution theory with Charles Darwin, like if he was to apply his evolution theory to brands, he would talk about learning organizations. And it's not the strongest that survives. It's not the most intelligent that survives. It's those that are most adaptable to change. And that's very true in brand and especially as we started, recall, in an entrepreneurial world. We are in a fast-paced branding world. So that commitment to learning will really guarantee that you will stay ahead. So those are the six core brand principles of what sets these brands apart. We talked about the clarity of knowing thyself. We talked about branding consistency, how that look and feel of the brand is the same regardless of where you experience it, higher order purpose, how you actually make a meaningful difference in a consumers' life, emotional connections, are you touching the heart so that you can have a lasting relationship? Superior benefits, are you really going above and beyond to be the best, to set yourself apart from what other products or services are being offered? And commitment to learning. If we're able to emulate the six principles, you guaranteed will be on a better path to connect with consumers in a way that will translate into more sales, more relationships, and as a result, in a more thriving business. Now, knowing which characteristics to emulate is just the beginning, but we're starting on the right path. Now we need to learn how to do it. But that's why we have the star brand model, which is going to do exactly that, walk us through a series of steps on what are the choices that you need to make with your brand in order to not only arrive to these principles, but also actually build the core elements that need to be in place for your marketing strategy to work, for sales to come as a result, and then how can that last over time? So that's why it's a model, and it applies to any brand, and I'll explain in more detail on how is it that you can approach following that process along the way.