How do You Build a Great Brand?

brand building a remarkable brand

Let’s say you could start over again and re-design your company. How many times have you dreamed about that? But now it’s different; you have experience, and you’ve read the Steve Jobs biography, you’re ready to do it right. So let’s rebuild your company from the ground up into a great brand. Ready?

Ok, wait. How do we do that? Well, I guess we have look to other examples, right? Let’s start there.

Sidebar: What is a brand?

What does a great brand look like?

We are immediately approaching the question from the wrong direction. Do you see the trap here? Because if we could judge a great brand by its looks, then it would be possible for anyone to have a great brand, wouldn’t it? We could simply hire a great designer and put all the pieces in the right place. Voilà, we have a great brand. But we know that doesn’t happen, don’t we? So what is the right criteria?

What does a great brand do for people?

It’s more complicated than that, don’t you think? Because really, most of the answers are abstract: “A great brand makes people feel good about themselves.” or  “…gives people something unique.” or “…let’s people be part of something bigger than themselves.”

For example, take this statement by Sara Bittorf, Chief Brand Officer of Boston Market. When asked how she planned to reinvent (code: start over again) the Boston Market brand;

“We have a great brand that was built on this idea of not just putting dinner on the table, but making a mom or a dad feel good about that meal and providing a great family experience. We want to bring the brand back to its former glory and bring that emotional connection back to our customers.”

Very noble but also nonconcrete. How do you use that as a model? You can’t, because it’s not really a model.

What does a great brand feel like?

Here I think we can make some headway. If there’s one thing that defines a great brand, it’s “feeling.” The best brands in the world make you feel something. Emotions are involved, opinions are rendered, your subconscious is tapped.

Does that mean we can put our finger on the “top three feelings” and then craft a great brand? Hardly. Again, we go back to the branding paradox: if there were a template for a great brand, a way that we could just glue pieces together, then it would be simple to build a great brand, and everyone would have one. But they don’t. And choosing from a bulleted list of emotions we want to ignite in our customers won’t change that.

Where does that leave you?

The starting point for having a great brand does not include the words: “What does.” There, I said it. There is no template for building a great brand. Great brands don’t “do” …they just “are.”

I believe there are no real questions you can ask that can truly define a great brand. Great brands just are. You can definitely use hindsight to look at how an Apple became a great brand, but you cannot use that as a model.

“Holy crap,” you say! I just read all this just for you to tell me there is no way to make a great brand? You did. But what I DID NOT say is that you couldn’t be a great brand.

What Makes a Great Brand?

It’s like asking what makes a great person. How do you answer that question? Because there is no one thing that makes a great person. Great people are just great people, and two great people may be total opposites from each other. But what they are is real, and what they are is original.

A great brand is like a person. it is a one-of-a-kind creation with a unique blend of personality, gifts, and soul. That blend is usually an extension of the owner, founder, or person who runs the company. That’s why no one will be the next Apple, because no one will be the next Steve Jobs.

You can admire other brands and learn from them, but You can’t copy them and pretend to be a great brand. That leaves us with only one answer to the question we ask here: You don’t build a great brand at all.


You simply be the great brand that you are. Within every entrepreneur is the potential for a great brand, but that potential is rarely revealed. The entrepreneur is too busy looking for a model, a formula, a step-by-step process that can be copied. This can only yield, surprise, a copy, and an artificial brand.

So if you want to be a great brand, I believe all you have to do is unleash the real you. You have the ingredients already: values, beliefs, personality, unique gifts, soul. But do you let them shine? Do you really reveal the ‘interesting you’ to your customers? Do they experience your passion? If there is one thing we can learn from Steve Jobs, is that he wasn’t anyone else but Steve Jobs. He didn’t try to copy anyone.

What you see, what you feel, what you experience from great brands is not what makes that particular business great. It is the natural extension of someone’s soul. They believed in themselves  and their ideas so much that they did not hold anything back, and then naturally created a business that was a great brand.

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You may also like these related resources:

Free Recorded On-Demand Webinar: Branding 101
Running  a Business vs. Building a Brand
The Brand-Building Checklist

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