David Aaker (Prophet) writes for HBR The Real Reason Chinese Firms Have Weak Branding:

In a recent column for the New York Times, David Brooks posited that the U.S. has one clear advantage over Chinese competition: branding. He notes that U.S. firms are powered by “eccentric failed novelists” (presumably from agencies and consulting firms that are gifted at brand positioning and execution) and “visionary founders” (think Steve Jobs) who have created exceptional brands. This talent is lacking in the Chinese market where “executives tend to see business deals in transactional, not in relationship terms,” as Brooks says. This observation is important because there are Chinese firms that seem to have everything to win globally except for branding and marketing.

Speaking as a long-time observer of brands and brand strategy, I believe that Brooks is correct but his analysis is incomplete. China’s lack of people with brand instincts is not the only or even the main brand challenge of Chinese firms. Further, he does not address the big questions: How, and when, will they overcome this deficiency?

How Hubris Killed Nokia by Colvin Shaw (Beyond Philosophy.)

So what happened to the mobile phone giant [Nokia]? They had great phones. They had market share. They were perched atop the mobile phone world for nearly 10 years. How did it unravel so quickly, in just six short years?

A large part of the answer is they did not build any emotional loyalty to their product.

Emotional loyalty is key to branding. It helps you weather competition and hang on to your market share. It is the reason that when faced with a decision, consumers will choose your product without even fully understanding why they did it. Emotional loyalty is the difference between being a mobile phone juggernaut and being the featured brand on a segment of a TV show called ‘Where are they now?’



When purpose is clear.

When focus is understood.

When brand strategy is created.

When it’s finally time to communicate, a good logo (graphic mark) is one of the tools used to exemplify the brand message.

Here are six nicely done logos that you may not have seen before (collected on All of these tastefully employ the use of negative space.


WINEFOREST wine bottles stand with trees in the forest.


Catch Me! features a falling person, and a helping hand ready to catch — both in the same graphic.


Airtime pictures a clock with an airplane formed by clock hands.


A big block of cool pink backgrounds Web Girls cursor and dot stick figure in a dress.


Night Golf cleverly incorporates a golfball for its moon design.


And finally, as you look at the Black Cat logo, it looks back with feline eyes.

Negative space can also be used for congruency – see how negative space formed by the words in nav bar mimic bridge shapes in the background. As well as to indicate – notice how it points to about? Something to be aware of and to think about.

The now famous story of the FedEx logo.



Good one:  Whatever Happened to Marketing Strategy

Good two:  Marketing Mistakes:  Focusing On Activities Instead Of Results

Good three:  7 Things Marketers Should Stop Doing Today



BRAND - DLightsMedia:

Your question is a good one and I think is partly, if not entirely, how to be a good consultant, or how to consult with brilliant people. Mentoring, coaching, training adults (brilliance level aside) is ultimately a challenge of establishing trust.

Trust that you, as a leader, are worth following, and trust that they are in a safe place to accomplish the task. The sooner you get to the environmental trust, and establish good, safe, respectful boundaries, and exemplar a constructive environment, and disallow deconstruction the better you can do the work. Guard the work. Demonstrate tolerance, and be willing to actively protect (from negative, and disrespectful behavior.)

BRAND - DLightsMedia:

Yes. At times I’ve encountered an almost, “anti-purpose” smugness toward these questions, and sometimes from my most eager customers — which just, doesn’t surprise me anymore, but was something I thought a lot about at one point. I think this smugness can come from a variety of places and often expresses itself as egotism and various attitudes of resistance (even hostility and sabotage.) That’s when we consultants envision the famous, “Help me, help you.” playing out in our minds. (We’ve all thought this when we’re midwifing breakthroughs, and we’ve all been there. All of us.) When clients feel safe and think you have skill and knowledge, then you can begin, in earnest, to focus on the tasks at hand.

Think of this from your customer’s point of view. They’ve hired someone outside their subject matter expertise, not to fix their car (which is scary enough) but to guide their business. And there are bad consultants, marketing charlatans as I call them — committing marketing malpractice. I bet you know some. And relationships evolve:  the beginning, the honeymoon, the work, new understandings, new beginning, a new honey moon, new work, etc.

Lots of reasons: First — it’s hard! You have to respect that, and not their expertise. And all the other options: perhaps we are mysteriously drawn towards our greatest fears, to then wrestle with them and rebuke them. Perhaps there is a fear of unmasking fears. Or just a first level response to perceived fears of penetrating too deeply, too personally, and insecurities about exposure and especially exposing inabilities — protecting preconceived ideas surrounding the all knowing CEO/leader role — which we know not to be true, but act as if it is written in the sky somewhere. And some people worry sessions will breakdown into nonsensical navel gazing if they’re asked to feel (words have power — word choices evoke responses) as well as think — but, in reality, is what we humans do in every second of our conscious lives. (My illustrations apply to the general mechanism of thought — not just as they pertain to brand.)

I’ve been asked very, very simple questions by brilliant people with the good judgement and the total confidence to ask them. (Which impresses me! Beyond belief!) Wouldn’t it be great if we were all like that! Letting insecure feelings interfere with gaining vital information is anti-productive and expensive.

In the end, you have to do the work. Let your awareness be your guide to a strategy of getting to an optimal environment, but not be your topic. You have a scope of material to deliver, and on time. Stay on track.

Schedule:  What is a Brand? (and do you need a brand strategy consultant or a designer?) – prezi  slideshow

Really good questions. Thank you.



I’m very excited about your question and want to answer from a personal experience. (I’m always espousing, the say/show model, the walk your talk model, so here is something I experienced, and think the same or similar is not uncommon as insights, realizations go.)

When I was finishing my thesis, a colleague knocked on my door one morning to ask me a question. He was doing the same thing, and ask me, “Which statistical formula would produce the best result.” To which I asked him, “What do you want to know?”

My question rang such a loud bell in my head that I know it taught me much more than anything I helped him to do that day, and I realized, suddenly, that, although I had a good handle on this as it applied to my work, I did not extrapolate it to me. In my academic career I hadn’t ask this very simple question of myself, beyond superficial major choices, areas, etc., although I was actively applying it to a scientific paper (and going through requirements of attaining a degree.) The ultimate benefit of education. To extrapolate methodology onto self. To know thy self.) What did I want to know — what was driving me? And it starts with simple questions — but it doesn’t stop with simple questions.


What is at the center of what drives you (your brand)?

What are your (your brand’s) central driving forces?

I’m often asked, “What strategy do we implement and at what juncture?” “When should we implement this or that?” “What should we say, how/where/when should we say it?” all very valid, very legitimate, good questions (and a creative paradise of work!) But like my What do you want to know? realization, under many to most questions is still lurking the unanswered one, What is the purpose? and at the very least, What do you want your brand to accomplish – and, at what juncture? And the answer is not, “To sell our widget – or to sell x number of widgets by x time period.” As Simon Sinek would explain to you, “That’s a result.” And the answer is not as complex as asking it of an entire person, no. A brand is not as complex as a person (so don’t get jumpy. smile!)

But, there is a question before your question.

It’s obvious when we think about it, right? but with brilliant new: products, services technologies in hand, and public deadlines encroaching we suddenly find ourselves making best guesses, to fill in blanks, and cobble together descriptive pieces of what and how, but not so much of why  – or completely stumped over very basic brand strategy and marketing questions, because we have not confronted THE most obvious one. The top question: What is the purpose?, Why are we doing this? — from which all things flow.

Or alternatively (comically, cynically) perhaps the blessed convenience, and advantage of public deadlines pending (depending on your level of aversion toward such endeavors) – to not have the cycles – to get to the question, and simply be forced to delegate it, and choose from the best second or third degree, or outside guesses, only to find them lacking and inaccurate. No second degree, or third degree, or outside vision can do this for you. They can help you, guide you, mentor you, yes!, but your absolute participation is required. A quick look at great brands, companies, establishments, and we see there legendary fingerprints so deeply impressed onto every aspect there is absolute clarity what founders had in heart and mind, and what purpose was driving them. (And they had help. In the form of teachers, mentors, adversaries, students. Greatness doesn’t emerge whole from a vacuum and I’m not at all suggesting it does – but that purpose is of top, strategic, central importance.)

What is your (brand’s) purpose, is a question that is, easy – hard to answer. (Sometimes never fully answered.) And it needs to be asked repeatedly throughout the life-cycle. And sometimes changed (sometimes it’s just wrong, or wrong for the time, or something deeper, more central presents itself that you now see and a rebranding ensues.) But the bottom line is, the faster it’s fully understood, the faster everything falls into place. The faster your customers are identified, their location, an understanding of how to form good relationships with them, what new business offerings and new lines of business will benefit them, and so on. Then, your focus comes clearly into view.

Find your purpose.  Find your focus.

(Here’s a GREAT example I posted shortly ago.)

There are many good, smart people, tools, texts, and ideas to help you get there. Fewer short cuts than advertised, ultimately (beware) but you don’t have to go it alone. None of the greats did and you don’t have to either.

Working towards a clearer purpose will help – in the extreme – answer your Q.


Tiffany’s stock, for one luxury brand, is over 40% higher this year by expanding the brand into smaller, less expensive products, and adding new stores in China — for a total of 70 in the region by the end of the year to accommodate growing Chinese middle class.

Again, smaller, less expensive, is NOT equal to “cheap.” (Although there is a homophone, robin egg blue, pun in there somewhere…)


See how Apple has split the market.