7 Key Elements of Successful Brands

Recently I was privileged to co-host an event with guest speaker Tom White of 3DI2. Tom gave a presentation about what he considers the key elements of mega-selling brands, so I’ve decided to share a brief breakdown below along with some of my thoughts for how all of these lessons and key elements from today’s largest and most successful brands are just as applicable in the digital age for online branding.

1. Fed-Ex
The first brand Tom mentioned was Fed-Ex. At one point, Fed-Ex advertised how they had the largest fleet of private jets in the world. As they continued to focus on how many jets they owned their sales continued to decline. Then, Tom says, Fed-Ex realized the service they were really providing was certainty: the guarantee that your package would be delivered overnight. Fed-Ex then made a shift to communicate value over function, and thus today are a mega-selling brand.

2. Starbucks
Number two was Starbucks, and the lesson was to create an experience. Tom says that Starbucks created a coffeehouse experience with wifi-fi and comfortable seating areas that made people crave the Starbucks experience more than the Starbucks coffee. Another good example would be OTG Management, a client of ours who has recently been installing iPads to order food, charge phones and check email at airport terminals, all of which is also built around creating an experience.

3. McDonalds
Three was McDonalds, and the lesson is to take consistency seriously. Tom says we go to McDonalds (if we go to McDonalds) because we seek some consistency in our lives, and one thing McDonalds has proved is its consistency. I think another relevant example could also be Google, who has taken consistency seriously from the get-go with their accuracy and consistency in search when they launched.

4. Nike
Four was Nike and Tom said how important it is to be authentic. He says Bill Bowerman and Phil Knight were athletes and sold to athletes. Nike and their brand is now on shoes, jerseys, helmets, golf clubs, and much more. They take consistency seriously and provide quality and value.

5. Disney
Five was Disney and he started with this quote from Walt Disney, “I only hope we never forget one thing – that it was all started by a mouse.” Tom then elaborated with the story of when Walt Disney first created the Mickey Mouse character he had just lost control of Oswald the Rabbit and most of his animators, and so when he then created Mickey Mouse he knew he had to trademark and protect it. The branding of Disney has become entwined with family magic ever since (more than ever now with Pixar, Marvel, Star Wars acquisitions), and they continue to create an experience and the lesson from them ultimately is to touch the heart of your customers.

6. Apple
Number 6 was Apple and the lesson is to oversimplify. As Malcolm Gladwell points out in his New Yorker piece, “The Tweaker”, Steve Jobs was obsessed with simplification. Tom says simplification is not the process of using your first idea, it is the process of using the hundredth idea. Steve Jobs helped lead Apple twice to “think different” and create products that enhance our lives because of his obsession with simplification.

7. Lockhead-Martin
The final brand Tom talked about in his presentation was Lockheed-Martin, the aerospace, defense, security and advanced technology company, where Tom was formerly a marketing executive. While there, Tom led a pitch to the US Air Force that helped award Lockheed a $70 billion contract for the F-22 Fighter Jet. Promise the future was the lesson taken from the success, one Lockheed continues to this day along with communicating value. Tom did this by appealing to his specific audience in the pitch, created value, touched the heart and promised them a better future.