Episode 10


I spent 25 years as a brand marketing executive at Nabisco, Kraft Foods, Cadbury, and Godiva. Throughout my career, I crafted identities, using just ‘One Word’, for some of the world’s most iconic brands such as Planters, Chips Ahoy!, Dentyne, and Godiva. In these episodes, I will challenge listeners to think differently about the brands they interact with every day by showing how their ‘One Word’ core value helps them break through the clutter and stand-out. Let’s listen to today’s brand clip…VOLVO.
Show Notes (click to expand)

What does it mean to be a brand?

One of the most critical barriers to success is understanding what a brand is and what a brand is NOT. I get this question all the time. Let me tell you what a brand is NOT: A brand is NOT a name, logo, tag-line, package design or the product itself. I call these elements: Window-dressing your brand. A brand is simply an EMOTIONAL IDENTITY that differentiates products, services and people.

As a former marketing executive at global multi-billion dollar consumer products companies like Nabisco, Kraft Foods, Cadbury and Godiva, I successfully crafted emotional identities for some of the world’s most iconic brands. Over the course of 25 years, a frequent challenge I faced was communicating the role a brand played in consumer’s lives…in other words its Core Value. To solve this problem, I developed a process to label that brand’s Core Value using just ‘One Word’. This helps consumers understand what they are actually buying.

During this series, I will select a brand I worked on or studied and share it’s ‘One Word Core Value.

So let’s turn to today’s brand clip…VOLVO

If you want to build a brand that stands the test of time, I believe you must focus your efforts on owning ‘One Word’ in your consumer’s mind. I define this ‘One Word’ as the brand’s core value – How the product or service makes the consumer’s life better.” Remember, money is an exchange for ‘Core Value’ and winning brands clearly define what core value they are selling.

When I started developing my ‘One Word’ core value process early-on in my brand marketing career, the first brand I studied was VOLVO.


Because this was the one brand that was laser-focused on the core value they strove to deliver to every consumer that purchased their cars: SAFETY.

For Volvo, SAFETY is integral to their brand; it’s not just a claim or demo in their marketing communications.

Now, I’m going to dive into some aspects of Volvo’s historic obsession with SAFETY. They were the 1st car brand to CONCEPTUALIZE SAFETY. It’s wild to think that this passion dates back to the 1940’s, when cars didn’t even have seatbelts.

They did the RESEARCH into what saved lives, learned from that research and then actualized it. For example, in 1959, Volvo invented the 3-point seatbelt to better protect drivers and passengers.

Similarly, in the early 2010’s, after learning that women have higher rates of injuries in accidents than men, Volvo started CREATING different sized “crash test dummies”, including female and child dummies. They investigated different crash scenarios and even created iconic advertising using “crash test dummies”, that are as close a resemblance to real human beings as possible.

Finally, and perhaps most powerfully, at every point, Volvo SHARED their innovations with the entire automotive industry. In 2019, Volvo launched their safety initiative called E.V.A. – Equal Vehicles for All – sharing the results of more than 50 years of research with the entire automotive industry. By allowing other manufacturers to download their SAFETY information, they stood by their core value to keep all drivers safe, not just their own customers.

Volvo had the courage to take a bold stance as the leader in SAFETY to cut through the noise of the competitive automotive industry and stand-out. That’s what winning brands do.

If there’s one thing I know for sure, it’s this:
Your product is NOT your brand.
Your brand is your Core Value…AND
You use your product as the vehicle to drive your Core Value.
VOLVO uses their cars to drive their Core Value of SAFETY.

The next time you’re in the market to purchase or lease a car, remember: SAFETY is how VOLVO SCORES.

I’m Rich Keller, The CATALYST and see you next time on The CATALYST Effect!

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