Thought Leadership Blog

What Great Brands Do

What Great Brands Do


Hint: It is What They Do More than What They Say

What makes a great, even iconic, brand?  Branding expert Denise Lee Yohn seems to have cracked the code in her book, What Great Brands Do

In it, there are seven specific principles that “transform ordinary brands into industry leaders” and in doing so, boost profits, strengthen company culture, and build strong stakeholder relationships.  

  1. Great brands start on the inside, with great employees.  Often, branding strategies are owned to the Marketing Department, but this book argues that great brands start with great employees throughout the organization.  A strong values-based culture and loyal employees will translate to a strong brand.  A brand developed in a vacuum by the Marketing Department will not translate to a great brand. 
  2. Great brands avoid selling products.  Selling the features and benefits of a product is a race to the bottom.  Apple never talks about screen size or processor speed.  Nike does not weigh its communications down with the engineering specifications of its shoes because they are great brands.  Great brands “develop emotional connections with clients.”  Apple demands that we “Think Different.”  Nike tells us to “Just Do It.”  This approach is fundamentally different than most of their competitors – in their field or in any other. 
  3. Great brands ignore trends.  Instead, they look at the bigger picture and make trends themselves.
  4. Great brands do not chase customers.  Yohn recommends that organizations “embrace and celebrate what your brand stands for, and accept that you are not for everyone.”  Tiffany never has sales.  Never.  They are not for everyone, and they are a great brand. 
  5. Great brands sweat the small stuff.  Every aspect of the client journey must be executed perfectly, or it ruins the entire experience.  Even slipping on the finest details can sully your organization’s brand value.  So sweat the small stuff. 
  6. Great brands commit and stay committed.  Your company’s core values and mission must be crystal clear and must be able to stand the test of time.  Your values and mission form the foundation upon which all business must be conducted.  For this reason, Yohn advises that organizations “execute on them relentlessly.”
  7. Great brands never have to give back.  This final strategy may seem counterintuitive, but in fact, when a brand has solid core values and commits to those values sincerely, the very business itself will make a positive social impact.  

Great brands, then, are not about logos and company colors.  Great brands are about having the sincere right values, mission, vision and culture to build something extraordinary. 

Yohn’s book is well researched, and the research is well supported with a variety of insightful examples.  What Great Brands Do provides a practical road map for growth, brand equity and influence – all derived from a new way of thinking about brands.

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