and this year’s brand of the year is….

Coca-Cola Logo trademark acknowledged

A recent Harris Poll survey asked consumers the following question:

“We would like you to think about brands or names of products and services you know. Considering everything, which three brands do you consider the best?”

They’ve been asking this question since 1995. These are spontaneous replies. Respondents are not read or shown a list of brand names. Here’s the entire story and here are the top 10 winners with their 2006 ranking in parenthesis:

1. Coca Cola (3)
2. Sony (1)
3. Toyota (4)
4. Dell (2)
5. Ford (5)
6. Kraft Foods (9)
7. Pepsi Cola (not in top 10)
8. Microsoft (not in top 10)
9. Apple (10)
10. Honda (6)

Good news for Coca-Cola, bad news for General Electric (they were 8th in 2006, this year they did not crack the top10) and even better or worse news for some advertising agencies depending on where their client finished on the list.

I talk about brands all the time because it’s critical for the financial success of every business including the voice over industry. It projects the identity of a business in the mind’s eye and heart of its intended audience. Some people think this only means a great logo or a flashy web site but those are only two channels through which the marketing message gets sent.

Others think you can buy branding with enough money spent on advertising. No doubt there is a bit of weight to this theory, certainly a consideration based on the top 10 finishers…..but it is NOT the whole story.

While you need money to expose your brand and marketing themes to the masses, there are a variety of simple, low cost, even guerilla techniques any size business can apply in EVERY phase of their business. There are hundreds of books with the steps to make it happen.

From answering the phone to how to handle complaints, to invoicing to exterior landscape to business cards…everything about your customer’s experience and interaction with your company involves continually establishing, maintaining and/or changing their opinion about your business in their mind’s eye and heart. It simply never ends.

Looking at it that way, you can see branding often has little to do with a logo.

It has a lot to do with the company attitude – towards its customers, its industry and its own culture. Corporate culture is a part of branding? Oh yeah. When it comes to branding your company, start from the inside…then head out. Yes even the smallest company has an attitude and your customer both perceive and shape it.

So take a look at these companies….think about how you have interacted with them in your daily life…what makes you buy their product, feel safe about ingesting their food or giving it to your family, spending large chunks of money of their devices? Is it simply price? Or is it trust? Is it comfort? Is there a “coolness” factor involved? What makes them cool?

Now think about how you came to feel that way….how did you evolve (or in a negative case dissolve) into that perception?

From all that, what can you apply to your business? Yes you, the non multi-billion dollar, non-thousands of employees, non summer home on the Cape – you. Your business.

My point is the principles that are implemented by these top 10 brands are basic and can be applied to your business too but you must THINK about them, consider them and decide which to apply. They won’t all work and some you will not be able to afford. But some you CAN apply and some you CAN afford and some (many) you are NOT doing now.

So first think, then do. Enjoy the process…its one of the reasons you went into business for yourself in the first place.

(All brand trademarks and copyrights acknowledged)

3 Responses to “and this year’s brand of the year is….”

  1. Peter, your post is making me think. Here we all are with our cool pens and logos and color coordinated this and that and maybe we even have the customer service thing down. But how do our customers think about us when we’re not around? Does the work we do live on after it’s done (in a positive way)? I’m not much on soft drinks, but “Coke” is evocative. It makes me think of Christmas and Santa Claus and joy and family because of all the print advertising they’ve done over the years, and it’s enough to override the memories of science experiments where you lower a chicken bone into a glass of the brown fizzy stuff and take it out later and it’s… well, it ain’t pretty.

    So, it’s something to think about – how to make our clients associate us and our brand with good thoughts and feelings. I’m sure we all have our unique spin on that. From our brief conversation about avian bloopers, I’m guessing that for you, part of it is the way you have of letting people know that you are thinking only about them and what they need. Everybody loves that!

    Thanks for a swell post.

  2. Hi Mary,

    I know all about what that brown liquid can do to you. As an ardent Pepsi drinker (my caffeine is delivered to me just like you every morning, except mine is cold 🙂 I also take prilosec for acid reflux.

    I’m certainly not the first nor the last to preach and act on the platform of being customer-centric. In fact there are smarter people than me (believe that?! 🙂 who can show you charts and graphs and science-y stuff to really prove the point. And yet most businesses are owner and employee centric in their thinking.

    Why should a company be open on Sunday (as one quick example)? Because its convenient for the client/customer. A company can find quality part time people to gladly take that Sunday shift and the extra money. And yet, with just that one example, you can probably identify a bunch of companies in your neck of the woods who don’t stay open when they really should.

    On the Coke front, while I pointed out in my post that branding doesn’t have to be about expensive advertising, I think in Coke’s case, that has to be one of the biggest reasons for their win this year. Specifically for THIS Norwegian Coke ad (that DB Cooper originally introduced to me prior to the Super Bowl) that was creative, evocative (to use your very well chosen word) and maybe best of all memorable.

    As you’ll also notice from the chart, Sony came in second and as far as creative TV ads and concepts go, I think this ad from Sony gave Coke a run for its money in the memorable department.

    The difference? Coke ran their ad during the Super Bowl.

    Best always,

    PS. If you want to know how Sony filmed their ad, watch this:

  3. Peter, I’m glad to hear somebody is drinking Pepsi (I failed to buy Coke when it dropped to $4/share 10 years ago, but I did buy a piece o’ Pepsi later)!

    Just about every day it’s possible to see egregious failures by businesses to observe the basic tenets of the Customer Service Credo. I think it’s time to put you in charge.

    That video showing the creation of the Sony ad is amazing. I had no idea of how much went into it!


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