Consumers love brands because they offer an extra value—that is, one in addition to the core product or service. That value becomes the major motivation for consumers to buy or use the product.

From there, the concept of brand becomes foggy. First of all, what is this value exactly?

We know, for instance, of the ability of a brand to signal belonging to a certain group or status. But there are some who say brands are the objects of love (Saatchi & Saatchi CEO Kevin Roberts) or even religion (Young & Rubicam).

Furthermore, how precisely is this value being added and incorporated into the brand? Advertising professionals say it is advertising. Consumers love the ad—so they'll love the brand. Other marketing experts are suggesting that a consistent and total brand experience is the key.

So what's the secret to a successful brand?

Before I answer that question, let's review three common approaches to brand development used by many marketers—with help from their advertising agencies, consultants, branding companies and design firms.

Although widespread, those approaches are not well founded theoretically; and, in my view, they have not yet yielded truly strong brands. The three approaches are the "decoration" approach, the "gluing" approach, and the "Golem" approach (of Prague, London or New York).

The decoration approach sees differentiation as a matter of appearance. "We branded ourselves," say the practitioners, meaning that a special name, logo and look have been created in a seemingly sophisticated development process. "Since they look different from our competitors', consumers conceive of us as different."

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Dan Herman, PhD, CEO of Competitive Advantages, is a strategy consultant, keynote lecturer, workshop/seminar leader, and author of Outsmart the MBA Clones: The Alternative Guide to Competitive Strategy, Marketing, and Branding (