Top 10 Branding Examples Killing It and What You Can Learn From Them

by Kyle Simpson · 36 comments

Branding 101
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This is a great guest post from Kyle… I simply had to run it today because it was too good a piece NOT to share with you all and offers some killer examples of branding at it’s absolute finest.

So happy reading BGB’ers and be sure to let us know in the comments below if you know of other killer branding examples, large or small.

There are plenty of companies out there that are succeeding, but more are merely scraping by (while others fail entirely).  So what is it that makes some businesses successful while their competitors get left in the dust?

It’s not always an easy question to answer, but here are a few companies that embody the “everything they touch turns to gold” mentality.  And if you copy their branding secrets, you may just find the success you crave.

Apple

Clipped from: apple.com (share this clip)

More than just products, this company offers a lifestyle, one that is hip, fun, and on the cutting-edge of technology (or so they would have you believe). 

Their products meet needs you didn’t even know you had and their advertising skews to the young (and young at heart) with trendy music and splashy, colorful graphics.  This is one big lesson in innovation and advertising success.

Pixar (or Disney/Pixar)

Another company that is at the top of its field, Pixar animation studios take advantage of some of the most creative people in the industry to produce films that tug at the heartstrings of every demographic.

But they put in the time.

With rumors of a five-year production cycle on every film, they are certainly taking a risk, but so far their quality-over-quantity mentality has paid off big.

GE

Clipped from: www.ge.com (share this clip)

The main thing that has allowed General Electric to survive and thrive for decades is their penchant for diversity.

From light bulbs and appliances to aviation and finance, this company has their hands in everyone’s cookie jar.

The beauty of this tactic is that if one area is not profitable, it has little effect on the company as a whole.

3M

Clipped from: www.3m.com (share this clip)

Like GE, this company is diverse, and like the many-headed hydra, it seems to sprout two heads every time it loses one.

Their expansion has not only been in the arena of products, but also into the global economy, servicing the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific (basically anywhere that has people and currency).

Coca Cola

We all know soda is bad for us, and yet, everyone drinks it.

Why?

Coca Cola, through years of trial and error, has been able to insinuate itself into every household (in America and in many other countries throughout the world) only partially because of its delicious products.

They are tenacious.

They take over other markets by buying out the local companies and replacing them, but they also try all kinds of advertising until they hit on the pulse of the culture.

As a company, they’re really fairly insidious, but it seems to work like magic.

BMW

The success of this automobile manufacturer stems largely from the fact that they have targeted a specific demographic (the young and upwardly mobile among us) and in doing so, have turned their product into something elite that other aspire to attain.

This is really ingenious only because it works so well for them (see Saab for the other side of this coin).

Luckily, they also produce cars that are dependable, attractive, and come with attendant bells and whistles that cater to their intended buyers (comfortable seating, sporty handling, and the latest technological gadgets).

Visa

You almost can’t stop yourself from saying, “It’s everywhere you want to be.”

That is a good sign of successful branding.

By tying themselves to a long-standing catch-phrase (and the idea that goes with it) they have ensured brand recognition on a global scale and presented an international image that is difficult to tarnish.

McDonald’s

As fast-food manufacturer’s go, you can’t find a more widely recognized name (or symbol, or promotional character). 

What makes them great is their ability to change their image.

You could look at them as a company that produces insanely unhealthy food for bargain basement prices (which begs the question, how can they make quality products so cheap?).

But they’ve managed to make themselves desirable to a world that is leaning towards healthier fare by cutting trans fats, offering healthy options, and tossing the biggie-size mentality that has been blamed for making America fat.

They have also garnered an image of social responsibility through their charity, the Ronald McDonald House, which helps families deal with illness and injury and by contributing to large humanitarian organizations like the Red Cross.

UPS

Who thought brown could be such a dependable color?

Five dollars says it was originally chosen because it was the cheapest paint for their trucks.

In any case, they have managed to stay afloat despite waging war with stalwarts (the USPS) and newcomers (FedEx) alike because they have based their brand on reliability.

Their prices are middle-of-the-road, they don’t tend to have a holier-than-thou attitude (USPS), and they rarely promise what they cannot deliver (FedEx).

They might not get it there as fast or as cheap, but it will arrive when they say it will, and sometimes that means a lot more than less cost or quick shipping.

Nike

The great thing about Nike is that even though they are committed to making money, they have somehow convinced the world that they are actually committed to improving our lives.

This is a pretty nifty trick for a company that makes billions of dollars on child labor in third world countries (oh, well, they don’t really do that anymore…do they?).

On the upside, they do make products (fairly expensive ones) that encourage us to cloth ourselves in keeping with our inner athlete.

They address a wide range of sports and urge people to exercise in style.

They also have an eco-friendly arm that turns recycled footwear into rubber turf for gymnasiums and playgrounds (for kids who don’t work all day).  Their main strength lies in their ability to turn any PR nightmare with a positive spin.

Over to You

Know of any branding giants I missed?  How about small businesses who are killing it? Feel free to share them in the comments below.

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