Have you ever wondered, “What makes a great brand? What do these companies do differently? What will it take for my company to be a great brand that customers want to buy from and employees want to work for?” I’m about to let you in on their secrets.

Earlier this week, Denise Lee Yohn presented at the inaugural SoCal CXPA Local Networking Event (for which I am a lead, along with Jen Maldonado and Kim Proctor); the title of her presentation was “What Great Brands Do.” First though, if you’ve never heard Denise speak, or if you don’t follow her blog and her tweets, you should. Here’s a recap of her presentation.

There are good brands, and there are great brands. The difference between the two is the difference between success and failure. It’s really that stark. If you’re a great brand, you reap so many more benefits, including:

  • Increased sales
  • Higher profit margins
  • Lower costs
  • Greater customer loyalty
  • Higher market valuation

You say, “Yay. I want that for my business!” Awesome. Read on. Here’s what great brands do.

Great brands start inside. They focus on a sustainable brand identity. Defined values and a strong culture are key. And their extraordinary cultures are expressed through extraordinary customer experiences. Zappos is a great example.

Great brands sacrifice the sacred. They challenge the way things have always been done. They stay focused on their purpose. They give up profit and growth if it ruins their brand equity or alienates customers. They favor a long-term view over short-term gains. Denise mentioned Southwest Airlines as an example of a brand that adheres to this principle.

Great brands avoid selling products. I love this. They don’t sell products; they build relationships. They seek an emotional connection with their customers. Nike was the example here. Think about Nike’s advertising (Find Your Greatness) during the Olympics versus official sponsor Adidas’ ads.

Great brands sweat the small stuff. Every touchpoint matters. Every detail is important. Everything they do and say impacts their customers. Denise gave REI and Chick-fil-A as examples.

Great brands never have to give back. They create shared value, value for all stakeholders: customers, employees, communities, business partners. The company good and the public good are aligned. They don’t take from one hand and give to the other. This isn’t limited to just green initiatives; two examples Denise gave were Starbucks’ Create Jobs for USA initiative and Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles.

In the long term, by committing to your brand identity and staying committed, that’s how you build a great brand. – Denise Lee Yohn