Thursday 29 January 2015

How to Build a Multi-Million Dollar Brand

Branding begins on the inside.
Written by Robyn T. Braley

Brands are built by delivering on promises to customers. Delivering on promises with continuity, consistency and predictability earns customer loyalty. It's at that point that a brand becomes sustainable.  

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

While a brand has meaning, it must also remain relevant year after year. As customer needs change, so must your company. Building your brand requires flexibility in order to stay relevant.

It's Not Always About the Logo

Your brand is what customers think it is! It's defined by how they feel about your company, product or service.

Our company, Unimark Creativedid marketing projects for an Alberta based drilling tool company. It was a startup in the true sense of the word. 

Two young men founded the company out of the back of an old half-ton truck. They stored  product on one side of a two-car garage. 

Forty years later the business had grown to become the dominant supplier within the Canadian and US drilling industry. The company was worth many millions of dollars.

The owners built a highly successful company in spite of having a logo that sucked. I like to imagine they sketched it on a used paper napkin at a lonely Tim Horton’s by a barren highway in Canada's north after delivering drilling bits to a remote oil rig to complete their first sale. (Canadian readers know this is fiction because a Tim Horton's Donut store is never lonely. They are always packed!)

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 get dressed and head to the warehouse to find the needed product They would package it and take it to the airport to catch a 6:00 am flight.

As the company grew, the owners passed that same ethic to their employees. Customers knew they could always depend on their service because their actions 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. It was about providing meaning by delivering on promises. The icon 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 no longer relevant, it will fail.
Remember Kodak? If you are 30 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 years ago. Companies that fail to change get left behind.

Failure to Target 

Canadians witnessed one of the greatest brand failures of all time with the sudden retreat from Canada by US retail giant Target. The failure, due to incorrect brand analysis, cost billions in losses.

Robyn Braley was interviewed on CHQR 770 NEWS

RADIO about Target's demise.

Target entered Canada in 2012 to great fanfare. They raised the expectations and anticipation of Canadian consumers.

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

But, it was worse than that. Target failed to realize that Canadians tend to travel internationally much more than many Americans. Hundreds of thousands had shopped at  Target stores in the USA. They expected their shopping experience in the US to be equalled in Canada.   

It wasn't. In January 2015 it announced it was closing 133 stores across the country eliminating 17,600 jobs.

Also closed was a 1.3 million sq. ft. purpose-built state-of-the-art warehouse in Calgary. It was a white monster across the road from one of my clients.  

That’s a big fail! It’s monumental because their entry into 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 USA
  • To meet ... wait for it ... their TARGET!

Robyn T. Braley is a brand specialist, writer, and speaker. 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 font-size: 12pt;m. 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