Successful brands are built on beliefs. Not products.

by John Furgurson on August 29, 2012

Most people never think about the important underpinings of their brand. They just want to deliver a good product. Build the business. Make some sales. And earn a good living.

That’s understandable. But the most successful small businesses — and all the beloved, billion-dollar brands — are built on a solid foundation of shared values and  beliefs. And those values go way beyond product attributes.

So if you’re launching a new business, or if you’re trying to reinvigorate an existing one, it pays to think like a brand.

In “Corporate Religion” Jesper Kunde put it this way:  ”What leads  a company to success is its philosophy, values and beliefs, clearly articulated. Communicating the company’s attitudes and values becomes the decisive parameter for success.  And it demands that you find out who you are as a company.”

brand core values

Brands are built on authentic values and beliefs. Not BS.

In “Good To Great,” Jim Collins says, ” Our research shows that a fundamental element of all our great companies is a core ideology — core values and a sense of purpose beyond just making money — that inspires people throughout the organization and remains relatively fixed for long periods of time.”

Here’s an exercise that’ll help you find your passion and articulate the beliefs that become the spine of your brand…

Get some quiet, focused time away from the office. Then start a list of all the things you believe in. Personal and professional.My partners and I recently did this as part of our website re-vamp.  The fact is, prospective customers want to do business with other people who share their own values and ideals. So we need to articulate our beliefs. It’s important content on our new site.

“The better your company communicates its attitudes and beliefs, the stronger you will be.” Kunde said. “When consumers are confronted with too many choices, their decisions become increasingly informed by shared beliefs.”

Our beliefs, at BNBranding, are helpful reminders for anyone who’s trying to build a lasting, respected brand:

We believe in story telling. Every great business has an engaging story to tell. So tell it!  Find creative new ways to spin that tale, and keep telling it over and over again. Tell it in ads, tell it on your site, tell it presentations, tweets and Facebook posts.

We believe a little mystery makes marketing more effective. Overt benefits are great, but your story needs to have some element of mystery to it. Or it’s not a good story. Great brand names, like Google and Clif Bar, contain a hint of mystery all by themselves. They’re not pounding us over the head with literal-ness.

We believe in the power of disruptive words. Well-crafted messages always have more impact than sloppy ones. The human brain automatically screens out the normal, mundane language of most business pitches. It’s in one ear, and out the other, without disturbing a single brain cell. Great messages, on the other hand, trigger emotion.

We believe that when it comes to selling, emotion trumps logic every time. Emotion leads to action. Reason leads only to conclusions.  No great brand has ever been built on reason alone.  Not one. In branding, it’s what they feel, not what they think!

We believe Design belongs in business school.  Tom Peters calls it “the soul of new enterprise.”  It’s Design that differentiates the world’s most valuable brand – Apple.  It’s Design that made Tupperware a cultural phenomenon. Design evokes passion, emotion and attachment… all required elements of great brands.

We believe technology is a great new weapon in our quiver. But it’s not the bow. Tactics are changing. Facebook,Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest  and the rest all provide exciting new marketing opportunities. We’ve never had so many ways to tell stories and make connections.  But technology itself isn’t the story.

We believe in the art of persuasion. Data is a big deal these days. But effective marketing communications still comes down to saying the right thing, and saying it well. A brilliantly unusual combination of words and images will always be highly motivating.

That’s just one example of how beliefs drive everything a company does. What do you believe in?  Let us know. Leave a comment!

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Dan S. September 5, 2012 at 2:40 pm

I second the idea that emotion trumps logic. Great brands create an emotional connection with their consumers and as such each interaction goes beyond a simple purpose or use, it becomes a personal ritual.

Marissa Sayno September 11, 2012 at 10:02 am

Do you believe that customer service is the new marketing? I think that making your customers feel valued is the key to branding success, regardless of their buying power, status, etc. I love that you mentioned emotions here and sadly, telling a great story and making that human connection is fast becoming a lost art. Sometimes, you wonder if it’s over optimization, marketing automation or both.

Anthony September 11, 2012 at 3:43 pm

Great article. It is hard to remember your original values and beliefs down the line and somewhere they get convoluted and can take a back seat to the sale. This is a great idea for every company to sit down and go over their initial values, thank you for reminding us the importance this has to not only us as a company, but to our consumers.

Tai Chi Chuan w Gdansku September 16, 2012 at 7:23 pm

Thanks.what a lengthy and in depth article but full of useful information

Stacy Williams September 25, 2012 at 11:20 am

You got a really useful blog. I have been here reading for about an hour. I am a newbie and your success is very much an inspiration for me.

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