How to create a successful brand

For many years branding has been a central buzzword in the business world; however, for many companies it is still a significant challenge to create a successful brand. Professor of Marketing at Henley Business School, David James, offers his advice on how to sell a brand.

Why are brands so important? After all, they don’t have anything to do with the core of your product. So why invest so much time and money on creating a successful brand?

According to research a positive brand influences the decision of the customer who has to choose between one product and another. But that’s not all. A successful brand affects employee morale, investor confidence, your company’s market share, and, ultimately, your profit margins. In the words of Bob Pittman, former of President of AOL, “Coca Cola does not win the taste test. Microsoft does not have the best operating system. Brands win.”

But as many companies have experienced, creating a successful brand can be a difficult task. Internet media such as Twitter and Facebook represent new possibilities for companies to interact with consumers and popularize their brand. New media play an important role in positioning a brand; companies just have to know how to use them.

What is the most important thing for companies to do when selling a brand?

Companies must engage and connect with the customer. Consumers and business-to-business customers alike all wants a personal relationship. The brand has to be personal. It has to build a relationship and a positive customer experience. It has to differentiate itself by having a strong personality, being able to resonate with the consumer, and building a relationship from there.

What does it take to maintain a successful brand today?

You have to be fluid, changing and adapting to the environment. You have to keep your eye on the customer and work out what they are thinking and how they are behaving. The problem is that customers move faster than businesses do. A successful brand always has its finger on the pulse of the market.

What is the most common failure when trying to sell a brand?

The most common failure companies make today when trying to sell a brand is the arrogant, complacent, lazy belief that the customers are simply going to walk through the door and buy their product. They’re not. They will move on if they see a better more relevant offering. Laziness and arrogance is so common in business today.

Why is that?

People become complacent and think that they are great. They don’t scour the market. They don’t keep an eye on what customers are doing, and by the time they realize, it is too late.

What role do social media play in relation to selling a brand?

I think social media play a critical role in selling a brand as long as companies don’t try to control and dictate the social media itself. It is social by its very nature, but businesses aren’t social. So what businesses have to do is just ride the wave, see what is being discussed about its brand, and adapt the brand accordingly.

You say that fans of brands play an important role. What you mean by that?

Fans of brands are really important because they are the ones who can sell the brand to non-fans or weak fans. So you use strong fans to sell your product to other people, because customers don’t trust brands. They don’t trust them because in so many ways we have let them down. But the fans do trust the brand, and they are the people that other people trust. So you market to your fans and let them market to the other people.


David James:

David James is Director of the School of Growth, Innovation and Enterprise at Henley Business School. His main areas of expertise are marketing, innovation, branding and new media. He is also a frequent commentator in the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph and has appeared on international media such as CNN. Before joining academia he worked in advertising for a wide range of global companies such as Microsoft, IBM, Heinz, Audi, Vodafone, and Virgin Mobile. David James has also produced international add campaigns for Shell, 3M, Canon Cameras, and Caterpillar Inc.