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The Relationship between Brand and Performance

Image of apple's logoIn Friday’s post on Modern DC Business, I wrote about the reasons I’m an Apple fan and it got me thinking… how do they do it? The vast majority of companies I work with who talk about brand generally say at some point that they want to be the Apple of their industry. So, how do you make an aspiration like that come true? In large part, it comes down to understanding brand, focus, and discipline.

People often get so wrapped up in logo development when they start a branding exercise, that they forget the most important element of the brand: The contract a company establishes with its customers.

Your company sets forth a promise, which customers accept. Each interaction people have with your company impacts the level of trust they have in you—now and in the future. In other words, how well you deliver over time and how much it deviates from what you say you will deliver establishes your street cred (aka brand).

Approaching brand development as ‘delivery on a promise’ makes the customer the focal point of product, service, and process development. Add a compelling emotive element, and you create a company around which employees and customers passionately advocate on your behalf.

Customer-centric Branding Improves Performance

It takes a sophisticated leadership team to understand that brand drives value by becoming a yardstick for all critical decisions. Operational decisions based on a customer-centric brand contract embeds passion for excellence, pride, and customer service into corporate culture. Bottom line: High performing companies use a brand contract as an ingredient to success, often without thinking about it in those terms.

A customer-centric philosophy goes far beyond a market-driven approach. Market-driven companies seek to identify and fill an unmet need and do so by focusing on developing a product with a feature set they believe fits the bill. You can build a profitable company using this methodology. The cost: You’ll be viewed as a ‘me-too’ company with average performance.

The most profitable companies like Apple, however, deliberately design exceptional user experiences into every aspect of what they do to attract and delight a critical mass of raving fans. In fact, Apple focuses on margin rather than market share. Enough people have been willing to pay a premium for the iPhone, iPod, iPad, and MacBook because of the remarkable experience they enjoy that, in return, Apple has become one of the most valuable companies in the world.

A Production-driven Approach = Poor Performance

Unfortunately, all too many startups still take a production- or technology-based approach when it comes to product development. A founder falls in love with his or her idea and goes to market with limited (or no) constructive feedback. This type of company gloms user experience on after the product has been designed (if at all). You’ve got a lemon on your hands and no way to make lemonade.

Image of Tyrannosaurus

© papendesign –

As Jeff Goldblum’s character in Jurassic Park notes, “Just because you can do something doesn’t mean that you should.” Employees who work for founders who love technology for technology’s sake can attest that the founder’s ‘cool factor’ rarely appeals to many other people. Unfortunately, in this environment the sales and marketing departments take the blame for their inability to make and sell lemonade. These startups typically go extinct very early in their company lifecycles.

Before You Begin Branding

For the full scoop on how Apple designs an extraordinary experience from the ground up, read Design Like Apple: Seven Principles For Creating Insanely Great Products, Services, and Experiences by John Edson.

For advice on branding in general, Brand Asset Management: Driving Profitable Growth Through Your Brandsprovides insight into the basic mechanics of the branding process. Both are great resources, and I recommend reading them before looking for an expert to help you develop your brand. Knowing the mechanics will help you select a vendor that will help make your company stand out from the crowd. If you want to help, please contact us to discuss your situation.

A version of this post first appeared on Modern DC Business entitled “How to Build an ‘Apple Quality’ brand on July 30, 2012.

© 2012. All rights reserved.

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Thanks, Geoff! You are so on target with the day, after day, after day, customer after customer approach. Perhaps that makes the process of building a great reputation less intimidating than the thought of ‘branding.’

    August 10, 2012
  2. Great post, Marcia. I could not agree more. To your point, I think many companies get so wrapped up in in the early days of what their brand will look like (note deliberate use of future tense), that they forget to simply put one foot in front of another and day by day build the best user experience they can possibly create. Steve Jobs started in a garage, after all…. every new business owner or budding CEO/COO needs to look around his/her office, wherever that might be, and come to understand that they too are in their infancy; their own garage. Building a successful Brand often is not rocket science – its just doing the right thing day after day after day, customer after customer after customer. Do that, and much of the Brand grows organically and takes care of itself.

    August 10, 2012

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