The secret source of Big Brand Power

Jerry Mclaughlin writes the following for Forbes:

It’s not a coincidence that every blockbuster brand began as a meaningfully different product or service for its time.  Milton Hershey made milk chocolate affordable.  The McDonald brothers (not Ray Kroc) gave us a way to get a good burger inexpensively and quickly.  Tom Monaghan – the founder of Domino’s – made pizza delivery dependable and fast.  Reed Hastings – the founder of Netflix – made movie rental incomparably convenient.  Pierre Omidyar replaced the yard sale with a person-to-person online auction, called eBay.   And it’s no surprise that many of the defining brands of our time have emerged from Silicon Valley, the capital of technological innovation.

Because it wasn’t “branding” that generated any of these brands; it was the innovations behind them.  There’s no chicken-or-the-egg riddle here: the innovation comes first.

And once the innovation is hatched the “branding” exercise is about teaching the brand baby to talk, defending it, planning its coming out party, and boasting about it relentlessly.  Everything you do in that regard – naming the new category created by your innovation,  developing PR and advertising, raising money, arranging distribution, negotiating business development deals – all of that is just mechanics.  Don’t get me wrong: Mechanics matter, a lot. But they aren’t the star of the show.  How far they can take you depends on the inherent power of what you are promoting.

So, whether or not you’re a brilliant innovator yourself (and, let’s be honest, most of us aren’t), be on the lookout for brilliant ideas, and hitch your branding wagon to them. A new brand baby will summon an entourage in proportion to its importance to the world.  And it’s a blast to be in that entourage, helping the brand to grow strong.

There will always be a place for honest marketers trying to defend and grow market share for their venerable brands.  But the action there is slower.  If you want a big brand win you need to be honest with yourself: Are you trying to excite America about your new and (slightly) improved, this-time-we-really-mean-it-new widget?  Or are you shepherding a genuinely important innovation into the brand pantheon?

–copyright Jerry McLaughlin / Forbes


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