What Great Brands Do !

What Great Brands Do!

Reference: Book Published by Denise Lee Yohn

This book is about The seven guiding principles of What Great Brands Do and their accompanying action steps and exercises provide a step-by-step methodology for putting your company’s brand where it belongs—in the driver ’s seat of your organization.

This book is for future business leaders, owners, and general managers— the people who drive the culture, core operations, and customer experiences of an organization.


Name : no

Logo : no

Image : no

Advertising  : no

Aura : no

Personality : no

Look and feel : no

Attitude : no

Reputation : no

Trademark : no

All the above are mere symbols of brand.

Brand is mainly two thing:



The book outlines how companies don’t just use their brands as symbols or messages to gain a competitive edge but as strategic management tools to change the game completely.

It is organized into chapters that correspond with what I see as the seven most distinctive, defining characteristics or principles of what great brands do.

In some cases the principles describe what great brands don’t do, because sometimes the most important decisions a company can make are choices about what not to do.

Each chapter presents exercises, tools, and action steps that I recommend you to work on.


Principle 1

Great Brands Start Inside

Case Study 1

The IBM company lost its charm and fired nearly 4,00,000 employees during the 1990s.

The conventional approach for any management would be giving your image and message a public makeover which is also the fastest way to get the attention of investors and customers alike.

But what its then CEO decided is that if you don ’t develop greatness among your employees, your employees are unlikely to deliver greatness to your customers.

Clever advertising and a freshened-up logo will prove to be pointless exercises if cultural problems within the company prevent the company from delivering on its new promises.

So what IBM did is it changed its culture.

How they did it?

In July 2003, Palmisano used IBM ’s vast intranet communication network and collaboration software to initiate what he called a “ValuesJam.”

For seventy-two hours, employees all around the world were asked to riff on certain values themes that IBM executives had identified in a series of surveys and focus groups beforehand. The goal was to align every employee’s daily focus with the values underlying the IBM brand. In Palmisano ’s words, “we needed to affirm IBM ’s reason for being, what sets the company apart.”

When you can’t see any daylight between what you believe, what you practice, what you offer, and what you say about yourself, you are doing what great brands do.

The outcome of the process was three new interpretations of IBM ’s founding beliefs:

Dedication to every client’s success.

Innovation that matters—for our company and the world.

Trust and personal responsibility in all relationships

 When Starbucks rolled out its latest brand refresh, it staged a series of “brand days” for all its managers. It rented a warehouse and created a walk-through experience of the brand that followed the journey of coffee beans from the moment they are picked to the last stage of roasting.


Principle 2

Great Brands Avoid selling products

Case Study 1

In 1987, Nike ’s advertising agency had produced a new television spot for the company, one that celebrated Nike ’s early role in founding the jogging craze in America. Stunning visuals were shot at the University of Oregon running track where the first Nike shoes were developed. Clips of famous runners, including Steve Prefontaine (who died tragically at age twenty-five), were cut into the ad. “It started here,” a voice intoned. “The Fitness Revolution that changed America.”

The ad was meant to be striking and provocative, and it was.

But when it was previewed before a crowd of more than a thousand sales reps at Nike ’s annual meeting, it was met with silence.

That was not the inspired reaction company founder Phil Knight had hoped for.

Do you know what the problem with the ad was?

It celebrated product and not customer

As a result, the agency returned with a series of simple ads that showed athletes of all kinds doing what athletes do— sweating, straining, running, and jumping.

There was an ad with a female triathlete. There was one with an eighty-year-old distance runner.

Another featured a pro basketball player.

All of them spoke with emotion about what they do, and why they do it, followed by the on-screen invitation:

“Just Do It.”

As Bedbury writes, “‘Just Do It’ was not about sneakers. It was about values. It was not about products; it was about a brand ethos.”

The key purchase question has moved away from “What does it do?” and toward “How does it make me feel?”

Case Study 2

Pampers was Europe ’s top-selling disposable diaper brand in 1997, but it was rapidly losing market share to Huggies.

Somehow, Pampers as a brand was failing to connect with consumers, which baffled executives at parent company Procter & Gamble because Pampers really was the superior diaper.

When Pampers marketers convened focus groups to study the problem, they soon discovered that dryness wasn’t really the ultimate benefit that young mothers wanted from their babies` diapers.

The deepest concern expressed by the mothers was for their babies’ health and development.

Dry diapers were important, but for reasons that Pampers’ marketers hadn’t fully appreciated: dry diapers allow babies to sleep better, and sound sleep addressed the mothers’ fundamental emotional concerns about their babies’ well-being and development.

Case Study 3

Google is the world ’s dominant online search engine, but that does not begin to describe Google ’s answer to What business are we in?

Google ’s stated mission, “To organize the world ’s information and make it universally accessible and useful,” suggests a much more far-reaching scope.

With such an all-encompassing view of its brand potential, Google has launched the development of products as varied as a virtual wallet, Android phone software, the global Streetview project, and even a Groupon-type daily deal offering.

This constant experimentation to identify new opportunities has also yielded its share of duds, including Google Voice Search, Google catalogs, and Google Answers.

But by all accounts the company manages to maintain a creative culture by celebrating these failures as the inevitable result of its larger commitment to make deeper, richer, stronger connections with consumers.


Principle 3

Great Brands Ignore Trends

Case Study 1

In 1991, Steve Ells couldn’t afford to eat regularly at the legendary Stars restaurant where he was working as a $12-an-hour line cook.

Instead, he was more frequently found gorging himself on giant burritos at a taquería in San Francisco’s Mission District called Zona Rosa.

He collected insights about the working, food cost, quality of service and ambience.

He returned to his hometown—Boulder, Colorado—and there in 1993 he opened the first in a chain of Chipotle Mexican Grills.

Chipotle began a trend in restaurants that the industry has dubbed “fast casual,” which offers a more upscale dining environment and food quality, along with higher prices, but in the familiar, convenient limited service format of fast food.

How did Chipotle stay ahead of the game and defied trends?

Others : Pay as little as possible to employees

Chipotle: Pay high salaries but remove low performing employees

Others: Keep food prices low

Chipotle: Bring in quality products and keep prices high

Case Study 2

Starbucks has always been about more than coffee. It started Italian coffeehouse culture in American society and casual social interaction it fosters.

Recently it started printing customer names on coffee mugs taking the personalization game to a whole new level.

This campaign earned it more than a billion $ worth of traction.

Case study 3

Lady Gaga is transforming what it means to be a recording artist.

Her album ARTPOP was released as a paid-for mobile phone app, launched “with chats, films for every song, extra music, Gaga-inspired games, fashion updates, magazines and more.”


Principle 4

Great Brands Do Not Chase Customers

Case study 1

Lululemon Athletica has become one of the fastest-growing retailers in the world by doing a lot of nice things for its customers.


  • Their highly trained staff, called as “educators” greet and treat their customers or “guests” in the most amazing manner.


  • They conduct free yoga classes and running clubs.


  • They build a sense of community around each of its stores.


But they have strict return policies and their prices are higher with very little or no deals.

This clearly suggests that Lululemon doesn`t chase each and every customer out there.

They only attract selected groups and provide them the best quality of products and best experience out there.

Case study 2

Trader Joe’s store: It’s an offbeat, fun discovery zone that elevates food shopping from a chore to a cultural experience.” The store combines “low-cost, yuppie-friendly staples (cage-free eggs and organic blue agave sweetener) and exotic, affordable luxuries—Belgian butter waffle cookies or Thai lime-and-chili cashews—that you simply can’t find anyplace else.

It doesn’t chase customers, it chases experience.

It takes its customers on a journey of exploration and adventure with its limited, unique and ever changing product range.

Case study 3

Red bull figured out quickly who were important to them and who weren’t.

They polarized their audience in such a way that their lovers and haters were two extremes.

Their lovers didn’t even care that it didn’t taste good.


Principle 5

Great Brands Sweat the Small Stuff

Speaking through design. People do judge a book by its cover.

Case Study 1

From the handle on the first i Macs to the signature white color of the iPod ’s headphones to the roundness of the iPad ’s bottom edge, all of Apple ’s products adhere to a philosophy of simplicity, craftsmanship, and user empathy.

Apple’s lead designer Jony Ive also recalls spending a lot of time with Jobs on the packaging of Apple products. “I love the process of unpacking something,” he says. “You design a ritual of unpacking to make the product feel special.

Packaging can be theater, it can create a story.”

Case Study 2

Chobani, a rising star on the packaged goods horizon, uses design to stand out and create a memorable experience out of a simple activity—eating yogurt. CEO Hamdi Ulukaya explains that as a start-up Chobani couldn’t afford to advertise, so the product packaging became almost as important as the yogurt itself. Ulukaya designed his package in the form of a European-style cup, which makes for a squatter, fatter tub that looks bigger than others.

Case study 3

The online retailer UncommonGoods does better than most to engage website visitors emotionally through its multimedia site design.

Personable product stories, relaying the artist who conceived the product or pointing out details that enhance enjoyment of it, accompany each item listing. Videos show you what products do once they’ve been turned on.

Before you buy an alarm clock, you can hear what it sounds like. The company also creates an engaging experience by inviting customers to vote on which new products make it to the pages of its site.

Case Study 4

At REI, the outdoor sporting goods company, store designs include walk-in freezers for testing sleeping bags and indoor climbing walls and faux mountainsides for testing footwear.

Some stores provide areas for trying out gas cookers and setting up tents, too. The company stores express the brand mission of outdoor excitement and adventure through design and layout, signage and graphics, fixtures and materials—right down to the ice-pick door handles.


Touchpoint worksheet template:



Principle 6


Case Study 1

Shake Shack, the New York–based burger-and-shake chain that began as a humble hot dog cart in 2001 and now has nearly thirty locations around the world.

Out of an expressed commitment to be “the best burger company in the world,” Shake Shack’s CEO Randy Garutti now finds himself frequently rejecting otherwise-enviable growth opportunities, just because they somehow fail to square with the company’s ambitious vision.

They rejected offers for catering, parallel food items etc. and stuck to the core of their business.

Important points for all brands:

‘This is who we are; this is what we stand for; this is what we’re all about.’

Case Study 2

Vanguard group resisted investing client`s money in mortgage backed securities after the 2008 recession.

An analyst named Mabel Yu remained firm on their decision to not invest client`s money in these securities as they didn`t convince them of returns.

Yu’s skepticism wound up saving Vanguard investors millions of dollars by avoiding what would later be regarded as Wall Street’s toxic waste. And she won Vanguard’s 2009 Analyst of the Year award.

Case Study 3

Krispy Kreme looked like a great brand in the 1990s as it distinguished itself by offering fresh hot doughnut experience at its outlets.

But after going public in the 2000s, it tried to ride the growth wave by placing its outlets at gas stations and grocery stores, which hampered the complete experience and affected its brand equity.

Case Study 4

Fox Network’s early 1990s ground-breaking programming

(The Simpsons, The X-Files) took the risk of turning off many older, more conservative viewers.

But by sacrificing mainstream appeal, Fox was rewarded with clear differentiation from the established players, and with two kinds of loyalty—both viewership and viewer attention—among eighteen-to-thirty-four-year olds, among the most fickle of audiences.


Principle 7


Case Study 1

Patagonia went ahead with one of the most unusual campaigns in history.

The text below explained that the holiday season was a good time to consider the environmental impact of modern consumerism.

“Because Patagonia wants to be in business for a good long time,” the ad read, “and leave a world

Inhabitable for our kids—we want to do the opposite of every other business today.

We ask you to buy less and to reflect before you spend a dime on this jacket or anything else.”

The phrase “Giving Back” means you have taken something that you are giving back.

Great brands don’t do that. Their core philosophy is based on setting up business keeping in mind the well-being of the community.

Case Study 2

The mission of U.K. smoothie-maker Innocent Drinks is to become “The Earth’s favorite little food company.” Company founder Richard Reed says that’s a vision that “encapsulates both the scale of ambition and the fact that our business has to be done in conjunction with Mother Nature, not at her expense.

We also want to prove that there is profit in ethics and that business can, and must, be a source of positive change in society.” With such an ambitious purpose to fulfill, Innocent Drinks makes the promise—and prints it clearly on its bottles—that its products contain only fresh fruit, with no preservatives. Each bottle also offers the recommended daily allowance for at least two kinds of fruit.

The company tries to source as much fruit as it can from Europe, and works with Rainforest Alliance to ensure that fruit from far overseas was grown sustainably.

With the above pointers, it becomes clear that your brand is much more than name, logo or marketing communication.

Your brand is the experience that you deliver, promises that you keep and every single communication that you make.

Do give your feedback in the comments below!

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