From Brand Strategy to Brand Fame: Your ticket to sustained growth and customer loyalty.

From Brand Strategy to Brand Fame: Your ticket to sustained growth & customer loyalty.

Every company wants its brand, product, or service to be the one that is top of mind in the market. When you ask founders and CEOs about their vision, they will often tell you they want to be “number one” or become the “industry leader” in whatever they do.

As marketers, we all want the brands we work on to be just that—number one. Even if “to be number one” vision statements are as cringe-worthy as a TikTok creator dancing in public, we want to be the brand that people search for on the shelf, tell their friends about, and are top of mind when someone needs to make a purchase decision.

But how do we build something big, sticky, and famous enough? Something worthy that people want, need, and crave? Something they will rally behind, brag about, and even fight over to defend?

In this article, we will explore what it means to think, strategize, and go beyond brand awareness to reach a status of brand fame. We unpack the value and impact that come with it and show you how to craft a brand strategy that will drive long-term sustained growth and customer loyalty.

What is Brand Fame?

I’m sure all of you know exactly what brand awareness is, but I am willing to bet that some of you are not completely sure what I am talking about when I speak of brand fame.

Brand fame is not some superior level of brand awareness. It’s closer to Hollywood fame, big sports fame, or political fame. Red carpet stuff, really.

Why do you adore a particular celebrity or vote for a specific political figure? Why do people part with their hard-earned cash to buy Apple or Gucci when there are perfectly fine, functional alternatives to choose from?

Brand fame is the widespread recognition and established perception of a brand among the general public or within a specific niche. It goes beyond simple brand awareness and is about a deep association with the values, emotions, and experiences a brand represents.

Achieving brand fame means that your brand’s presence becomes part of people’s everyday lives. It often becomes a household name or a coffee machine term around the office, symbolizing a specific standard of quality or a unique identity that sets it apart from competitors. “Google it,” “Get an Uber,” or “Send me a Slack” are probably some of the best examples of this.

Being famous, however, doesn’t necessarily mean world-famous.

Niche Famous is also Famous

A brand can also be famous in a niche, industry, or category. Take Boss, for example (not those models with smoldering poses you see on Instagram, but the subbrand from music equipment giant Roland). Many of you have never heard of the brand before, but anyone here who has ever picked up a guitar with serious intent likely knows that Boss makes some of the world’s best sound effect pedals and that you are unlikely to find a guitarist on a stage without one in his/her arsenal.

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For small companies and startups, becoming famous might seem like a farfetched idea and a dystopian-like state they probably will never reach. The harsh reality is that this is true for the most part— and you need to accept that you won’t be rivaling Coke, Nike, or Apple anytime soon.

But being famous as a brand doesn’t mean that you have to be Taylor Swift. If there is only one guy in a small town, who plays guitar and sings at the local watering hole, everyone in that town will know him and probably come watch if they fancy some live music on the weekend.

Your objective should be to become famous within your niche and industry. You want to be top of mind or considered as an option when your target audience goes shopping for what you are selling.

How exactly is Brand Fame different from Brand Awareness?

In its simplest form, brand awareness is the knowledge of your brand’s existence. It is measured by how many people know about you, what they know about you, and how much they can recall about you. For instance, if someone sees your company’s logo, do they know who you are, what you stand for, and what you sell?

Brand fame is less about recognition and knowledge about your existence and more about mental availability. Marketing legend Byron Sharp defines mental availability as “the probability that a buyer will notice, recognize, and/or think of a brand in buying situations.

Consumers are more likely to purchase products from famous brands than from brands they have never heard of. Obviously, there are exceptions to this—if you are starving, you will buy and eat whatever is available. Or if you are thirsty and have no other option than a no-name soda, you’ll stomach it.

But in most cases, people will opt for famous brands for reasons they themselves can’t explain without falling over their words and grasping at the programmed perception in their minds.

The Impact of Brand Fame

I’m going to get straight into the juicy stuff here so that you are enticed to read the rest of this article. Brand fame directly correlates to leads, sales, growth, customer loyalty, price elasticity, survivability, and competitive defensibility.

I know I just dropped a bag of terms heavy enough to leave a dent in Elon Musk’s boardroom table. But the thing is, Elon gets this and has leveraged brand fame to become one of the most successful businessmen in human history.

People buy Tesla because they trust the founder and believe in his vision. If Tesla had been founded by someone you have never heard of, it’s highly likely that the brand would have never been as famous as it is today.

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From a pure metrics standpoint, as brand fame and mental availability increase, customer acquisition cost (CAC) and cost of goods sold (COGS) decrease.

Below is a little unofficial graph I created to illustrate this. You are welcome to show it to your CEO and CFO next time they question your budget allocation to brand marketing. Stand firm and hold your ground – investing in your brand IS important. I’ll happily die on that hill with you.

Brand Fame impact

The simple reason for this is that the more famous your brand is, the less money you have to spend on making your audience aware of your existence and educating them on the benefits of your product. It takes less time, effort, and resources to try to convince your audience to choose you over your competitors.

Brand fame is like having a perfect, free, always-on campaign running. Famous brands live rent-free in consumers’ minds and memories.

The more famous a brand is, the more desired it is, and the more likely it is to be included in someone’s consideration set when shopping for just about anything in this world.

A good recent example of this is Microsoft. They have to spend extensive resources to convince the audience of its Surface product range that the new models are functionally and technically a “better” purchase than the MacBook Air. Yet, they will not be able to outsell Apple in this category, and they will sure as hell not convince die-hard Apple loyalists to switch over to Windows.

This is true for any category and industry, from enterprise software to cosmetics and fast-moving consumer goods. People default to the industry leader, the famous one. They buy the one they remember, read about, and hear about ALL THE TIME. People buy the strongest brand.

This is why Coca-Cola continues to outsell Pepsi even when Pepsi wins the blind taste test.

Brand fame defies logic in many cases – it shortcircuits the human brain and affects us in a way similar to religion. We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we will never meet.

Famous brands win all the time.

Growth and Sales

The more famous your brand is, the more likely someone will choose your product or at least consider it.

Everyone in the category competes with famous brands and industry leaders. Famous brands need to put in less effort to convince people to buy from them. While smaller, lesser-known brands have to spend money just to be an open Chrome tab on someone’s browser when researching a new product, service, or software.

As Prof. Mark Ritson puts it, “You’re very fucked if you are a small brand.” Small brands will always compete with the biggest fish in the pond and, more often than not, draw the short straw. Ritson explains that it’s not a David vs Goliath scenario. Brand success stories have always been about big brands getting ahead and staying ahead.

Customer Loyalty

Brand fame comes hand-in-hand with equity and loyalty among consumers. Have you ever heard someone swear by a brand or a product? I bet it’s a famous brand they are swearing by. People even swear by brands they have never even used themselves. Simply because they’ve heard it’s the best or because someone they know uses it.

Customer loyalty directly leads to positive word-of-mouth, repeat purchases, and increased customer lifetime value—or simply money in the bank.

Most people are very reluctant to leave a famous brand they are loyal to. They don’t easily switch to something else, especially not something new. Yet companies all over the world are dishing out millions of dollars to try to win consumers over and get their piece of the pie.

Competitive Defensibility

Famous brands enjoy competitive defensibility because of customer loyalty. They are immune to persuasive advertising and promotional efforts from competing brands. Just try to convince a BMW or Mercedes driver to switch to Skoda—go ahead; I’ll wait. It’s more likely that they will switch over to another famous brand like Tesla if they fancy going electric and care about the planet.

The same applies if you try convincing many marketers to switch from Mailchimp or Hubspot to some new email tool or CRM that launched earlier this year. You are fighting a losing battle, pushing up a wet, muddy hill with little reward waiting at the top.

Price Elasticity

The impact here is two-fold:
(1) Consumers are willing to pay more for famous brands, and
(2) they are less likely to be put off by price hikes.

People are willing to pay a premium for perceived quality, status, and the trust label that comes with certain brands.

No one in their right mind spends $2000 on a Gucci bag because of its functionality; it’s about the self-expressive benefits that come with it—that bag just looks better in a selfie. If the price rises to $2500, it will likely not affect the target audience’s decision to buy it. It won’t suddenly push them to go for something that doesn’t come with the same status and quality.

Dolf van den Brink, CEO of Heineken, perfectly summarized it when he recently made the powerful statement in defense of a price increase: “Brand power today is pricing power tomorrow.

The stronger your brand is and the more mental availability it enjoys, the more people are willing to pay for it. They might complain about price hikes in the short run but will convince themselves to buy it anyway.

Famous brands enjoy more freedom in the market and are also much less likely to be affected by economic downturns and inflation’s negative impact. At the end of a rough month, they clean out what’s left in people’s wallets.

The Impact of Branding

Let’s take a small step back and zoom out just a little. To understand brand fame and how to create fame, you have to understand branding as a whole. After all, brand fame is the result of a sound and solid brand strategy. It is not something that merely happens or spawns into existence when the CEO asks the social media manager to make a post go viral.

Here are 16 statistics from a few recent consumer studies on branding to help set the mood:

Why is branding so damn important?

  • 80% of people regularly buy name-brand food and grocery items.
  • 81% of consumers need to trust a brand to consider buying it.
  • 77% of consumers prefer shopping from brands they follow on social media.
  • Consistent branding can increase a company’s revenue by up to 23%.
  • Consistently presented brands are 3-4 times more likely to achieve strong brand visibility.
  • On average, it takes 5-7 brand interactions for a person to recall a brand.
  • 33% of buyers have already chosen a brand before they go shopping.
  • 65% of consumers say that a brand’s CEO and employees influence their decision to buy.
  • 68% of people like to spend time reading about the brands they find interesting.
  • 62% of consumers say that their purchase decisions are heavily influenced by a brand’s values.
  • 76% of Gen Z consumers state that they like buying from brands that serve a greater purpose.
  • 77% of B2C consumers are likely to make a purchase based on a brand name.
  • 76% of B2C consumers have purchased a product based on someone else’s recommendation.
  • 94% of customers recommend brands they connect with emotionally.
  • 46% of customers tend to pay more when purchasing from a trusted brand.
  • 59% of consumers would wait for products to be back in stock at their favorite brands’ stores or websites rather than shop elsewhere.

    (Sources: Accenture, Lucidpress, G2, Sprout Social)

I can keep this up all day, but what is essential is to understand that your brand is your most important marketing asset and justifies having a solid foundation, a well-thought-out strategy, and ongoing investment. Even if the CFO disagrees and wants quick wins, not investing in your brand will leave you in the dust as you watch your competitors get ahead of you in the long game.

Airbnb CEO and founder Brian Chesky recently said their investment in brand building has led to Airbnb becoming a “noun and a verb” and has “enabled them to maintain the same level of marketing investment year after year.” Ever heard someone say, “Book an Airbnb”? That’s brand power right there.

Big, famous brands get this and double down on it.

As a brand specialist, it pains me to see new companies focus so much on their product and just pushing sales. More often than not, brand strategy is nowhere to be found, and investments in brand development are not made until it’s too late. Building a brand should be a priority right from the get-go.

What is Brand Strategy?

I always explain that a brand is a perception held in the mind of an individual about a person, organization, or group. It is made up of a collection of physical elements, as well as emotional and psychological connections. It is what people see as much as it is what they feel and believe.

A brand strategy is a framework that determines how businesses present themselves to consumers and differentiate themselves from competitors. It is a blueprint that predetermines and curates what you want people to think, feel, and know about your brand. A brand strategy is about more than just a name, logo, fonts, and colors. It includes elements like a brand’s vision, mission, purpose, values, personality, and promises to its customers.

How to build a Brand that can achieve Fame

To build a famous brand, we need to understand the basics of building a brand, a brand identity, and a purpose-driven strategy.

I love this quote by Ren Jones: “Marketing is like asking someone out on a date; branding is the reason they say yes.” What do you wear, what do you smell like, what’s your personality like—what is there to like about you, and what makes some people fall in love with you?

To build a strong, famous brand, we need to start with the foundation—the brand’s essence. Without a brand strategy, it’s like building a house on sand. The brand essence serves as a blueprint and light in the dark, guiding business decisions and setting the course in the market. A brand’s essence also forms an important part of its differentiation strategy and is what we use to create and design a brand identity.

Let’s dive in.

Brand Essence Wheel

Brand Essence: A Strategic Foundation for Growth

Name and Symbol

A company’s name and any visual elements like a symbol, color, or typeface serve as its primary identifier, call sign, and visual trademark.

Most companies start with someone really just sucking this out of their thumb and paying some rookie designer $25.00 to grab a free icon off the Canva library.

Some people are clever and witty about it and pick names like “Dentist near me.” Others take the deep association route that sets them up for a meaningful brand story, like the famous brand Nike, named after the Greek goddess of victory. Nike’s famous swoosh logo, which represents the goddess’s wing, was designed by Carolyn Davidson for a staggering $35.00 way back then.

Nike and its “cheap” logo went on to become the global icon we all know and love. The name and logo work because they are short, memorable, and have a story to back it up. They represent something bigger.

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A logo doesn’t have to be expensive to be good. However, brand names and logos need to be well-thought-out and strategically planned. They play a significant role in helping build a brand and shaping perceptions in the market.

Here are 9 things to keep in mind when choosing a name and logo for your brand:

It needs to reflect your brand identity:

Ensure the name and logo accurately reflect a brand’s values, story, vision, and the products or services it offers.

It needs to be memorable:

Choose a name that is easy to remember and a logo that is recognizable at a glance. Short, one-word brand names are always a good idea.

It needs to be simple:

A simple, clean design is always more effective than a complex one, which can be difficult to make out, understand, and remember.

It needs to be unique:

A brand name and logo should stand out from competitors in the market and not be easily confused with other brands. Designers: make it pop.

It needs to be scalable:

Make sure the logo looks good in various sizes and mediums, from a tiny icon on a website to a large billboard. The world is 4-dimensional, and people are likely to see the logo in a digital setting more than in a physical one. This is why you have seen so many big brands simplify their logos over the past few years.

It needs to be “available”:

This should go without saying, but check the trademark databases and website domains to ensure the name and logo aren’t already taken. The last thing you want is a company name similar to that of a famous pop artist or to end up having to go with some shitty website domain.

It needs to be culturally okay:

Be sensitive to cultural meanings and avoid names or symbols that could be offensive or have negative connotations in other languages, regions, or religions.

It needs to appeal to your target audience:

Consider your target demographic, do your research, and pick something that appeals to them, not the founder. The name and logo should resonate with the people you want to reach and sell to.

It needs to be future-proof:

Last but not least. Think long-term.

Will the name and logo still be relevant and effective as your brand grows and evolves? If you add more product ranges and offerings, will it still fit?

Remember, a brand’s name and logo are often the first things people see, so it’s important to make a strong, positive, and memorable impression.

In most cases, you are already working with an established brand and only need to worry about the name and symbol if a rebrand or refresh is on the horizon. Or if you are working for a branding agency that regularly creates new brand identities.

Vision and Mission

It all revolves around a purpose, a vision, and a mission. What do you stand for, what are you setting out to achieve, and how will you achieve it?

Strong brands have a purpose. What they stand for is what attracts a crowd of followers and loyal customers over time. The vision guides the way and seeps through every aspect of the organization and its offerings.

The father of branding, David Aaker, emphasizes the significance of brand purpose as a pivotal element of modern brand strategy. Aaker teaches that brand purpose should go beyond functional benefits and include values, brand personality, and emotional and self-expressive benefits.

If you are interested in reading more about this, I recommend following David on Linkedin
and reading some of his books on the subject matter.

Think about some of the biggest brands in the world—you know what they stand for. Their purpose is as famous as their logos. This is not a coincidence but rather the product of a clever brand strategy.

Dove: Promotes real beauty and is dedicated to boosting self-esteem among women and girls.

Patagonia: Known for its high-quality outdoor gear, has made a significant commitment to sustainability, using eco-friendly materials and supporting environmental initiatives. Yvon Chouinard, the 83-year-old founder of the brand, recently announced that he has placed 100% of the shares of his $3 billion company in a trust, which will direct future profits to protecting the environment and combat climate change. For consumers, this means buying Patagonia helps save the planet.

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Having a purpose and standing for something more than just sales give brands substance, meaning, and cultural relevance.

A mission statement defines the organization’s business objectives and how it will reach them. A vision statement details where the organization aspires to go. Why does a company exist? What does it hope to accomplish in the next several years?” (Atlassian)

Google’s vision statement is “to provide access to the world’s information in one click.”
Its mission: “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

A vision should be aspirational and leave room for the imagination.

In Google’s case, their vision makes sense as a guiding light when thinking about their products—translations, maps, search engines, browsers, etc. Everything they build revolves around their vision—providing access to the world’s information as easily as possible.

Toyota, a Japanese brand famous for high-quality motor vehicles, has the following vision: “Toyota will lead the future mobility society, enriching lives around the world with the safest and most responsible ways of moving people.”

Toyota’s vision often confuses people, but I bet many of you don’t know they make wheelchairs and technology to help people with movement disabilities. But now, knowing this, it suddenly makes complete sense that they are one of the biggest sponsors in the Paralympics.

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Having a strong vision and a higher purpose sets winning brands apart from mediocre ones. In the long run, this is what matters, not product benefits. As the age-old saying goes – “The wise man builds his house on a rock, not on sand.” When it comes to building a brand, your vision and purpose are the rock you build your house on. You need a strong foundation to build something lasting. This is how companies build brands that stay relevant for generations. It takes time, but it creates the foundation for becoming famous.

Values and Culture

Building on the vision and purpose, leading brands have a set of core brand values that humanize them. Values clearly state what a brand stands for, how the company operates, and guide what it puts out into the world.

Most people are familiar with these as we encounter them on job listings, career pages, and conversations with recruiters. They are often sold to you coated in more sugar than the sweetest donuts from Dunkin’. But they serve a great purpose. And no, I’m not referring to “a ping pong table in the office”; I’m referring to the likes of these:

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When constructed well, values guide both the internal culture and the customer experience. They dictate how employees should act at work as well as how they should treat customers. They also set the standard for the quality of their products and services.

One of my favorite examples is Cool Blue, a big Dutch e-commerce brand whose culture is based on its exceptional customer experience. Their slogan, “Anything for a Smile,” is more than just some marketing dust a creative copywriter sprinkled. You can feel this in every part of the journey, every interaction, and every touchpoint—especially when something goes wrong.

The customer service is almost too good. When you want to return something or tell them something is broken, they don’t ask questions; they just sort it out and make sure you leave happy—and in actual awe.

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Brand values and culture are important elements in designing the customer experience, which is one of the primary pillars of brand development. Take care when crafting these, and don’t just slap words like Bold, Hard-working, and Collaboration onto a careers page.

Brand Personality

Going deeper into the humanization of the brand – if your brand was a person, who would he/she be? What are his/her personality traits? How does he/she speak, act, sound, and come across?

Imagine you get a baby, and you can program what that human should be like—that is what you are doing when creating a brand. Carefully construct its personality, tone of voice, and persona.

This should always come from a place of target audience research. You are making a friend or mentor for your customer—someone they can fall in love with, laugh with, find comfort in, look up to, dream with, learn from, or have fun with.

In his brand identity model outlined in the book Brand Leadership, Aaker breaks the core brand identity into four dimensions: brand as a product, brand as an organization, brand as a person, and brand as a symbol.

Brand as a person, requires curating its personality and determining its relationship with the audience. Will your brand be their friend, teacher, or mother figure?

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The worst thing a founder can do here is simply copy his/her personality—sometimes it can work, but it’s really not advised. It’s better to start with research to understand the needs and longings of your ideal customer and then combine that with some good old-fashioned brand methodology, like Carl Jung’s 12 brand personality archetypes.

The 12 Brand Personality Archetypes:

The Innocent:
Brands that exemplify happiness, goodness, optimism, safety, romance, and youth.
Example: Dove

The Explorer:
Brands that embody adventure, bravery, and the pioneering spirit.
Example: Jeep

The Sage:
Brands that value knowledge and truth and are often seen as trusted sources of information.
Example: Google

The Hero:
Brands that are courageous and inspirational, on a quest to make the world a better place.
Example: Nike

The Outlaw:
Brands that are disruptive, rebellious, and aim to break the rules.
Example: Harley-Davidson

The Magician:
Brands that are visionary and spiritual, promising transformation.
Example: Disney

The Everyman:
Brands that are down to earth, supportive, and offer a sense of belonging.
Example: IKEA

The Lover:
Brands that focus on intimacy, passion, and commitment.
Example: Victoria’s Secret

The Jester:
Brands that provide joy, fun, and laughter.
Example: Surreal

The Caregiver:
Brands that are nurturing, generous, and protective.
Example: Johnson & Johnson

The Ruler:
Brands that portray power, status, control, and dominance.
Example: Mercedes-Benz

The Creator:
Brands that are innovative, artistic, and creative.
Example: Apple

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Your brand personality is also important to guide your content, messaging, tone of voice, and storytelling. The more clearly it is defined, the better it can narrate, connect, and engage with its audience.

Brand Positioning and Benefits

Getting a little more practical – how do you position your brand? What is the perception that you want your audience to have about it? What do you want them to think and know about your brand, company, and its offering?

Positioning alone can make or break a brand. There have never been more brands than there are today. What makes you different and worthy in the mind of the consumer? How do you differentiate what you do from alternatives? How do you stand out when offering something that someone else can’t copy is so damn hard?

Brand positioning and product positioning are not the same thing. On a product level, you might have a feature, functional benefit, or price point that sets you apart. Brand positioning should go deeper.

David Aaker teaches that strong brand differentiation goes beyond functional benefits and includes emotional and self-expressive benefits for the user. A level that adds meaning and purpose to the customer’s life. This is how you make something that can’t easily be copied.

Functional Benefits
These are the practical and tangible aspects of a product or service that help to solve a problem or fulfill a need. For example, a functional benefit of a Garmin sports watch is that you can track and report on the average speed and distance of your running session.

Emotional Benefits
These benefits relate to the feelings or emotional responses that a brand can evoke in its customers.
For example, buying and wearing Patagonia makes a person feel like they are positively impacting the planet.

Self-Expressive Benefits
Benefits that allow customers to express their identity and values through the brand. For example, driving a Porsche might evoke feelings of status and success.

On this note, I want to return to my earlier example of Cool Blue. They successfully position themselves as “the most customer-centric product journey” and back this up with their culture and values.

When I need electronics or kitchen appliances, I buy from Cool Blue instead of Amazon because I know what I am getting. I know it will go smoothly, and I know that when something goes wrong, it will still go smoothly.

Of course, you need a great product or service. But the cold, harsh reality is that great brands with average products will always trump great products with average brands. However, great brands with great products are the ones that truly excel. They just tick all the right boxes—purpose, culture, and experience.

My favorite example here is Microsoft vs. Apple. If you are going to dish out $3000 on computing hardware, you can buy or build a functionally stronger desktop PC or laptop that runs on Windows. The collection of parts you can buy with the same money is often technically superior, yet many people will still opt for the MacBook Pro.

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Why? Because of the emotional and self-expressive benefits that come with Apple. They buy convenience, trust, and quality that they think they will not get from competing brands like Dell or Microsoft.

To build a famous, lasting brand, you have to differentiate beyond functional benefits.

Value Proposition and Promises

Taking the positioning one step further. What is your value proposition? Why should someone buy or use your brand?

A strong value proposition brings together all the other elements of a brand’s essence. A value proposition is like a promise from the brand to its audience. It is a pledge the company makes to its customers. It tells them what they can expect from the brand every time they interact with it.

It’s not just about the product’s features but about the quality, experience, and values the brand stands for. We are not talking here about buy-one-get-one-free at the bar or next-day shipping offered on e-commerce websites. We are talking about serious commitments like Patagonia’s promise to save the planet.

A good example of a great brand promise and value proposition is from insurance giant Geico: “15 minutes or less can save you 15% or more on car insurance.” This promise has become the key focus of Geico’s marketing strategy, and it is a commitment to both time efficiency and financial savings for its customers.

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At CXL, we promise that all courses are taught only by vetted, top marketing practitioners—the top 1% in the industry sharing their knowledge and experience. You will always walk away with actionable skills and insights that will help you improve your marketing.

Starbucks promises that all materials and resources are sourced ethically and that its practices positively impact coffee farmers and their communities. It promises to build a sustainable future for coffee for all—not just a warm, good roast.

Strong brands make strong promises to their audiences and stand behind them at all costs. They give people a reason to believe and fall in line to support them.

Brand Attributes and Associations

Brand attributes are the distinctive qualities, characteristics, and associations that define a brand in the eyes of consumers. When crafting a brand identity, it’s important to plan these out. It will help actively shape the perception and position of the brand in the minds of your audience. It also serves as a guide when choosing imagery and visual elements, designing promotional material, and creating customer experiences.

Brand attributes are like your brand’s vibe and need to be deliberately constructed. If you are hosting a posh black tie event, you don’t promote it using photos of students chugging beer from red plastic cups; no, you show crystal, bling, and butlers wearing white gloves.

Let’s take Rituals as an example, a famous lifestyle and cosmetic brand with the following observable attributes.

– Luxurious Lifestyle
– Premium Quality
– Mind, body and soul
– The perfect gift
– Relaxation / Meditation
– Oriental
– Sustainable

When you walk into a Rituals store, you basically enter another world. The entire experience is curated, from the smell to the furniture, materials, and flowers used in displays. Everything is on brand, down to the finest detail.

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IKEA, the famous furniture and home decoration brand, is another great example to point out here:

Observable attributes include:
– Value for money
– Affordability
– Designer furniture
– Functional
– Out of the box
– Fit for any space
– Customer-centric
– Immersive
– Sustainable

Everything IKIA does is designed and built with this in mind, from its physical outlets and immersive displays to its website. Want a premium kitchen out of the box? How about an entire bathroom? Sure, “click here.” The vibe is always there—from product packaging to customer service. You always feel like they have exactly what you need in your space without breaking the bank. It will look premium while fitting into your budget.

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Famous brands effectively use attributes and associations to build and shape the perception they want people to have about them.

You don’t need to own or ever actually get on a Harley-Davidson to have a clear perception and association tied to the brand. However, direct interactions, usage, and experiences will solidify associations and beliefs.

Clearly defining and planning out your attributes and brand associations will make it easier for everyone involved to shape the right perception and deliver the desired experience—from the website designer to customer service.

Bonus: Community – A sense of Belonging

Strong brands have strong followings because they give people common ground. A brand is not a community but what they have in common.

Think about Harvard University, which is ranked as the top international university in the world. If you have a degree from Harvard, you are among an elite group of alumni. A group that many people on earth only dream about being part of: it’s more about the Ivy League status than it is about the actual degree.

When you buy a Harley Davidson, you don’t buy a motorcycle; you buy a ticket into their community. You become part of something bigger than just yourself, and you own something more than a loud engine with two wheels.

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As humans, we have an inherent need to belong to something greater than ourselves. We value community and are attracted to people and groups that share our interests, beliefs, fears, and worries. We join clubs, follow creators on social media, and support brands that stand for the things we stand for.

People who ride Harleys don’t jump over to another motorcycle brand. Because it’s not about the bike. It is about the ride, the rebellion, the adventure, and the feeling of freedom that comes with the Harley. The goosebumps they get when they put on their leathers and hear that signature engine roar as they prepare to join their friends on a Saturday cruise.

It’s the same patriotic feeling you get sitting in a stadium with thousands of fans collectively supporting and cheering for your favorite sports team: the pride and hope you feel when you put on your supporter jersey. The shared joy or disappointment you feel when they win or lose.

Brands enjoy unmatched loyalty when they manage to create communities and make their customers feel like using their product gives them the right of passage to something bigger

Figure out how to build a community around your brand. Even if it means something as basic as a social media group, bring like-minded people together, and they will help your brand grow. A sense of belonging is a powerful thing; it spreads like wildfire and is hard for competitors to copy.

Beyond Brand Strategy – Ongoing Brand Development

As vital as it is to have a brand strategy and the essence in place, it is important to know that most of a brand’s development happens in practice. A brand is molded bit by bit as the audience and market come into contact with it and experience it. From seeing content on social media to experiencing a product, every interaction and every touchpoint will shape the perception held in the mind of the consumer. Brands are alive out there in the world; they change, grow, and evolve over time.

Brand strategy leads the way and sets the course – it is the treasure map and the compass in the hands of the captain. But, ongoing brand management is required to steer the ship.

To illustrate this, I have created a simple model I call the Triarchy of Brand Development.

The Triarchy of Brand Development

Triarchy of brand development

All brands are built on three main overarching considerations:

1) What people know about you

2) What people think about you

3) How people feel about you

These are all in direct correlation with three overarching pillars of The Brand Development Triarchy: Awareness, perception, and experience.


As we discussed earlier, brand awareness is knowledge of your existence. Are people aware of your company, what you do, and what you sell?

Example: You are going on a trip and start looking for hotels. As you discover them on Google or Booking.com, you become aware of them.


What is the perception held about your brand? The perception is influenced by a set of direct and indirect elements. Direct influencers are things like personal interactions with your brand, the content you post on social media, the newsletters you send out, etc.

Indirect influencers are what people hear or read about a brand from third-party sources, such as a news article, a review on TrustPilot, or a friend’s recommendation.

Example: As you shortlist hotels, you look at photos and read reviews.


The physical experience someone has with the brand, its product, and the people that represent it.

Example: You spend a night at the hotel. You sleep in a bed, eat the food, and deal with reception and room service.

The inter-workings:

One cannot hold a perception about something you are not aware exists, and one cannot experience something without developing a perception of it. Yet, an existing perception can determine whether or not you will ever experience something for yourself or not.

Strong brands are built on great experiences. They drive awareness and cultivate positive perceptions that spread organically in the market.

The Role of Brand Management

Ongoing investment and brand management are required to align direct and indirect influencers with the brand strategy and ensure that as many brand touchpoints as possible are controlled to deliver the desired experience to the target audience. Some are obviously outside your direct control, like word of mouth and how employees act in certain situations. But in most cases, you have full control.

A restaurant can have a 5-star reputation and amazing food, but a waiter having a bad day can lead to a broken, off-brand experience that, in turn, leads to bad reviews and negative word of mouth. You control the content on social media that entices the customer, the experience on the website to make a reservation, what’s on the menu, how they are greeted at reception, how clean the floor is, etc. Most of the experience can be controlled, planned, and managed.

A widespread problem faced by especially smaller, less mature brands is that no one really owns the brand. Brand manager roles are often left until much later, and overburdened marketers are left to fend for themselves. The brand strategy, however, seeps through every level of the organization and requires dedicated attention. I always say founders have two roles – to find product market fit and to man the brand.

Brands that give brand ownership to someone earlier tend to grow into stronger, famous brands faster. Not all marketers are geared to actively craft, build, and manage the brands they work on. Someone specializing in SEO or digital marketing does not usually own the brand or even know how to develop a brand effectively. Although their work directly helps build the brand, it is not as simple as leaving the brand on the plate of whoever is in the marketing department. Get the Founder and CEO involved, get customer service involved, and get the product team involved. Marketing is the primary custodian, but everyone in the organization has a role to play when it comes to building a strong brand.

The Role of Marketing

What you put out into the world about a brand and a business will determine its success. If you do not promote your brand, chances are high that it will fade away and fail. We often see this with startups that leave marketing investment until it’s too late. Building widespread awareness takes time. Establishing perceptions takes even longer. Becoming famous requires a long-term strategy, patience, and commitment.

The role of marketing, and especially advertising, is to make the right people aware of the brand and educate them about its purpose, benefits, and promises. Marketing is about telling and distributing the brand story to the target audience.

What do people know about you, think about you, and say about you after an encounter with your brand? This should guide everything you build, write, design, post, and show the world. It should drive every marketing decision and every piece of content, and it should drive you and your team to deliver memorable experiences that people want to tell others about.

Ask yourself the following: How will you make them aware of your existence? What will you show them to shape their perception, and what will they experience when they engage with your brand?

Generating Demand

Marketing’s job is to generate demand and build mental availability.

At any given moment, only a small percentage of your audience is actively in the market shopping around for a product, service, or solution like the one you are selling. This is true for both B2B and B2C brands. Businesses don’t replace their CRM every year. Neither does a consumer replace his/her car every year.

Ongoing marketing efforts need to be focused on creating demand for your brand and its offering. The objective is to build mental availability so that when your audience needs what you are selling, you are at the top of their mind or famous enough to be considered as an option.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is one of the most powerful brand development and business growth levers. It’s never been easier to reach your target audience in places where they choose to consume content. Content is a powerful way of spreading your brand story to your audience, whether organic or through paid efforts. With so many social media platforms to choose from, getting in front of your audience is not the challenge, but getting their attention is.

As easy as distribution might be, it has never been harder to stand out, make an impact, and add value to someone’s life or even just get them to stop scrolling to watch a video while they are sitting on the toilet.

As a brand, your job is to figure out how to add meaning and value to your audience while staying true to your personality, purpose, and identity. Make them laugh, teach them something new, or empower them. Give them a reason to follow you and a reason to look forward to new content from your brand. If you understand what your audience likes to consume, you will be able to build a loyal following and a community that relates to your brand.


Brands are valuable assets and drivers of long-term sustained growth. Having a strong strategy in place sets you up for success. It guides every aspect of the organization and provides a blueprint for marketing efforts, differentiation, and messaging.

Whether you are working on a new brand, a growing challenger, or an industry leader, knowing how to leverage branding to get ahead and stay ahead of your competition is a pivotal skill to have.

Get out there, kick some ass, and build loved brands that communities can rally behind.

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From Brand Strategy to Brand Fame: Your ticket to sustained growth and customer loyalty.