Written by Canon Wing

I teach entrepreneurs and organizations the proven action steps to stand out within their market, improve the perceived value of their business, and better connect with their audience through naming, branding, storytelling, and communication platforms.

October 6, 2020

What’s Driving Your Brand to Succeed?

What’s Driving Your Brand To Succeed?

Hey everyone, it’s Canon Wing from Inspiration to Millions!

And I’m here to answer the question on every entrepreneur’s mind – How to come out of nowhere?! Now what every entrepreneur, brand manager, and CEO wants is to make their brand memorable. I know what you’re thinking – easier said than done right? And you are right! Brand loyalty is the big get. It’s highly rewarding on every level to achieve but easy to lose! It’s not about huge ad spends or complicated marketing strategies. The real secrets for successful brand building are more emotional and surprisingly simple.

Now your brand can perform like the ultimate driving machine – handling all roads and all conditions, but it really depends on who’s in the driving seat. Imagine the ultimate driving machine – comfortable and reliable but also a tough, all-weather vehicle that can handle any kind of road, difficult terrain, and a fair amount of punishment. Your brand needs to perform like that. While a lot of factors and adverse market conditions may seem beyond your control, but in each of them, it’s your Values and Ethics that should be driving your brand. It’s the values and ethics of your brand that guide you in the right direction in difficult circumstances, tide you over them, and keep you on the track to long-lasting success.

Let’s learn to create a brand that is solid, reliable, trustworthy and lovable – a brand that does what it says…every time! A brand that evokes emotions such as comfort, familiarity, the expectation of joy, and, most importantly… of trust!

Bottom line: Brand loyalty is your income.

There are many vital strands that go into creating your brand apart from the quality of your product or service. One of the most important aspect is the values and ethics your brand is built upon. The core values of your brand need to be the fundamental lodestar that must guide every decision you make. That steer your employees to do and say what the brand stands for. Because it is this that steers your brand and your business in the right direction!

As your company and your brand grows, you’ll be faced with many choices. You’ll think about expansion, increasing your product line, exploring new markets and distribution channels. I’m going to tell you about two brands who went through a similar phase, faced similar opportunities, but chose totally different paths. Their brand value graph is widely different too. One let their values and ethics drive their brand decisions, while the other compromised values and ethics in favor of rapid growth. These are perfect examples to demonstrate how brands earn loyalty and remain successful – the consistent, steady growth graph of Shake Shack and the uneven growth trajectory of Krispy Kreme.

Shake Shack’s CEO Randy Garutti has successfully steered the company in a way that has built an enviable brand loyalty by creating and sticking to brand vision. The company’s ambitious aim is to be “the best burger company in the world”. This is a tall ask, but everything that the company does – and doesn’t do – is oriented in this direction. At one time, it was tempted to give into offering people the curbside option of a food truck. But this is not what the company’s future was imagined as. Also Garutti was not convinced that he would be able to offer as good a product out of that setup. The future included a very specific type of location; a certain vibe that customers would come to expect. As Shake Shack’s fame spread, along came lucrative catering opportunities. Garutti wouldn’t let his brand be distracted by this either; it did not tie in with his fundamental values of offering a distinctive taste along with a certain vibe. And remember that bit about being “the best burger company in the world”?

And the result of letting the brand’s values and ethics steer its direction? A steady but unceasing growth trajectory! From a hotdog cart in Madison Square Park in 2001 to a stand with an expanded menu in 2004 to today: 168 Shake Shack outlets across the world. And every time you or I go to a Shake Shack we have the assurance of 100% Angus beef raised without antibiotics or hormones!

So how is the Krispy Kreme story different? The brand itself is an old, beloved name that dates back about 80 years. In about the 1990s, the brand reached its zenith. It created a special place for itself in the donut space by offering the donut-experience-with-a-difference: always fresh, hot donuts that customers could savor each time. It came to be associated with that experience. In 2000 the company went public and subsequently underwent rapid expansion. Suddenly there were Krispy Kremes everywhere. It even set up distribution points at grocery stores and gas stations! Krispy Kreme no longer offered the fresh, hot donut experience, something it had stood for, for years. Something it had built its brand upon. That novelty was no longer there. People didn’t find that their experience was special anymore. Demand actually dropped! The company was producing more than people were eating! Their stuff was far from fresh. It was disastrous! Quality spiraled down, profitability dropped, and brand loyalty plummeted! The brand had to work very hard to repair its damaged reputation and to claw itself back into profitability, and they could only manage to do it when they went back to their original values and ethics. They went back to providing what the brand had originally stood for – a fresh, hot donut experience. Their rapid expansion, which they imagined would multiply their profits, took them off-course and resulted in a rapid fall in brand value instead. Profitability fell to an all-time-low. Krispy Kreme paid a heavy price for compromising the brand’s values & ethics.

“Be yourself. Everyone else is taken”

Isn’t this just so appropriate to the creation of a truly unique and memorable brand?! Krispy Kreme’s story is not uncommon. For a lot of brands’ rapid growth spurts can be disastrous! It’s a serious brand erosion whenever the company deviates from its core values and ethics, and knowing this will help you avoid that pitfall. Changing what you stand for as a brand evaporates the trust and affection for a brand. When you’re looking at rapid expansion, or perhaps when you’re faced with tough choices and situations and market dynamics, it’s easy to lose sight of the core values your brand promised to embody. These core values give you a community who value and trust your products, the same values that make you…you.

Guard against “organizational attention deficit disorder”

Founder of Amazon Jeff Bezos shared how he and his company have stayed true to the original aim of the company back when it started. “Our energy at Amazon comes from the desire to impress customers rather than the zeal to best competitors,” he said. And his continued dedication towards the core values his company was founded upon has jet-fueled Amazon’s success. From an online bookstore to the largest internet retailer in the world – simply by letting their core values and ethics be their guiding lodestar.

The going won’t always be smooth. There will be times of distress, possibly times of financial crunch. But when your brand’s values and ethics always remain front and center, when they remain in the driver’s seat, you can ultimately turn that corner safely and successfully.

How to find your focus, and keep it.

Remember, your brand can be a lot of things. It can do a lot of things. But that’s not what your focus should be. From that huge list of everything your brand can do, filter out to retain everything your brand was made to do. What is the purpose behind your brand? Now deeply look at your goals and before you put all of your time, money and energy into achieving those goals, make certain each one is aligned with your brand’s values and ethics. That phrase – you can’t please everyone, or you can’t be everything to everyone – is true. You can’t. And the good news is, no one wants you to. They want you to stand for something they also stand for. That’s what communities are built on. That’s what Fortune 100 Companies are built on too.

The idea of doing a few things well rather than doing many things poorly is an old one. But at times the temptation to imitate a successful brand is too great. The only way to avoid that pitfall is by not losing focus. Write out your values and ethics, share them with everyone on your team and stick to them. Protect them like your brand’s life depends on it. Because it does! You might have to make some sacrifices along the way, might have to say no to some opportunities, but this will retain your brand’s equity over the long term. When faced with choices and opportunities, decide based on whether or not they are in line with your brand’s core values and ethics. Do that and your ideal individuals will have a picture of your brand in their mind. They will see your brand as standing for something, personifying something. And that indelible image in their mind will drive your brand to rise so effortlessly, you will appear to come out of nowhere.

Here’s what you can do today. Right now. List out your brand’s core values and ethics. The purpose behind the creation of your brand. Take your time and list them all out. Now take stock of where your brand stands right now. Has it veered off the path? Has something else taken over the driver’s seat? If it has, you can always bring it back on track. If it’s on track, keep it going strong. Choose one key area where you can refine your brand, where you can remind your ideal individuals of what you stand for. This exercise need not cost much. Your values and ethics can drive your brand like the ultimate driving machine, even when it’s low on fuel.

Thank you all for joining me. Remember, be authentic, be consistent. Make your brand magnetic for your ideal audience; never give them any reason to look elsewhere! Identify those values and ethics and then work towards building a brand culture around those. Ensure that you and your brand stay true to those values & ethics to create brand loyalists. You will find this is true for every successful brand that you can name: authenticity and consistency at their heart! Stick with your brand’s values and your ideal individuals with stick with your brand. And never forget – Love what you do and love how you do it!