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Learning from great brands: The 5 things they do right

by Casey Schmidt  |  September 30, 2020

10 min. read
A crowded street with many digital ads.

Great brands become that way by doing the things that others don’t seem interested in doing or capable of accomplishing.

Fortunately, the things they do aren’t locked in a high-security vault somewhere – they’re completely out in the open.

A large, steel security vault.It might not be possible to emulate them completely, but if you understand the things great brands do, you’ll improve your chances of success.

This guide will walk you through the five actions great brands take, as well provide you with seven examples of great brands. Let’s begin!

5 actions great brands take

The following five things are undeniably something all great brands do. As such, use these as a way to increase the effectiveness of your own brand.

1. Great brands master the art of communication

Good communication is just as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh

It’s no surprise to anyone that successful brands thrive in all areas of communication. However, it’s not always easy to make adjustments in this area.

An infographic about customers and communication.Fortunately, with a few simple strategies, you can be put onto the right path and have better relationships with customers.

Now, before you’re able to sharpen your brand communication, you’ll need to set some basic standards to dictate all future messaging and tone.

Adhere to the following in order to build an established set of principles to point to:

  • Create a brand persona. It becomes a lot easier for all forms of communication to be successful with customers if they can envision your brand as a person with human characteristics. Determine the way you want customers to think of your brand and start from there.
  • Understand your market. There’s going to be tons of disconnect between your communication and the audience if you don’t truly know them. Learn who they are, what they want and what they need, then start crafting your voice.
  • Build brand ideals. Being able to refer back to your brand ideals makes all the difference when communicating. It is like a guiding light throughout conversations.

With these principles to refer to, you’re ready to craft a brand communication blueprint. Follow these techniques in order to succeed.

Expand your outreach

Part of mastering communication is increasing the amount of conversations you’re able to have. As such, consider the places your audience might be spending their time.

Are you showing up when and where they want you to? Do they see you on the same social media platforms they use?

A person using social media on a smartphone.Further conversation potential

Examine the way in which you respond to customers to see if you could push the conversation further.

Are your responses automated and cookie-cutter? If so, consider looking for ways to build up the conversation and engage the customer for more than a brief, meaningless moment.

Be transparent

Lastly, brand transparency is what makes great brands stand out in their communication. If you enter conversations with honest intentions, things will go smoothly.

Furthermore, customers will continue to work with and communicate with you as a result.

2. Great brands stand out bigtime

Determine who you are and what your brand is, and what you’re not. The rest of it is just a lot of noise.” – Geoffrey Zakarian

There are a lot of near-identical products and services on the market at all times. Most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between one product or the other if it weren’t for the brand on the label.

A purple flower in a field of yellow.What makes good brands great, then, is how well they stand out as a whole compared to the competition.

The more brand differentiation you achieve, the higher the chance you’ll draw in customers and keep them.

There is certainly value in the practice of bucking trends, going an untraveled path and taking risks. The brands that do so regularly are the ones who ultimately stand out.

3. Great brands commit to consistency

Consistency is the true foundation of trust. Either keep your promises or do not make them.
– Roy T. Bennett

Consistency is a funny thing in the world of branding. All too often the idea gets overlooked for new and exciting tricks of the trade.

An infographic about brand consistency.In reality, brand consistency is what makes brands successful and keeps them at the top through thick and thin.

Does this mean you can’t make changes, such as upgrades or rebrandings? Of course not. But the consistency of numerous brand elements absolutely needs to be in place.

The great brands commit to consistency by ensuring things such as brand values don’t derail during communication and visual elements don’t switch from one marketing project to the next.

Follow this same level of commitment to consistency in order to become a great brand.

4. Great brands understand their image

A brand is no longer what we tell the consumer it is – it is what consumers tell each other it is.” – Scott Cook

The best brands are aware of their brand image, and work hard to influence it in a positive manner.

Of course, the greatest indicator of how successful our image will be is brand identity. Great brands realize this and build one in order to influence the other.

Multi-colored text that reads, 'brand identity'.After crafting their image, the best brands are the ones who understand it. Knowing how customers view you is key to all future campaigns.

Think about the ways in which your target audience sees your brand and adjust accordingly.

5. Great brands thrive on genuineness

Honesty is the first chapter in the book of wisdom.” –Thomas Jefferson

We see it time and time again – brands with inferior products and services outselling and outlasting bigger brands. At this point, the pattern cannot be ignored.

This pattern, of course, is a direct result of brands who are genuine and authentic throughout all endeavors. More than ever, with information so available to everyone, the great brands are open and honest.

An infographic about authenticity.This doesn’t mean every brand has to be an open book, but the slimier a brand seems, the more distance customers will create between themselves and the company. Aim for brand authenticity to avoid this result.

Now that you have five important actions that successful brands adhere to, let’s take a look at seven examples of great brands and explain why they’re so successful.

7 examples of great brands

Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business.” – Steve Forbes

The following seven examples show great brands and attempt to give insight into why each has elevated itself to be a great brand.

1. Apple

The one thing I love to point out when explaining why Apple is such a great brand is the way their products seem to boost one another.

They have figured out how to cross-promote items in a practical way. For example, the Apple Watch is an accessory to the iPhone, making its purchase more justifiable once you have one or the other.

This type of branding lures customers into an entire world of Apple technology.

Apple products on display.On top of this, the layouts of Apple Stores are unique and universal in their customer experiences they provide, with an open concept that puts all on display.

Key takeaways to consider: Appealing to a niche group doesn’t have to mean fewer customers. Apple aims their marketing towards a specific group but it extends their outreach regardless.

2. Taco Bell

Taco Bell accomplishes things other brands only dream of by reinventing their logos, slogans and designs all the time with something new that seems to work every time.

Whether they are modernizing a phrase or renovating the interiors of their restaurants, Taco Bell pushes themselves ahead of their rivals and sets the standard for which others must follow.

Most notably, Taco Bell engages their customers with things like the creative arts and other lifestyle hobbies, both on packaging and lining the walls of restaurants.

The Taco Bell logo.This brands the company as not only a great place to buy food but also a cultured sport for those interested in the creative arts.

Consider how Taco Bell uses topical branding to connect with their customers on a deeper level in order to have similar success in your own marketing campaigns.

Key takeaways to consider: Taco Bell shows us that change and reinvention can be frequent if done right. Look for new ways to stand out with your own brand.

3. Nike

Despite having a product that never really undergoes major changes (sportswear), Nike has remained relevant over the years by attaching unique ideas and images to its brand through marketing campaigns.

One such way was by transforming the world of logos by using a silhouette of NBA star Michael Jordan, which still today is used despite Jordan’s retirement decades ago.

The Nike slogan on a neon sign.Nike’s products are nothing special in and of themselves, but the brand behind them, through their calculated risks and unique marketing campaigns, have elevated the products to mean something more.

Their ideas seem to connect positively with audiences, which makes all the difference in the long run.

Key takeaways to consider: Nike realized the only way to stand out in their industry is through risky marketing techniques and attaching themselves to relevant icons. Look for ways to distance yourself in similar ways.

4. Amazon

Amazon is the one example of a brand that takes something everyone else already does and accomplishes it more efficiently and more conveniently for customers.

As a result, they have become a great brand through sheer effectiveness. Each time they take on a new service, it becomes the industry standard, and most often the competition can’t keep up.

An Amazon building.Whenever possible, think of the Amazon model and try to apply it yourself. If there’s a way to outdo your competitor, why not go for it instead of simply emulating them?

Key takeaways to consider: Competing sometimes requires a cutthroat approach. Great brands often meet this challenge head on.


For the products IKEA sells, they are talked about way too much. How can a furniture brand get so much attention and word-of-mouth advertisement?

The answer comes in the way they’ve branded themselves to be infinitely different than other furniture retailers.

The IKEA building front.Probably the most prevalent reason is their brand experience, which is on display anytime someone purchases a new product from IKEA and puts it together.

If you could point to one of these great brands as someone who breaks free from the restrictions of what they sell, IKEA would be the one you point to.

Key takeaways to consider: It really isn’t all about what you have to offer in terms of products or services. Strive for something more.

6. Microsoft

Microsoft is a great brand because of the way they focused their marketing efforts toward the right audiences.

Now, clearly Microsoft is a direct competitor to Apple, whom we discussed earlier. Therefore, there must be a reason why the two can both be great despite having similar services.

A Microsoft building sign.For Microsoft, they decided that it was more important to be available and usable for everyone rather than a specific group.

This type of dedication was risky but remains something that makes them convenient for so many millions of people.

Key takeaways to consider: We don’t always have to fight our competition for the exact same customers. Sometimes it will happen, but our branding can pivot to new markets.

7. Toyota

Toyota is an automobile brand that continues to grow worldwide, no matter what type of competition sprouts up. So, what makes them a great brand?

It’s easy to point at the quality of their product as well as the affordability, but many of their competitors offer similar.

The Toyota logo on a sports dome.Instead, what makes Toyota a great brand is the way they’ve branded themselves to be about family, which by default makes your brand appear the safer option (certainly, a family automobile is safest).

Key takeaways to consider: I love to point to Toyota when it comes to explaining why some brands stand out over others. Sure, they make a reliable vehicle, but it’s more about how they present themselves as a brand that drives their success.

Your path to greatness begins here

Great brands are great not only because of how successful they are, but because of how well they can influence and inspire other brands to rise up.

Now that you see the many things other great brands do, it’s time to achieve greatness of your own.

To learn more about branding, check out our complete branding guide.