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Behind the Brand
By Valarie D. Willis

Recently, I invited readers to let me know about some of their favorites brands. I heard from several of you, some as far away as Africa. We definitely love or hate our brands. Let me highlight just a couple of those stories.

One person raved about the service she received from American Express. As a young student she was staying in Armagh, Northern Ireland, as she was traveling Europe and needed a deposit to her American Express account.

Her parents graciously wired her the money - only to the Western Union office, rather than American Express. American Express interceded for this student, worked out the problem, made sure that she had the money in her AMEX account, and then worked out the details with her parents. She has been an American Express card member since 1984 and has provided all her children American Express cards as well.

As she wrote to me, "That act of kindness on their part cemented my loyalty, and they have continued to provide great customer service to me and my family both at home and abroad for over 40 years."

Several wrote me about their Honda experiences. More than one person trusted and loved the Honda brand and what Honda stands for. One man said that he continues to buy a Honda whenever he needs a new car because Hondas are reliable, hold their value and have low maintenance. This brand is so well trusted that it is highly recommended to others.

Another reader related his great affection for Proctor & Gamble. Affection is usually a word we associate with people, which made me think about what is really behind the brand.

Trusted brands garner such powerful loyalty and dedication by those consumers who love them. But what is really behind the brand that makes it so powerful? We have to move beyond the marketing campaigns, the glossy magazine ads, and glitzy packaging to the real essence of the brand . . . people.

Yes, behind every great brand are the people who bring the brand to life. In every brand story that I have heard, both good and bad, those stories were really about the people who delivered the service, ensured the quality, cared for the workers and who moved beyond the standard customer service levels to create the trusted brand.

Those organizations that get their people to understand and embrace the brand promise create compelling customer experiences for consumers. Organizations that do not, run the risk of having an inconsistent brand image which tarnishes trust and reduces business profits.

BusinessWeek online published the 100 Top Brands for 2006. The top five brands were Coca-Cola, Microsoft, IBM, GE, and Intel. These brands were judged to be the most valuable brands.

One of the keys to maintaining a strong, valued brand is to get brand alignment with the associates who can then align their work to keep the brand promise. Associates can discover ways to connect with the consumer and instill higher levels of trust.

Gallup summarizes best what a company must do to have strong brand values:

  • Increase its ability to connect with prospects
  • Build its capability and commitment to engage its customers

Both of the above actions require people to understand the brand, live the brand, and respond appropriately to the consumer.

Don't miss the opportunity to connect your people with your brand; doing so can increase brand loyalty and build a stronger brand. Behind every great brand is a cadre of brand ambassadors that bring the brand to life.

Copyright© 2007 Valarie D. Willis. Valarie Willis is a Senior Facilitator with Bluepoint Leadership Development

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