Episode 16


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, as well as share valuable topics in the branding arena that will help you Stand-Out Conquer Obstacles and Reach Excellence…in other words, SCORE.

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

Show Notes (click to expand)

On January 1st, 2020, my son Zach embarked on his study abroad adventure to Sydney Australia. Just for some perspective, the distance from Australia to New Jersey is 9,904 miles and it takes 22 hours and 35 minutes to fly there….PHEW – I’M EXHAUSTED JUST SAYING THAT! 


Now, 25 years ago, the only way I would have been able to communicate with Zach was by landline phone or letter writing (with pictures inside).


While COVID-19 unfortunately cut his adventure short and prevented us from visiting him, we had another type of “Australian” experience…through our Apple iPhone. 


With the touch of our screen, my wife Sharon and I were able to see him experiencing all that the “Land Down Under” had to offer – the beaches, restaurants, college life, bungee jumping, skydiving, the Sydney Opera House and then some.

The “SIMPLICITY” of the Apple iPhone made this “almost face-to-face human experience” all possible.

Now let’s go back to 1996 when the Apple brand bordered on bankruptcy because it had zero point of difference. Steve Jobs had been gone for over a decade and the Windows 95 launch by Microsoft had severely eroded Mac’s technology edge. Apple was truly becoming a small player in the computer business. AND at that point, they had no point of difference. After Steve Jobs came back to Apple in 1997, he shifted the entire focus to rebuilding the brand around the idea that “Apple makes technology so simple, that everyone can be part of the future.”  

Apple’s strategy is to take current technology and make it super simple to use. Every Apple platform, including desktops, laptops, phones, watches, tablets, and music streaming delivers the brand’s core value of “Simplicity.”

NOW…It’s one thing to tout “SIMPLICITY”. BUT It’s another thing to truly live it. One of the keys to Apple’s success is leveraging “Simplicity” throughout the entire retail experience. 

Let me share some examples: 

The most exciting part of the Apple experience is having every product on display to allow consumers to take them for a “Simple” test drive. Everyone has fun when they go to the Apple store.
Simplicity also shines through the store layout with the genius bar for one-on-one tech questions and support. 
And one more thing, all staff carry a credit card machine to complete the transaction quickly, eliminating lines or cash registers. 

When it comes to Steve Jobs himself, he completely embodied Apple’s core value of “SIMPLICITY” down to his signature wardrobe. Unlike most corporate executives, who wear suits and ties, Jobs was committed to his quote-unquote “Uniform” of a black mock turtleneck, blue jeans and New Balance sneakers. While this surprises a lot of people I talk to, for me, it makes complete sense…because I always say that the entrepreneur is the brand. 


The consistency with Steve’s wardrobe was INTENTIONAL because his core value is SIMPLICITY…and he was committed to infusing this same core value as Apple’s brand identity by delivering effortless-technology. 


Consistency breeds credibility and is what builds long-lasting iconic brands.


SO…life is challenging enough…AND…the next time you want to make it less complicated, reach for an Apple…an iPhone or computer that is…because SIMPLICITY is how Apple SCORES

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

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