How to build successful brands

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How to build successful brands

I‘m often credited by one of my old bosses, as having invented the tagline for Alexander Keith’s India Pale Ale, “Those who like it, like it a lot” (not true).

I did work on the Keith’s brand for a very long time, during its heady days of resurgence and growth in the 1990s.  With an exceptional team, we built market share at home, launched the brand across Canada as a ‘premium domestic’, created the annual Alexander Keith Birthday celebration event, and re-built the original Keith’s Brewery on Lower Water Street in Halifax.

It was one of my favourite brands, that I was able to truly take ownership of, thanks to the marketers at the Oland Brewery and Labatt.  The journey provided some tremendous insights into how to build successful brands and drive business. 

Now, some 20 years later, I’m thinking about branding in a whole new light, for our digital marketing clients.  And, guess what – the fundamentals remain the same.

Does the brand make an impression?

Every touch point, every moment that a brand has to engage with consumers is an opportunity to create an impression.  Brands exist in the consumers’ mind, as the sum total of all those impressions.  It’s clever and committed brand managers that seek to create these seemingly incidental impressions. It is through these various interactions, where a brand can start to create a deep, meaningful and lasting conversation.

What is the brand’s raison d’etre?

All brands need a raison d’etre, or reason for being, beyond simply selling more stuff. When people see that a brand stands for a higher purpose, they pay attention. These purpose driven brands mean more to people because they work for something greater than themselves.  Brands that are fiercely ‘local’ or committed to sustainable practices, tend to stand out and mean more to people.

Does the brand connect on an emotional level?

Great brands connect not only rationally, but emotionally; reaching a deeper level in consumers’ hearts, minds and ultimately, wallets.  Brands that connect emotionally truly understand the needs and desires of people.  They make those same people feel like the brand was made just for them.

When brands are emotionally infused, employees work with greater purpose.  Shareholders and companies enjoy greater valuations, as a result of the financial multiplier provided by brand equity.  And customers become more loyal, spend more and are more likely to recommend the brand.

Is the brand truly authentic?

When a brand rings true to itself, we believe people will not only tell the difference, they will feel it.  In a media and technology saturated world, people are seeking authenticity in every facet of their lives. Brands that are open and trustworthy attract customers who will stand behind the brand’s ethos. Authentic brands deliver on what they promise. They interact with customers with transparency and integrity, behaving genuinely, and inviting people in.

Is the brand consistent over time?

Consistency is what makes brands recognizable and seamlessly integrated into people’s lives. When a brand is consistent, audiences connect more quickly with it, rapidly and organically.  Hence, the need for brand stewardship. The reality is that brand managers, marketing people and agencies come and go. Inconsistency can lead to dilution of meaning and as a result, decreased consumer loyalty and engagement. Consistent does not have to mean static, rigid or boring. The most impactful brands are flexible and dynamic, yet still remain consistent, coherent, and powerful over time.

The next time you are thinking about your brand, why not (appropriately) invite it out for a beer, and try asking these same questions.

If you're curious about the Keith's brand story, have a look here.