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Brad VanAuken Brand Management

Ten Qualities Of World-Class Brands

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1. Well-known – without awareness, nothing else counts; a brand can’t be in people’s purchase consideration sets unless they are aware of the brand

2. Relevant – the brand must be perceived to be relevant to people’s hopes, needs and desires

3. Differentiated – to stand out among competitive alternatives, the brand must be unique in ways that matter to customers

4. Customer-Centric – only when the brand knows its customers and their needs well, can it deliver exceptional purchase and usage experiences

5. Trustworthy – this implies being honest and authentic, consistent and predictable, reliable and dependable, and always delivering on its promises

6. Innovative – while a brand can succeed for a while without being innovative, ultimately, given today’s hyper-competitive environment, brands must anticipate customer needs and surprise and delight their customers with a constant stream of relevant innovations

7. Likeable – brands can and do create emotional connections with their customers; to do so, they should share values with their customers, possess admirable qualities, and be likeable and easy to work with

8. Accessible – to convert brand preference into brand purchase, brands must be easy to find and purchase; they must be accessible and convenient

9. Popular – while brands can be overexposed and certain exclusive brands thrive on their exclusivity, in general, strong brands are perceived to be very popular, much sought after and possessing positive momentum; strong brands receive significant “buzz”

10. Valuable – when all of a brand’s functional, emotional, experiential and self-expressive customer benefits are weighed against the cost (money and time) of acquiring and using the brand, its value must be perceived to be good, excellent or superior

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11 Comments

Jason Lim on March 14th, 2011 said

I think 10 is too many. You just really need Relevance and Consistency; all the others flow out from those two.

You cannot be relevant without being differentiated, customer-centric, and innovative. Being consistent is being trustworthy.

Being likable and popular is frankly overrated. Sometimes, these actually interfere with your relevance to your target customers.

When you do relevance and consistency well, you eventually become well-known and valuable.

Actually, I read those here on BSI as well; search for The Brand Formula (12 May 2007).

Mani Agrawal on March 14th, 2011 said

I am not sure if “accessible” is one of the requirements for a world-class brand. Take for example an expensive Italian car – it’s hardly accessible but has strong brand recognition.

Darren Coleman on March 14th, 2011 said

Really interesting list here. Like it. Thank you.

If I may, I’d be inclined to add a few more categories. “Consistent”; from a behavioural, communication and visual perspective brand execution needs to be consistent.

“Profitable”: brands need to make a profit. I appreciate these ten points drive profit but this is an important point all the same.

“Focused”: world class brands know what they are and are NOT. This prevents confusion on emotional, functional and experiential levels.

Just some thoughts.

Brad VanAuken on March 15th, 2011 said

Jason, one could stop at any number of qualities. I just used ten as a nice round number. If I were choosing just two qualities however, I would choose well-known (brands are nothing without awareness) and differentiated (if not differentiated, it is not a brand). If I were choosing three, I might select consistent as the third quality.

I would disagree with you on likeable. I believe a brand must be liked or admired in some way to create an emotional connection with its customers.

As you point out, popular can be over rated. As I mentioned, some brands can be over exposed and therefore “uncool,” while others are in demand because of their exclusivity.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts, Jason.

Brad VanAuken on March 15th, 2011 said

Mani, accessible is important when converting brand preference to brand purchase for all but the most demanded/exclusive products. Consider someone who only slightly prefers Coca-Cola over Pepsi-Cola. As long as both are available in close proximity, that person will always choose Coca-Cola. Should Coca-Cola not be available, that person will select Pepsi-Cola instead.

Using another example, as a high school senior I might clearly prefer one college over another but decide to go to my second choice college for any of the following reasons: (1) it gave me a superior financial aid package (this happens quite frequently), (2) I was accepted at my second choice college but was put on the waiting list or deferred for a year by my first choice college, or (3) my second choice college accepted me into the major of my choice, but my first choice college did not. In these instances, I might end up attending my second choice college because the first choice college was less accessible.

Steve Jones on March 16th, 2011 said

I think all of these are valid, but everything starts with being customer-centric. Once you’ve defined who your customer is and what they expect of you, everything else can flow from that (including relevance, which is quite similar).

Take AC/DC who have created 16 albums knowing exactly what their customers expect. They’ve never stopped delivering on that expectation.

Jason Lim on March 16th, 2011 said

Hi, Brad.

I still don’t quite agree with Well-known, but this may be due to a different interpretation of “world-class”. I do agree that a certain level of awareness is necessary for any brand, but I think putting it at the top of the list might suggest that marketers should put it first.

I may have misunderstood you on Likable. Reading it again, I see you specified that the brand be likable by its customers. I agree with this. What I don’t agree with is brands being likable to just anybody, especially those who are at odds with your customers.

The same goes for Popular, I suppose; the brand has to be popular with its target market, but doesn’t have to be so for everyone else and in fact should be unpopular to those who are at odds with said target market.

All in all, most of my concerns are regarding focus. Either way, it’s certainly a thought-provoking list. Thanks for responding to my comment. :)

Brad VanAuken on March 17th, 2011 said

Jason, I am so close to branding each and every day, that I took as a given that we were talking about brands that were highly targeted to a particular customer segment. If one doesn’t have a tightly defined target customer and if one doesn’t know what motivates that person, one will have a very difficult time in creating a strong brand. Each of the ten qualities should be considered in the context of the target customer.

Darren Coleman on March 20th, 2011 said

Morning,

Really interesting list here. Like it. Thank you.

If I may, I’d be inclined to add a few more categories. “Consistent”; from a behavioural, communication and visual perspective brand execution needs to be consistent.

“Profitable”: brands need to make a profit. I appreciate these ten points drive profit but this is an important point all the same. “Focused”: world class brands know what they are and are NOT. This prevents confusion on emotional, functional and experiential levels.

Just some thoughts.

Best, Darren

Chuck Lytle on March 28th, 2011 said

A brand and the promise it delivers is the most valuable aspect in the perception of that company and it’s products. I also agree with many comments. A very important quality that a brand must have is CONSISTENCY.

This is important because consumers are familiar with the qualities of your products. Those qualities can’t be drastically different on every product. That is why your brand is profitable because consumers like those qualities and they know every product will consistently be like that.
For example: If your your product is frozen food; if it is consistently good, low in fat, and a large serving, then consumers will come to expect that in the new products. If they change one of their new products to a smaller serving and the food tastes a little different than usual, then it will throw off the consumer. They will probably be less inclined to buy your next product because they won’t be sure if it will be what they had grown to like before.

Brian on April 17th, 2011 said

In my experience, your number one item, “well-known,” is often overlooked. I once worked for a firm that was so concerned with generating sales leads that it hated spending marketing dollars on anything that it couldn’t easily quantify in terms of producing a qualified lead. Awareness is very “touchy-feely” and often difficult to quantify, so it can be ignored. Campaigns without a direct call to action that primarily keep one’s brand name in front of consumers may not pay high dividends in the short term, but in the long term are priceless.

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