5 Traits of a Role-Model Brand

Molly Duggan

Molly Duggan

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When organizations come to Molly Duggan Associates to rethink or establish a role-model brand, we often first conduct a brand audit to help capture what’s working and what isn’t. We’ve learned over the years that every brand is different—no one-size-fits-all approach exists. At the same time, certain themes emerge time and again.

Role-model brands—the standard-bearers that other companies look to emulate, the ones that regularly break through all the noise—do tend to share some common traits. Think of your own favorite brands and you’re likely to find that they possess at least a few of these key characteristics.

Trusted. When a company or institution clearly cares about what it stands for, it becomes a brand people trust to be consistent, reliable and honorable. You know what you’re going to get from a trusted brand, and the name becomes shorthand for something larger. (Check out Reader’s Digest’s list of most trusted brands to see what we mean.) Yet even established institutions like UC Berkeley and Johns Hopkins University need to keep honing their messages to match their goals.

Relevant. Every message or offering has an audience and a context. Excellent brands know that what they offer has relevance for their audience for a particular time and place. When Johns Hopkins University sought to make a case for campus-wide capital improvements, for example, we helped craft a message that emphasized the school’s important work on some of the most challenging issues in the world. The campaign raised over $3 billion in three years through the multi-city galas, website donations, commercials, call-to-action print materials and other digital media.

Worth listening to. It follows that trusted and relevant brands will find a receptive audience for their messages. Customers trust that this brand will have something fun, interesting, and/or useful to say. Panavision is a good example—the film equipment maker is at the forefront of the industry. When we helped the company develop its PanaLab Learning Center as an online cinematography resource, we were building on Panavision’s status as a knowledge-sharing institution.

Approachable. There are no walls up with approachable brands. They invite you into their world and offer multiple ways to get in touch, multiple ways to access their content. We’ve helped the California-based technology company Silver Peak uphold such a standard, creating informative materials and channels that open up conversations with prospective customers.

Engaged. No brand can afford to stand in isolation given the immediacy and ubiquity of social media. Yet even beyond tweets and Facebook posts, an organization needs to show from top to bottom that it cares about its audience, wants a dialogue, and is plugged into what that audience cares about. We helped Easterseals extend his notion to its offices in the Bay Area, making sure its mission to help families affected by disabilities was felt from the moment someone enters the lobby.

What makes your brand stand out? Do your customers know? Talk to us and get a clearer picture.

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