Episode 28


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… AMAZON

Show Notes (click to expand)

Deep within a logo lies a treasure trove of stories about the brands we love. At first glance, we may NOT see the story on its surface, but as we become more emotionally connected over time, we start to see these logos in a whole new light. We start to understand the core value they sell to make our lives easier.


One of my favorite brand logo stories is Amazon.


Amazon was founded by Jeff Bezos in 1994, under the name “Cadabra”. Bezos changed the company’s name a year later to “Amazon”, after realizing that the original name had phonic resemblance to the word “Cadaver”. 


What started as an online bookstore has since grown into a behemoth corporation with their hands in almost everything. From electronics, movies, music, clothing, groceries, technology and more, Amazon now provides everything from A to Z. It’s only fitting then that the company should have a logo that conveys this exact same message.

The power of visual language cannot be taken for granted when it comes to crafting an iconic image. To become a recognizable brand, companies must create strong mental shortcuts to win their audience’s hearts.


Looking closely at the logo, the black Amazon letters represent power and elegance, while the curvy orange line stands for creativity, adventure and success.

However, if you look more closely at the curvy orange line, you actually see a SMILE. The SMILE is also an arrow that goes from A to  Z in the word Amazon. This path from the first to the last letter of the English alphabet communicates that Amazon offers everything, from A to Z!

The Amazon SMILE has become as recognizable as the Amazon logo itself, placing it solo on their boxes, bags, and trucks. This is when you know you’ve reached iconic status, like Nike’s Swoosh, Disney’s Mickey Mouse Ears, Target’s Bullseye and many more. 

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.
AMAZON uses their A to Z product line to drive their Core Value of SMILES.
So the next time you’re looking to purchase anything that will deliver SMILES to your doorstep, remember, SMILES is how Amazon SCORES. 

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

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