All the great brands have several things in common. First and foremost is a clear distinction in their market. They know who they are, what they do differently, and why they do it. They have driven a stake in the ground and have clearly communicated – both internally and externally – where that stake is. And once they do that, they do things that other companies don’t to ensure they dominate their turf.
Here are ten of those things that great companies do:
1. Have a strong sense of internal clarity
When a company clearly knows who it is, what they do differently, and why they do what they do, it is much easier for the employees to understand how they fit into the big picture at work. The best organizations make sure the internal communications, company events, and philanthropic endeavors are infused with the spirit of the brand so employees are inspired to bring it to life in their jobs every day. The employees of Southwest Airlines all know their job is to deliver customer service “with a sense of warmth, friendliness, individual pride and company spirit.” And you feel it wherever you come into contact with them.
2. Stay ahead of the competition
A great company has the vision to continuously innovate to outpace its competitors. They push the edge of what can be done by looking at technological advancements, R&D outcomes, and information sharing possibilities – working not only with customers, but with employees, suppliers and the channel. And they take great joy in watching competitors try to keep up.
3. Deliver the brand experience at every touchpoint
It is said that every medium to large company has upwards of a thousand touchpoints – places where the customer comes in contact with the brand. The great companies deliver a consistent brand experience through every single one of them. The sales organization ensures the buying process reflects the brand. HR recruits, hires and trains employees who fit the brand mold. The plant manager can clearly describe the brand position in conversations at an industry conference. We all come in contact with brands where we walk away thinking that experience did not fit what the company says it is about. The great companies ensure that doesn’t happen.
4. Keep customers and their needs at heart
Great companies seem to have a strong magnetic force that attracts good customers, and then turns them into great customers by building a trusted relationship over time. It generally involves shared values and a genuine effort by the company to understand the customer’s purpose, causes and beliefs. This level of empathy leads to a shared mindset and trust that cements customer loyalty forever.
5. Have the ability to surprise
There is nothing better than sitting in a client meeting to plan the launch of something nobody expects them to do. Surprises send a message to competitors, employees and the industry that this company is a leader that can be counted on for breakthrough ideas.
6. Are forward thinking
When a company is too focused on the current workload, product sales, and daily tasks of running the business, it exposes itself to unexpected problems or customer curve balls. The leading companies simultaneously execute and innovate – always looking ahead to what’s next and guiding the company in that direction. Companies that get mired in the daily grind will ultimately be passed by.
7. Evolve with changing times
It’s often said that truly great brands evolve with time. Companies like GE, Apple, UPS and even stalwart brands like Tiffany have kept their brands relevant even as technological, market and economic changes swirled around them. Rather than rest on their laurels, these companies are constantly monitoring, measuring and adjusting their performance to stay one step ahead of the completion.
8. Can respond effectively to challenges
Great organizations know how to respond to challenges, crises and unplanned occurrences in a way that reflects their brand values. The classic MBA case for this is the 1982 Tylenol poisonings that killed seven people. Johnson & Johnson quickly pulled all products off the shelves, designed tamper proof packaging, and offered a $100,000 reward to find the killer in order to demonstrate their commitment to product safety.
9. Make the world a better place
Every company writes checks to support local charities. Great companies do more. They engage their employees to actively participate in the community and even find causes that their customers will support right along with them. When you see a company president hammering nails right next to a factory worker at a Habitat for Humanity project, you know that company is dedicated to making the world a better place.
10. Harness their brand to create value
It is a well-known that up to 60 or 70 percent of a company’s value can lie in the intangible items like patents, trademarks, future sales and brand. Great companies know how to build incremental value by expanding brand awareness, increasing understanding, and raising desirability of the brand. A huge brand like Coca-Cola could lose all of its hard assets overnight and borrow money from the bank in the morning to rebuild based on brand value alone. Even smaller B2B companies can build the brand value to maximize the purchase price in an acquisition or stock price in an IPO. Value is in the eye of the beholder.
If your company does many or all of these things, congratulations. You are on the way to being a great brand. After all, these practices are not plucked from thin air. They are common themes that tie together the 100 Best Global Brands as determined by Interbrand.