Eight principles of branding

Successful brands are anchored in propositions that are desirable, distinctive, and credible in people’s minds. As Walter Landor once said: “Products are built in the factory, brands are created in the mind.”

Following are eight pieces of advice that anyone working with a competitive identity will want to keep top of mind–a conversation starter. These concepts are key to developing a bond with consumers, which is the essence of branding.

1 Stand out


Having a differentiated, relevant product is critical to success. Distinctive branding stems from clear brand positioning–knowing who the brand targets, what the competition is and how to beat it.


Red Bull went all-out to adopt an extreme position among carbonated energy drinks. Vitality is both its product benefit and its branding metaphor.

2 Stake your claim


The majority of leading brands got where they are by staking out a distinct territory and capitalizing on it. The ultimate measure of success? Discovering that your brand name is generic for its category, like Band-Aid, Google, Kleenex, or Xerox.


Head & Shoulders, with its trademark blue-green formula, defined the anti-dandruff shampoo market in the 1960s and maintains its category leadership worldwide to this day.

3 Find the insight


Sometimes the simple difference at the core of a brand is an obvious universal truth that no one has acted on. Great insights couple human need or desire with a market opportunity.


In both design and engineering, Audi understands the importance of connecting innovation to evolving needs. Its Tiptronic sedans link the driver’s desire to avoid uncomfortable gear changes with technology that provides the smoothest shifting among automobiles in its class.

4 Keep your promise


Brands that resonate strongly with consumers are typically motivated by the desire to exceed expectations. Living up to your word not only builds brand loyalty, it also encourages word-of-mouth promotion.


Simple. Consistent. Powerful. Google has remained true to its brand promise while continually launching new tools and refinements for improving information access.

5 Get emotional


However important rational claims may be, they cannot touch the powerful connection created by anchoring a brand in the psyche of the consumer. Nor can emotional ties be easily replicated by competitors.

Image by Joyce Costello, courtesy U.S. Army.

Harley-Davidson generates an emotional bond with its customers on multiple levels–unforgettable engine roar, tribal badges on licensed clothing, and counterculture ideals.

6 Begin at home


An engaged and passionate workforce should not be overlooked as a highly effective mechanism for driving brand awareness. Firms that empower their employees to carry out the brand promise develop a network of passionate brand advocates.


Singapore Airlines stands apart from other carriers through the consistently thoughtful commitment to service that is displayed by its staff from check-in to arrival.

7 Own your media


Relying on your own media to carry your message not only makes great financial sense, it also speaks to customers more directly than advertising can. This is an area that your competitors can neither access nor influence.


Without spending a single advertising dollar, FedEx makes its presence felt around the globe through the ubiquity of its packaging and courier vehicles. No ad campaign could better convey “The world on time.”

8 Start a dialogue


Old-world marketing involves a one-way flow of information from brand to consumer. Today’s savvy brands open the door for two-way communication through digital platforms and interactive experiences that help consumers bond with and even influence the products and services they favor.


Cascade Green’s sustainability initiative engaged consumers through environmental stunts and standout vocabulary, bringing an entirely new conversation to the brewing industry.


An earlier version of this article was published in Retail World (26 October 2009).

© 2010 Landor. All rights reserved.