The Secrets of Successful Brands

The Secrets of
Successful Brands

When you hear the word “brand,” what comes to mind for you? A particular name, perhaps? A logo? An experience? What is it that makes a brand truly memorable or (more importantly) meaningful?

Having spent my career in brand design and development, these questions have always interested me, as well as most clients I’ve been fortunate to work with. As the number of new brands and brand promises continue to expand, combined with our ever-increasing reliance on social feedback mechanisms to inform our decisions and opinions, brand authenticity has become an important differentiator for customers.

Simply put, brand authenticity inspires trust, and trust drives business. So how do you become a brand that people trust? We can boil it down to the alignment of four aspects of any organization:
A heart with a blue background that shows the 4 aspects that lead to a successful brand


The first touchpoint with your organization for most people will be your brand promise, or what you say. Your brand promise should be designed with your audience in mind. Identify your primary and secondary audiences, what they value, and how your brand helps make their lives better.

It’s also important to identify how you will deliver your brand promise; this is what you do. (After all, actions speak louder than words.) The alignment between what your brand says and what your brand does is the baseline for building trust with your customers. Consider this from an organizational, departmental, and individual perspective. Map each benefit in your brand promise with specific proof (the “reason to believe”). This proof should illustrate what your organization is doing to deliver on your brand promise.

This process also involves considering what you should not do or stop doing. As before, your audience (the customer) should guide your decisions.


Your “how” involves the behaviors and mannerisms of your organization, which affect what it says and what it does. This is at the heart of brand experience, and it’s where customer service resides.

The greatest customer experience organizations have highly focused, clearly articulated service principles that guide their employees. (Organizations like Apple and Disney have the Five Steps of Service or I. C.A.R.E. Model.) Many of these highly regarded organizations also turn their lens inward and establish operating principles that align with and enable their service principles. They use these operating principles to inform internal infrastructure, systems, and processes.

Alignment between what you do and how you do it establishes credibility with your customers and your employees; you substantiate one with the other by truly walking the talk. You can test your organization’s temperature on authenticity with customer and employee engagement surveys. For example, if your recruiting efforts and messaging focus on growth opportunities, yet your employees don’t have the necessary resources or support to learn and grow, you’ll hear about it on a well-designed survey. (And then adjust accordingly to achieve alignment.)


While your “what” and “how” address how customers experience your brand, the “why” speaks more to the essence of the brand itself: what fuels and nourishes it. Specifically, your “why” involves the meaning and purpose behind what you do as an organization, department, and individual. It inspires action by appealing to the emotional part of our brains.

When we align our “why” to that of our customers or employees, we appeal to something much bigger than our products and services. Research shows there are two primary drivers that make employees happier, more motivated, creative, and productive at work: real progress and meaningful work. How will your organization, product, or service help them achieve these things?

For your external audience, consider what marketing consultant extraordinaire Simon Sinek says: “People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” Apple, he says, doesn’t start with the fact that they make great computers that are beautifully designed, simple to use, and user friendly. Instead, they lead with their why: “In everything we do, we believe in challenging the status quo and thinking differently.” Then they follow with beautiful, simple design (how) and great computers (what). In connecting the “what” and “how” to the “why,” we can move our brand beyond memorable to meaningful.


At TiER1, we believe that improving the performance of organizations happens by starting with the performer. After all, what good is a brand promise or purpose if the people delivering it don’t value or believe in it? Your people are your brand. So, how do you build a team that aligns with your vision as an organization?

Dee Ann Turner, Chick-fil-A’s Vice President of Corporate Talent, has shared the secret sauce to their unprecedented success. Her recommendation for building teams is simple in principle but requires great diligence and attention to detail in practice.

“People decisions are the most important decisions we make. Select talent whose character matches your own, whose competency matches your need, and whose chemistry matches your team.”

Following this type of approach ensures that your people are more than brand advocates: They become brand exemplars. They not only drink the Kool-Aid, but make it too. By aligning your brand to your “who,” you make your brand personal—and you don’t get more authentic than the individual!

The power of an authentic brand.

Becoming a trusted brand requires much more than a nice logo or a good story (though both are important). It’s more than product, price, place, and promotion. Your brand is made up of people; it’s a living, breathing organism that needs to be nurtured and constantly maintained to function at its best. An authentic brand is one that moves beyond surface-level spin and delivers on its promise, gaining customer trust and loyalty, and inspiring employees to engage, advocate for, and live your brand.

Want to chat with Mark? Give us a call at (859) 415-1000 or drop us a line in the form at the bottom of this page.

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