What Makes a Great Brand

Have you ever wondered why you spend more time (and money) with certain brands more than others? It’s probably not because you like their logo the best. It’s more likely because you enjoy the experience you have with that brand, and because you like the way that particular brand makes you feel.

Clients frequently come to Zion & Zion asking for a rebrand, but in some cases, to them, that simply means a new logo. Sure, you can create a new logo. But without knowing the story and having a true strategy behind it, it won’t get you very far.

Brands are built by experiences—which is a cumulative effect of an organization’s products, services, communications, people, and environments. Great brands have a purpose. It’s not just about what they do, but WHY they do it.

By focusing on the purpose of your brand before thinking about a new logo, you are building a stronger connection with your customers. People are emotional buyers. And in an advertising age where the customers are dictating the message thanks to the invention of social media, creating a connection is more important than ever.

Truly great, and successful, brands have the following in common:

1.  A Story

Storytelling is one of the oldest and simplest advertising tools. But in the fast paced world of the Internet and social media, many brands have lost sight of creating a well-established brand story. A story triggers a better understanding of a brand, and ultimately makes customers more trusting of your products and services.

Take, for example, Nike’s ongoing narrative of empowerment and challenge to the masses to “just do it.”  This story continuously inspires and strikes a strong emotional chord with Nike’s customers. An established brand story can give you a competitive advantage, as your audience is much more resistant to typical “marketing speak” than they are to a good story.

A story also gives your brand a voice and helps bring the brand to life, therefore creating a dialogue between your company and your target consumer. It can also be a great internal communications tool, aligning departments to project the same message. This will ensure customers get the same experience, no matter who within the organization they interact with.

A brand story is NOT a lengthy essay about the company, or a mission statement buried in a document somewhere for only the marketing department’s eyes to see. The goal of the brand story is not to harp on your organization, but to focus on the value you provide customers and/or the community at large. They are the heroes of your story.

2.  A Value Proposition

Customers today have an endless amount of options. On a daily basis, we are inundated with products and services that claim to be bigger, better, or cheaper than all the rest. So how do you differentiate yourself from the competition and appeal to a market segment over time? A detailed explanation can be found in our blog entitled: How to create a differentiated brand via a killer value proposition.


3.  An Identity

This is where we can start talking about a logo. A company’s mark is extremely important in identifying them in the marketplace, but it should reflect the emotion you want your customers to take away from your brand story and value proposition. All of an organization’s visual elements should have a consistent look and feel.

This is why great brands like Coca-Cola, Starbucks, and Target can get away with not showing the actual company name in their marketing materials. The general public can recognize their brand just by the shape of the packaging, color scheme, or even the style of their TV ads. Developing a brand standards guide is key in building this kind of brand recognition. Organizations can heighten their visibility by using a guide for all communication channels so their messaging is never left to interpretation, or compromised by speaking in too many voices.

A good brand standards guide should include the following elements:

  • Brand Values, Vision, and Personality
  • Logo Usage and Placement
  • Color Palette
  • Typefaces
  • Style of Imagery and Photography Direction
  • Graphic Elements
  • Editorial Guidelines

Take Walmart, for example. Their brand standards guide (you can find it by clicking the Brand Guidelines box at that link) is a great example of not only mapping out the elements of the brand, but actually using those elements to design the guide itself. When looking through it, you understand the fun, friendly, and approachable retailer vibe they are trying to portray through the use of colors, typography, lifestyle imagery, and their brand voice. It’s not just about how and when to use their logo, it’s so much more.


Your brand is your most valuable asset. When built the right way, a strong brand communicates to your customers that your organization is trustworthy, and worth the effort or price. The public builds relationships with brands—not individual products or services. You can certainly use a key product to build that relationship, but without the core foundation of a brand story, value proposition, and brand identity, you will quickly lose your audience.

The initial investment in developing your brand will pay off many times over in the long run and is the best way to communicate who your organization is and what you have to offer. You’ll see increased loyalty and engagement from your customer base if you take the time to build a quality brand, not just a logo.