Hurdles to Brand Success

by | Sep 22, 2021 | Branding, Insights, Marketing

How to make your brand successful, or very successful.

Successful brands consistently satisfy customers. Beyond this, very successful brands also engender a stronger level of commitment and passion from customers that, in effect, makes them brand loyalists if not advocates. In today’s post we explore the hurdles a brand needs to clear to reach the basic level of success (satisfaction) and the elevated level of success (loyalty). Brand loyalists do not yield long-term profitability but incremental revenue as they advocate for the brand and bring new customers.

At Six Degrees, we use the following model to guide brands to greater success.



1. Brand Awareness

The first hurdle to brand success is—no surprise here—awareness. If a potential customer of the brand is not aware of the brand, nothing else matters. Marketing’s first goal is to create and expand brand awareness. Brand success, indeed product success more generally, does not occur without spreading awareness first. A fun example of this can be found in one of our favorite adages in the English language: “The greatest thing since sliced bread.” Sliced bread was invented by Otto Rohwedder around 1910, and for the first decade or two it was actually a commercial failure. Not until Wonder Bread came along and popularized the concept of sliced bread did the concept (and Wonder Bread!) take off.


2. Brand Access

The second hurdle to brand success is access. Customers who are aware of the brand but are unable to access the brand will not become satisfied or loyal brand customers. Access hurdles can range from lack of availability of the brand to an interested customer (e.g., not available in the market yet) to a price point issue (e.g., a Rolls Royce to a person of modest means).


3. Brand Relevance

Brand relevance overlaps with brand access a bit as, for example, a Patek Philippe watch to a person of modest means is both an access and a relevance issue. But relevance clearly goes beyond access and relates to how well a brand fits a prospect’s desires, interests, self-image and aspirations. A resort brand in Thailand for someone who does not go to resorts and/or has no intention of ever traveling to Thailand makes the brand irrelevant, just as a Patek Philippe watch, while affordable to someone, is not of interest if that someone cares little for mechanical watches. In those cases, brand success will remain elusive.

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4. Brand Differentiation

The fourth hurdle standing between a brand and success is differentiation. A brand that is easily substituted for another brand will not be as successful as a brand that is perceived as more unique. Brand differentiation can be achieved in several ways beyond the tangible features of the product or service. Please see our piece about differentiation vs. distinctiveness for more information on this topic.


5. Brand Value

Finally, successful brands are recognized as providing good value—however “value” might be defined by a customer. At Six Degrees we seek to not only imbue a client’s brand with relevance and differentiation, but also identify and manage toward the most compelling value proposition for the brand to help the brand achieve long-term success.


6. Emotion

Overcoming hurdles 1-5 will ensure brand success. If, however, the goal of the brand is to be very successful, the brand needs to create and nurture an emotional connection with the customer; a connection that will instill brand loyalty and passion among customers. This is the pinnacle of the branding process and differentiates common successful brands from the high-flying brands that people aspire to own over and over and happily seek to convince others about (e.g., Apple or Porsche).

An emotional connection can be about how the brand makes the owner/user feel (like Apple or Porsche) or about the brand’s overarching purpose in society or the world at large (e.g., Tom’s shoes or REI).

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Frank Schab
An experienced marketing and branding strategist, Frank has been helping clients optimize the value of their brands through insightful analysis and effective strategy for more than three decades. Along with holding positions at General Motors and Pfizer, Frank served as a Managing Partner at Interbrand New York and VP of Global Brand Research at Opinion Research Corporation before co-founding Six Degrees. His brand-building work in various sectors including hospitality, medical device, pharmaceutical, automotive and technology has taken him to 17 countries on four continents. Frank holds a doctorate in psychology from Yale University and speaks fluent German.

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