Ideas + Insights

7 things great brands do.

Tess Robinson

If I had a dollar for every time a new client of ours submitted ‘Apple’ as their main brand inspiration, I’d have enough money to buy Steve Jobs’ entire collection of black turtlenecks.

So what is so compelling about the Apple brand that has even the most loyal PC users weak at the knees?

It’s not just the iconic, know-­it-­from­-a-­mile-­away logo, nor that ‘I’m-­too-­sexy-­for-­this-­fruit-­bowl’ packaging that has made Apple the most envied hero brand on the planet. It is a potent combination of unwavering focus on quality, dedication to their people, consistency across platforms, undiluted brand message and a staunch commitment to the why.

Back when the corner store only carried one type of flour, brand wasn’t important. However, in today’s e-commerce-driven world with virtually limitless purchase options, brand is everything. Your business needs a bigger, better and more heart­-fuelled narrative: one that encompasses the amazing story of your company and makes your people feel a certain way.

Overwhelmed? Don’t be! Here is the low down on seven things that great brands do well. Take notes; your brand can transform from flab to fab by removing one consonant. Easy!


    “Maybe you don’t need the whole world to love you, you know? Maybe you just need one person.”
    — Kermit the Frog
    Oh, Kermie. Too right! The best brands are able to hone in on their ‘ideal client’. These brands know where they sit in the market, and they know who they are talking to. This is as simple as having a resolute understanding of both who you are, and conversely who you are not. This insight, although sometimes (ironically) complex to land upon, is key to becoming an expert on your main guy. Once you find yourself (deep), you’ll find yourself gaining momentum as you develop the discipline to keep the main thing; the main thing!This type of focus ­­while difficult to practice ­­is critical to putting the “awe” into “awesome” the way that Apple has. It demands that you forgo shiny new objects, hot trends, competitive challenges and your innate desire to spread the seed of success as far and wide as possible. With reverence for the end-­user as your goal, adopt the mantra of ‘Less is More’, and be the best at it.
    Using the right filter on your ‘gram is important. Detouring from your exact Pantone colour is a big no­-no. Ensuring consistent brand language across communication platforms is a must. Great brands know that these things are not insignificant or trivial. Great brands are meticulous about fonts, typos, tone of voice, improper punctuation, even the number of ply of their toilet paper (three as a minimum, obviously).But who’s going to notice, you ask?Well, only everybody. Whether consumers are conscious of them or not, details matter. They matter because they imply quality, care, consistency – and impute value. These are the cornerstones of a brand. How a business takes care of itself directly correlates to how consumers assume they’ll be taken care of. Exceptional, consistent branding implies an exceptional, consistent offering. The reverse is also true, so get sweaty and be the exception.
    Do you think Carrie Bradshaw would put on an Alexander McQueen couture gown and then slap a pair of lime green Crocs on her dainty little feet? No señor, and for the following reasons:
    1. She probably pays a stylist millions of dollars a year to prevent these tragedies. And,
    2. It would be completely inconsistent.Without consistency, there is no brand. A brand’s entire raison d’etre is to establish expectations, and therefore build trust. If you aren’t consistent, you under-perform on the expectation, and therefore break trust.
    These days, it’s not all about keeping up with the Joneses. It’s about blowing the Joneses out of that pesky little bottle of boring in which they’ve been clumsily lolling about. Your business needs to break the mould, go against the grain and smash the glass ceiling ­as loudly and as brazenly as possible. The more unique your brand, the more memorable it is. Our goal here at Smack Bang is to make a brand that has just the right amount of quirk to resonate with the right kind of audience. The goal is to make a brand that is more meaningful in its pronounced difference that what sets it apart is the very thing that endears people to it. Be different with purpose!
    Great brands tell a captivating story. They wear their heart on their sleeve and their values are pinned to their chest like that cute little chubby boy out of Up! Make sure your values are at the very heart of your branding and form the foundation of all of your communication and decision-making. If your brand doesn’t reflect your core values, you’ll find the water murky, the ground muddy and your journey to acquiring trust from clients particularly sticky.
    Great brands don’t sell. They don’t need to. The best brands are engaged with their consumer to the level of playing cluey problem-solver rather than toothy salesman. These brands weave a narrative that begins with salience, places value, nurtures community and finally produces affinity ­when the values and vision of the brand taps a nerve with the consumer and a relationship is sparked. The best relationships, naturally, mature to endure hardships, hiccups and hindrances, and they are formed on the back of trust as opposed to tricks.
    We’ve all got skeletons in the closet that were once fabulously on ­trend must-­haves. Coloured mascara, anyone? Still got that crimper loitering in an abandoned vanity drawer in the spare room of your parents’ house? Heck, some of us are still flaunting harem pants with pride. When will we learn?

The key to an exceptional brand is that it doesn’t need to chase trends, but rather can be instrumental in pioneering them. When a brand understands itself, it can relax and focus on its own inherent value rather than peddling someone else’s. This very sentiment of being true to one’s self is instrumental in inspiring a loyal following, and could also form the basis for a stellar coming ­of ­age story about a girl who learns to love the skin she’s in (while still having the boy in a besotted tizz). Great brands walk to the beat of their own drum, and they’ve got damn good rhythm.

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