Strong brands may have attractive logos and packaging, but that’s not what makes them successful. All strong brands are built on a clear belief system. They know it is the value provided – which reflects the values within – that people care about and the reason they become loyal customers.

Apple, now the most valuable company in the world, and Fedex, a company that still sets the standards in its industry, became iconic brands because they consistently deliver value to those who value what they deliver. Fedex is not the cheapest, but it’s the most reliable. I once lost an important speaking engagement through giving a less expensive Fedex competitor the opportunity to deliver my speakers package. It got to the client too late. I was told they would have unquestionably chosen me if they had receive my information. To save a couple of bucks I lost thousands. Never again.

 In 2007 the then CEO of Microsoft, Steve Ballmer, dismissed Apple’s iPhone because of its high cost and lack of a key board. “There’s no chance that the iPhone is going to get any significant market share,” was his prediction. Microsoft recently announced it is writing off nearly $8 Billion dollars it has invested in trying to compete in the mobile market. The lesson here is that Apple knows what people value before they know it themselves. And they don’t disappoint them.

 One of e-Bay’s stated values is: “We believe people are basically good.” What is profound about this value is that e-Bay’s business model and its very existence relies totally on employees and users buying into this belief and living it every day. How this effects performance should be a wake-up call to any business: e-Bay has one of the highest customer loyalty measurements in the world.

When an organization’s values are clear, they are shared with those within the organization and modeled by its leadership. The result of that clarity, commitment and alignment is that customers respond and relate to those values on a positive, emotional level and come back time and time again.

 Similarly, if you reflect upon an individual you respect and to whom you respond on a positive emotional level, you will notice that their influence on you is based on much more than their position, the way they look, or the car they drive. Ultimately, it is their values and the value they consistently provide to you - professionally or personally - that makes them stand out from the crowd.

 A brand therefore, whether it is a business brand or personal brand, starts to become strong when leaders or an individual decide what they believe in and commit to acting on those beliefs.

 “As I grow older, I pay less attention to what people say. I just watch what they do.” - Andrew Carnegie

Being Distinctive: