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Be a Brand Leader

It’s the stuff legends are made of – brands that become household names without significant outlays on traditional advertising. Ben & Jerry’s, Costco, Ferrari, Rolls Royce, Lululemon. Some of these are brands that have been around for close to a century. Some are relative newcomers, selling items in a form that didn’t even exist ten or twenty years ago. Some are domestic, others international. They run the gamut in terms of industries – food, automobiles, apparel and retail. For the most part, none of them have pursued traditional advertising methods, but have relied on a strong and unique brand message.

So what do these brands have in common that has allowed them to thrive without excessive self-promotion? The founders of each were committed to a unique vision and were driven to realize it without compromise or regard to the vicissitudes of the marketplace. These visionaries did not set out to “be category leaders,” they set out to define excellence in their categories, whether it be “all natural” ice cream, technical yoga wear, or the finest motor car in the world.

They did so in a way that they knew may not appeal to everyone, but allowed them to express brand consistency and category leadership throughout every aspect of their business. The strength of their brands was a natural by-product of the successful realization of their vision.

Consider Ben & Jerry’s ice cream.

Before organic was a movement, this was natural ice cream made by real, honest people, using very fresh ingredients from a company that truly cares. Ben & Jerry started with a bare bones operation out of an abandoned gas station, driven more by lack of funds than anything, but very much in keeping with who they were. As they grew, a key part of their business was word of mouth, helped in no small part by their philanthropic efforts centered on social, environmental and political causes. They knew their views (liberal), represented by the causes they supported, would not be shared by all, but they unapologetically stayed true to the vision and it defined the brand.

The lesson to be learned? Brand promises need to be defined and clearly communicated to the market. But this is done best by organizations that “live” their brands and manifest their unique visions across their operations from design to manufacturing to marketing.

Don’t be afraid to think creatively, be true to your brand and express it through every action.