How Successful Brands Make Decisions

Businesses need to let their branding help guide their decision-making process as a means of reinforcing their values to the public and to the business itself. I'm a big fan of how data can help businesses evaluate their efforts and set strategy, but data alone does not create a meaningful experience. While the statistics might help you see which calls to action were action were most effective, the numbers won't tell you why those emotional triggers led to a buying decision.

You still need the human element, and plenty of it. I talked about this idea in relation to big data in the past, but this time I mean more than just understanding how to apply data.

Successful businesses embrace the concept of branding as a powerful call to who we are as a people. Jim Stengel studied 5 human values that he felt the best companies represented: Eliciting Joy, Enabling Connection, Inspiring Exploration, Evoking Pride, and Impacting Society.

While branding discussions easily turn to Apple (one of the best in living out their brand values), let's take a look at another Steve Jobs and co. creation: Pixar. The animation studio focuses relentlessly on delighting its audience with spectacular storytelling and crisp visuals. Fast Company recently showed how the studio is the most successful studio in the movie-making industry -- not just in animated films, but in everything.

Their decision-making process is constantly influenced by their branding values.

As a quick aside, this is how a company that works on projects work a billion dollars can actually relate to the company or blog or art project that you're working on now. It's easy to point to these massively successful ventures and say, "Be like them." But, it's a real challenge to know how you can pull any applicable lessons to your situation. (I struggle with this concept all the time when reading business books and blogs.)

Pixar's branding values focus in on delighting audiences, but the team's initial efforts always fall far short of what they (and we) expect from a Pixar film. The company understands this and welcomes the opportunity to refine again and again like a sculptor revealing a masterpiece. There are even some pretty amazing tales of Pixar pitching out an enormous amount of work on Toy Story 2 when they realized their working copy just wasn't going to be good. After that purge and rebuilding, we ended up with the blockbuster hit we have today.

What If Your Branding Doesn't Fit?

Sometimes, a company can be flat out wrong. Steve McKee explains in Power Branding how Mountain Dew was originally a "hillbilly softdrink." Once the branding shifted, the product found its home. Since then, the brand has been the sponsor for the X-Games and a number of other extreme activities. (Red Bull has very effectively followed in Mountain Dew's footsteps while still managing to bring its own twist to the market.)

When Data and Branding Work Together

The real win is when you can set a clear vision for your business and measure against that vision. That type of measurement isn't the same thing as just checking pageviews. You'll need to understand the story of the data. You need to see how users are really interacting with the brand and if they are understanding the intent.

This measurement process may require surveys or heat-mapping or whatever is appropriate for your situation.

After you take time to clearly set your values, make sure you're measuring to stay on course. You want to not only keep your ideas in front of people. You want to improve them, for the sake of the world and for profit. Win-win.

How about You?

What are some of your favorite brands? What parts of their values and ideas do you buy into?

Featured image by Thomas Hawk.

BusinessMichael Roberts