Building Brand

Posted: August 4, 2013 by Chuck Matthews in Marketing, Startup

“In this ever-changing society, the most powerful and enduring brands are built from the heart. They are real and sustainable.” 

               — Howard Schultz, Chairman and CEO, Starbucks.

UC Chuck MatthewsOne of the most challenging aspects of starting a business is building brand awareness and acceptance.  Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Coca-Cola, McDonalds, and Nike are iconic brands among the most recognizable (and valuable) in the world – now.  They epitomize, however, the conundrum of understanding entrepreneurship, that is, we come to know ventures in their success, but need to understand them in their infancy.

Howard Schultz knows a thing or two about building a brand. Starbucks has risen from a single store in Seattle, Washington to a global phenomenon.  My students today only know Starbucks as the dominant global purveyor of the finest coffee beverages in the world.  What lessons can we take from the giants today to help focus our efforts on building a brand as we begin our entrepreneurial journeys. While we cannot cover branding from A to Z, we can learn our ABC’s

A is for Authentic.  Howard Schulz gets an “A” for his insights into building brand.  “Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does…” When it comes to brand awareness, consumers always respond to what the company does well.  Think about it in reverse. Nothing destroys a company’s brand image than not getting it right.  If, on the other hand, you focus on developing your primary product services and offerings, build core and distinctive competencies, and deliver value that exceed your customers’ expectations, your brand will soar.  Nike’s mantra of “authentic athletic apparel” speaks volumes about why Phil Knight’s dream of a better running shoe is the global brand we know today.

B is for Bold.  One of my late mother’s favorite sayings was, “Might as well be hung for a sheep as a lamb.”  Today’s version is something like, “go big, or go home.”  Ted Turner’s early days of building the cable news industry we know today involved several bold moves. In1970, he purchased the struggling number four station, UHF Channel 17 WJRJ, in a four station Atlanta market.  He renamed it WTCG (for Turner Communications Group) and identified an even bolder programming path, ultimately building the “superstation” vision that would become TBS. At one point, he even took the option on all the NBC shows the local Atlanta affiliate (the number one rated station) didn’t pick up that year.  Soon, billboards all over Atlanta proclaimed WTCG the new NBC in Atlanta.  If success can be measured by the number of letters one receives from NBC lawyers, it was a huge success! Of course, the billboards came down, but the road to iconic brands TBS, CNN, Turner Broadcasting, and more had been paved.

C is for Creative.  Do you want to know the most unlikely path to building a brand for the ages?  Drive a Red Cross ambulance in France in 1919, come home to Kansas, fail at your first venture attempt, sell your meager possessions, hook up with your brother selling vacuums in California, convince him to start your own motion picture production company, get a good contract, only to be let go while you are in New York because the executive who hired you felt you, “wasted the studio’s money to have fun.” You don’t want to let your team go, so you jump on a train and on the way write the scenario for the first feature production of you newly rebranded company, Walt Disney Productions, Ltd.  On the train, Walt Disney decided that his new cartoon hero would be a mouse, because mice are little, cute, and are always up to mischief.  The first Mickey Mouse cartoon reel was produced in a cramped space over the Disney garage.  Of course, not a single studio was interested, until, undaunted, Disney found an equally bold independent producer willing to take a chance on Disney’s dream. Today, the Disney brand is among the most valuable in the world.

Building a brand creates expectations, but if you follow the ABC’s, be authentic, bold, and creative, you will be able to deliver in a way that will be enduring.  If you believe in your business, so will your backers and customers.  The common theme in building brand is designing and executing the reason to believe in your products or service.  Finally, aligning your goals, the organization you build, and the customer experience will produce the brand of the ages.  Till next time, all the best for continued entrepreneurial success!

  1. Rico Higgs says:

    Dr. Matthews,
    I truly appreciate you posting this article. Following the ABC approach for building brands is a very interesting way to look at developing a solid business model. As I relaunch Ocir & Co. Clothing I will remember to keep the ABC approach in mind.

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