When you think about strong brands, what companies come to mind? For me, the top few always seem to be Disney, Starbucks, and Nike. These companies are so much more than the services and products they provide. Their names and logos have become synonymous with “who they are” and what makes them unique.
When I think about Disney, my first thought isn’t Disneyland or even Mickey Mouse, for that matter. The first thought that comes to mind is “exceptional customer service”. For the better part of a century, Disney has astonished and amazed their customers with outstanding, remarkable, and exceptional customer service. Whether you are shopping at the Disney store or visiting one of their theme parks, Disney customers have come to expect a certain level of excellence. If the Disney name is tied to a movie, resort, or product, you just know that it’s going to be great! As a large corporation, Disney has a unique approach to customer service. They could adopt a one-size-fits-all mantra, but they focus on personalization because it makes their customers feel special. While visiting their theme parks, they offer personalized collectibles, clothing, and meet & greets with their various movie characters. When vacationing on their cruise ships, each family is announced by name, as they board the ship.
How about Starbucks? What comes to mind when you think about their brand? I believe they are pioneers in the social responsibility movement, in more ways than one. Their health benefits are available to all employees, part-time and full-time. They also offer their employees that enroll in a bachelor’s program with Arizona State University, full tuition coverage. These luxuries are practically non-existent in the corporate world. Most full-time employees are extremely fortunate to receive any type of college reimbursement plan and it’s certainly not covered 100%. They have developed such a strong, employee-centric culture, that Starbucks is now so much more than a coffee establishment. It is an opportunity for people to improve their current lives and invest in their futures. Their social responsibility further extends to product offerings. They only offer ethically purchased and responsibly produced items, with a focus on farmer sustainability. This is quite a difference to the fast-food or fast-casual restaurants of the past, where the focus was always low-quality products with high profit margins.
Nike is another industry pioneer. When you see their trademark swish, you can hear their tagline, “Just Do It”. Nike is known for being cutting-edge and leading the pack with the newest shoe styles and shoe technologies. They have made you believe that their shoes can make you run faster, jump higher and that you can even be “like Mike”. They consistently roll out major campaigns with endorsements from high-profile celebrities, but they don’t stop there. They continually innovate with new products and processes. They inspire their customers by integrating high performance with current fashion trends to reach a wide audience and establish a loyal following. This focus on innovation has kept Nike as number one in the industry, with their competitors trying to imitate their successes in an attempt to gain market share.
As stated by Jerry McLaughlin, A Forbes Contributor, “Put simply, your “brand” is what your prospect thinks of when he or she hears your brand name. It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering—both factual (e.g. It comes in a robin’s-egg-blue box), and emotional (e.g. It’s romantic). Your brand name exists objectively; people can see it. It’s fixed” (December, 2011).
What other companies come to mind? What perceptions have they created in the minds of their customers and the public? Please share below!