The power of cultural branding

Branding is more than just the visual components that help consumers identify your company. When done well, branding has the power to transform a culture. When you think of some of the most iconic brands in the world such as Coke, Apple, and Nike you have to wonder, what makes their brand so powerful? What is it about their brand that resonates with such a large share of the population? According to the Harvard Business Review, “[t]hese brands win competitive battles not because they deliver distinctive benefits, trustworthy service, or innovative technologies (though they may provide all of these). Rather, they succeed because they forge a deep connection with the culture.” This means these brands have found a way to penetrate the hearts and minds of their consumers in a way that other brands have not been able to. As a result, they’ve been able to maintain its premium brand status over time. 

Having quality products and services is no longer enough to give your company a competitive advantage. The competition out there is fierce and you have to continuously revamp, improve, research, and innovate if you want to stay on top. For that reason, you also need to connect with your customer on a deeper level if you want to gain their loyalty. A great example is Starbucks, a globally recognized coffee shop that is recognized for much more than just the coffee it serves. Consumers don’t just go to Starbucks for coffee. They go there for the experience. Starbucks honed in on the concept of a community-centered “third place” between work and home that people can go to relax, study, work, or spend time with their friends and family. This was a brilliant way to position themselves against their competition by offering more than just your average coffee shop. They offer a safe, comfortable, and inviting place for people to enjoy a sense of community and belonging in addition to the coffee and quality products they serve. Starbucks changed the game by giving people a “third place” to go to, which at the time was something consumers didn’t even know they wanted. That just goes to show you the power of iconic brands and how they can shape a culture. 

To elevate your brand and get to the level of these incredible companies is no easy task. Unfortunately, there is no equation or how-to guide that you can follow to achieve that same level of success. However, we can learn from what these brands have done to identify what they all have in common. According to American Express, they have identified five principles of creating a cultural brand that includes the ability for cultural brands to recognize a disruption in society, create a sense of community, create an experience, offer strong products and services, and be supported by a consistent brand infrastructure. As you can see, each of these principles stems far beyond what you would typically think about a brand. To truly transcend the surface level of an ordinary brand, you need to dig deeper. Identify your purpose, your mission, and ensure that resonates with your audience at that moment in time and aspire for a lifetime. By doing so, not only will you reap financial success but you’ll also have the power to impact national and maybe even our global culture.