What Makes a Great Brand?

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Time to read: 4 min, 15 sec

When describing a great brand many people focus on the output of the brand or the experience that a brand just provided. "It was so much fun!"  Or "that was the best [insert product item here] ever!" Such responses are great and speak highly of a company or brand. But people are merely speaking about the end result, and not what makes a great brand. Greatness is often seen in hindsight so how can you make a great brand that people know and love?

Well, it starts with why.

Simon Sinek, author of the book “Start with Why,” has wisely stated that people don’t buy what you do - they buy why you do it. The idea that we as a society make decisions on what to purchase by choosing businesses whose philosophies or messages resonate with us makes a ton of sense.


According to Forbes, the top three most powerful brands in 2017 were Lego, Google, and Nike, global companies whose products are secondary to their overall missions. Sure, the products and services these companies make have to be awesome to attract buyers. But beyond the products themselves, the “whys” are clear. Media, marketing, and messages clue us in. The “why” for Lego might be to give children a creative perspective on life. For Google, it could be innovation, and the desire to change the way we live and work. Nike wants to inspire people through the clothes and shoes we choose to wear. I’m not looking at the companies’ official mission statements when I type these summaries, either - just spouting off what I know to be true and characteristic of the brands. These are clear brands with clear messages compelling customers every day to choose them.

What makes a truly incredible brand? Every business wants to be the go-to brand, capture market share, and dominate sales, just like the three companies mentioned above. If Sinek is right, that the “why” is the most important part of a brand, then what makes an awesome “why?"

What resonates with you?

I think a really great place to start to answer the question of “what makes an incredible brand?” is to look at which “whys” resonate with you, starting with your daily life and checkbook. We put our money in things we believe in – and you may not want to admit “I believe in Diet Coke!” but if you’re buying Diet Coke every day, you’re pledging allegiance to the Coca Cola brand and their “why.”

As an example, two of my favorite brands are Trader Joe’s and TOMS.

I love Trader Joe’s because they are truly passionate about giving people the joy of “innovative, hard-to-find, great-tasting foods” with exceptional customer service. They believe in an experience and a level of quality above many grocery stores. Why do they do it? For you. They want to make your day. They want to be excellent. They want to give you unique, high-quality products - and make you laugh when you read the labels. It’s so sweet that I can’t resist the store, and I never leave in a bad mood.

TOMS’s one-for-one commitment to give a pair of shoes away for each pair of shoes or eyeglasses bought is an incredibly powerful message that tugs at the heartstrings of globally-minded fans. Not only are TOMS products comfortable and fashionable, but they come in a crazy array of delightful designs and colors. TOMS does it for the people who don’t have shoes and don’t have glasses.

The funny thing is, it’s not like the “whys” here are the same, and you have to make some global “why” the center of your business. Not at all. There are so many reasons to do what you do. When it comes down to formulating a why, your why can be all sorts of things.

But at the end of the day, you just have to have one. Don't know your "why", perhaps a re-brand is necessary.

You need a why

When we go about online marketing, for our own companies and for our clients, our answers to the question “why” has to be clear and compelling. It has to be so clear that if someone was to ask us why we or our client do what we do, the answer should be sitting at the end of our tongue.

Because then the people who buy from us can catch on, too - and the message can spread like wildfire.



Experts Gary Vaynerchuk and Neil Patel are very clear about why they do what they do - they're all about the customer and have great advice for companies who want to do likewise. Listen to our audio interview with Gary or our audio interview with Neil to learn about their "whys."

Written by Ryan Boog

Ryan Boog

I am the CEO of Happy Dog Web Productions. I look forward to taking web, mobile design and digital marketing to the next level with Happy Dog. Follow Happy Dog at @hdwebpros or me personally at @ryanboog. Are you a fellow Google nut? Add me to your circle.

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