Thursday, 29 January 2015

How to Build a Multi-Million Dollar Brand

Brands must have meaning and relevance
Written by Robyn T. Braley

Brand-building is achieved by doing the same thing, in the same way – repeatedly!  

Brands are built by constantly delivering on promises to customers. Continuity, consistency and predictability are the keys.

However, being predictable doesn't mean you are rigid and don’t adapt or respond to new opportunities or threats. Further, doing the same thing for too long can put you into a rut. And, a rut, as they say, is a grave with the ends kicked out. 

What I’m trying to say is that along with consistency, building your brand requires flexibility in order to stay relevant.

The Sucky Logo
Your brand is what customers think of you, your product or service. Our company, Unimark Creativedid some marketing for an Alberta based drilling tool company that was started by two young men out of the back of a half-ton truck. Forty years later the business had grown to become a dominant supplier within the Canadian and US oil industry worth many millions of dollars.

Their logo sucked. I like to imagine they sketched it on a used paper napkin at a lonely Tim Horton’s situated by a barren highway in the far north after delivering drill bits to a remote oil rig to complete their first sale. (Canadian readers know this is fiction because a Tim Horton's is never lonely. They are always packed!)

When I met them, they still produced their product catalogue in-house and it showed. In marketing terms, it sucked too! 

Building a Million Dollar Brand
Their brand was highly successful. Why? 

The owners built their business by building their brand. They answered the phone at 3 in the morning when a drilling engineer with a problem called from a remote drill site.

They would head down to the warehouse which, in the early days, may have been in a garage behind one of their houses, find the product, package it and take it to the bus depot or airport by 6:00 am.

Their customers knew they could always depend on their service because they were predictable. Creating brand equity was achieved through consistently living up to customer expectations.

When the company was eventually sold, it still used the sucky logo. Their brand obviously wasn’t about art, as dodgy as it was. It was about providing meaning by delivering on promises. The icon, as sucky as it was, had done its job.

Chief Branding Officer
Successful branding begins at the top. The CEO must double as the Chief Branding Officer. Brand fulfillment is too important to be left up to the marketing department or an outside agency. Even if its ours!

Why? Branding requires a clear understanding of who the company is, who the customers are and why it matters. Team buy in, discipline, and execution is required to grow the brand to a position of dominance.

Our company has led numerous clients through initial branding and brand alignment programs. We begin by interviewing clients, potential clients, employees, suppliers and other influencers.

Warts and blemishes are revealed. However, in the search for truth, failures must be acknowledged so that the lessons of the past can be instructive when shaping the future. The process also reveals the many things a company does well.

Being Relevant
Above all, a brand must be relevant. When it loses relevance, it will fail.

Remember Kodak? If you are 25 or younger the name may not register. Kodak was a corporate giant that sold every type of camera film imaginable. At a critical time, the leadership chose to ignore the emergence and promise of digital cameras saying it was a passing fad. Really!

And Polaroid? The camera revolutionized taking pictures because it would self-develop film 2-3 minutes after a photo was taken. People used to talk about shooting a Polaroid. Gonzo!

Transition or Die
Xerox pioneered office copiers. There was a time when people went to ‘Xerox’ a document rather than just copy it. People would ‘Xerox’ documents on a Canon copier.

Successful brands know when to transition and adapt to the marketplace. Xerox is still a major company, but it delivers on a different promise than 40 year ago. Companies that fail to change get left behind.

Failure to Target
Canadians have just experienced one of the greatest brand failures of all time. The sudden closure and retreat from Canada of US retail giant Target will cost billions in losses.

In the end, to most Canadians, Target simply didn’t matter. It was a big yawn, eh! Being irrelevant is the worst indictment in the court of customer opinion that a brand can be given.

Target entered Canada in 2012 to great fan fair. In January 2015 it announced it was closing 133 stores across the country eliminating 17,600 jobs. Included is a 1.3 million sq. ft. purpose built and state-of-the-art warehouse in Calgary. It is a white monster across the road from one of our clients.  

That’s a big fail! It’s monumental because their entry into the Canada’s retail market was highly anticipated by Canadians. The bottom line is that they utterly FAILED...    
·        To understand Canadian consumers are different than Americans
·         To deliver on their promise of quality products at lower prices
·         To deliver an engaging shopping experience
·         To build trust through long term relationship-building
·         To meet the expectations of Canadians who shopped in Target US.
·         To meet … wait for it … their TARGET! 

Robyn T. Braley is a writer, speaker and music composer. He is the president of UniMark Creative which focuses on website design, video production, media services (editorial and advertising), and graphic design. Contact him at or Follow him on twitter @robyntbraley

Relevant blogs written by Robyn T. Braley


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  2. I appreciate your comment! My company also produces videos and I am a great advocate for the power of the media We have great client success stories. However, video is only one of many tools for building your brand. I've found that a bringing together several disciplines - determined by what will achieve client goals - into a focused strategy creates brand synergy and brings the best results. Also read my earlier blog called Why Video? It's in this blogsite and also LinkedIn. Thanks for your comment. Robyn T Braley

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