The Ultimate Brand Metric

February 7, 2012

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a "Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers." When a brand becomes well known, it is said that a company has achieved brand recognition.

A brand is distinctive, and when you do something really well your brand communicates your essence, your purpose. For many years when mainframe computers the only computing option and involved large expense and risk, there was an old saying that, “No one ever got fired by buying IBM.”

There was an underlying message about the IBM brand that IBM would stand behind its customers in ways that other companies would not or could not. This wasn’t just marketing hype, either. It was a very real, cultural belief in IBM that customers mattered and that those customers could in turn count on IBM. IBM delivered on the promise of its brand.

Sometimes, a company and a brand are so successful they reach the pinnacle of branding: the brand becomes a verb. These days, we don’t “perform an Internet search,” we Google it. Xerox’s copier business was so successful early on that we didn’t photocopy something, we Xeroxed it. We participate in social media by Facebooking and Tweeting.

Google and Facebook weren’t the first in what they do, but they built their ability do those things so well that they became verbs. In order to reach this level, there is a strong focus, passion, and belief that drive these companies. This goes beyond filling a need. It’s about binding who you are and what you do into a cohesive force, channeling the energy and passion into building a great offering.

To reach this level, you have to go deeper – much deeper – than focusing on what is on the surface. For products, this means more than a shiny case or a good user interface. For companies, this means more than having good project planning and execution. There needs to be an essence that permeates everything that you think and do. It is your purpose that “surrounds you and binds you together.” (To paraphrase Obi-Wan Kenobi.)

Companies don’t get a vote on whether their brand becomes a verb. You can’t perform any Jedi mind tricks (marketing) to reach this level. Customers decide this on their own, based on their experience. Your value proposition and execution have to be strong enough for customers to make this association for themselves. Think of it as the ultimate Net Promoter Score® metric.