Try the Zappos shoe on for size

My understanding of brand comes from a textbook understanding acquired in school and later honed on Madison Ave.

Put simply, a brand is a face you present to the world backed by a set of principles and promises unique to you. Those principles and promises should be woven through your company’s employees, products and services and understood clearly by anyone who comes into contact with them.

Disney built a brand around a promise to deliver wholesome family entertainment. That promise lives in every one of their brand touch points (programming, retail operations, theme parks, etc.).  As a result, the Disney brand has become synonymous with family entertainment the world over.

The benefits this creates for Disney and other successful brands are indisputable. A well-executed brand owns a sizable piece of real estate inside a consumer’s mind.

What makes a brand


Pictured here is the Zappos “Culture Book,” a copy of which arrived at my house a couple weeks. Inside are excerpts from hundreds of statements written by employees that describe what Zappos means to them.

A common theme ensues from these excerpts. This occurs because at the very root of Zappos lie a set of unwavering principles and promises. Every decision, every action, must answer to them.

The result is breathtaking. The Zappos pledge is delivered through every pore in the company’s body.  They have ensured that the brand means exactly the same thing to everyone touched by it.

The Zappos brand would hardly enjoy the success it has today (millions of customers, rocketing sales, expansion into new categories) if every one of those employees had a different sense of what Zappos means.

This kind of success, unfortunately, is all too rare in real estate, where the lines many brands cast out into the marketplace contain no bait.

Assign this line of thinking to any real estate company. What makes Bob’s Realty different from Dave’s Realty? Personally, I couldn’t even begin to tell you. My guess is most people inside these companies can’t either.

In these times, that could mean disaster.

A simple brand test

Last week, while delivering a presentation on branding, I asked each attendee what their personal brand stood for. Most said it was customer service.

So I gave them a simple brand test:

I asked if they could recite the greeting that currently resides on their voice mail. After all, if customer service defines their brand, they should be aware of what their message says — especially given the fact that they were in the middle of a daylong meeting.

Most could not recall. Some had a hunch. One person knew.

I paused, questioning whether they had even built a brand at all.

Are you a brand or just a recognized name known for being around a while?

It’s important to ask yourself this question and get clear on the answer because the time and money you are investing in “building your brand” today may in fact be misdirected.

Who are you? What makes you different? What are the principles and promises that define you? What do you do to enforce them?

Nike employees 350 people to oversee their brand. How many have you employed?

If you determine you’ve gotten off track, you can get back on.

Target did it. Cadillac did it (pre-meltdown). You can too.

There are lots of ways to do it today:

The brand Obama does it on Facebook. Scion does it through its website JetBlue does it through Twitter Victoria’s Secret reveals it on YouTube Kodak snaps it through their blog

So instead of placing more forms on your website pages, or throwing gobs of cash at SEO, or creating web pages full of platitude graffiti, think about promises, principles and creating a culture that reverences them.

Try the Zappos shoe on for size.

Davison Twitter: 1000wattmarc