I just read a great article by David Aaker (http://bit.ly/adTqNH) in the latest edition of Marketing News. David references the findings in the BrandJapan database that has tracked more than 1,000 brands for more than nine years on 20 different dimensions.
The same things that make for a strong brand in Japan make for a strong brand in the U.S. with one exception:
1. Familiarity and visibility – consumers are more comfortable with the familiar, though they do like to explore novel ideas. Familiar and visible brands consistently deliver on their value proposition and are visible in the marketplace. They become part of people’s routines.
2. Deliver value – today more than ever, successful brands need to meet the customers’ definition of value. This does NOT mean low price. Sony, Lexus and Apple are three strong brands that charge premium prices. They provide excellent quality for what consumers, who can afford them, believe is a fair price.
3. Quality – most strong brands have a history of delivering high perceived quality products or services relative to their competition.
4. Success breeds success – brands associated with business success have a tendency to continue to be successful. That’s because success equates with implied quality, reliability and value. Past success generates positive equity among customers and prospects so that if a successful brand does “stub its toe” (e.g., Toyota), consumers will give them the benefit of the doubt before deleting them from their “considered set.”
5. Inspiring brand vision – most top brands have a clear and inspiring vision that leads to shared values, interests and lifestyles with customers and employees. Two great examples of this are Google and Zappos.
6. Energy – energy is a key to brand health. One source of energy is innovation. I mentioned earlier that consumers like to explore novel ideas. They especially like to explore novel ideas from strong brands. Perhaps this is why New Coke didn’t harm the Coke brand over the long-term. Other energizers can be partnering with other strong brands such as Baskin Robbins adding Oreo flavored ice cream to its product portfolio.
These are six reasons David suggests that are required for a strong brand. I would add a seventh: outstanding customer service. Again, this may be a function of where we are with the growth of social media and the increased ability of the customer to build up or tear down a brand based on a particular experience they choose to share with their social network and beyond.
What do you think are other elements of a strong brand?