What makes a brand ‘remarkable’?

Inspired by Nike & Patagonia, these three fundamentals make brands worth talking about.

By Dan Rowell

03 December 2020
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I’m fascinated by why people love certain brands over others. 

The icebreaker question I ask all of my podcast guests is “What’s your favourite brand and why?” 

After asking 25 guests, there are two clear standouts in their answers: 

Nike & Patagonia.

So in this blog I’ll dive into what makes these two brands so revered, and share my favourite campaigns from each of them, plus provide three fundamentals you need to consider for building a remarkable brand. 

Before we do so, remember that a brand isn’t a logo or a product. It’s a gut feel about an organisation. Great brands that nail this gut feel can command a premium price, are more valuable, attract better staff and become more efficient at winning business. 

 

So, what do Nike and Patagonia do so well? 

Nike 

I’m a little biased here as Nike is one of my personal favourite brands. So what do they do that makes me such a fan?

If I asked you to recall a recent Nike advertisement, I can guarantee you it wasn’t trying to sell you on the benefits of wearing Nike products. Rather, Nike have become experts at storytelling and selling the idea of what it means to buy/have their products – the “Just Do It” lifestyle. 

A perfect example of this was their Breaking2 project, where they developed a shoe that would help marathon runners run a world record breaking sub-two hour marathon. 

The absurd idea that a human could run a marathon in less than two hours was proven otherwise when Eliud Kipchoge’s relentless, dogged pursuit of the impossible saw him  storm to a 1:59:40 finish in October 2019.

The seeds of this incredible feat were sown years earlier; in 2016 he was an Olympic marathon gold medallist and a four time London marathon winner. His partnership with Nike began in 2017 with his first attempt at the sub-two hour marathon, in which he was heartbreakingly short by 26 seconds. The documentary following this attempt was known as ‘Breaking2’, and set the foundation for his achievement two years later. 

This is a perfect example of Nike using heroic storytelling to elevate their brand. What a purpose to declare! We’re going to develop a shoe that will help dispel every accepted and preconceived notion about the limits of human speed. 

 

Patagonia

Starting out as a mountaineering and climbing equipment brand, Patagonia has grown into a global lifestyle brand. 

It was founded in 1973 by Yvon Chouinard, who reluctantly built a clothing empire through his love for the environment and a passion for crafting quality goods that enhance humanity’s relationship with it. Patagonia’s biggest legacy isn’t just its clothing, but its entire brand philosophy.

If you go to their website now their homepage reads “Buy Less, Demand More.” 

The fact that “Activism” is the second tab on their website is further evidence of their stance. 

It’s not merely what Patagonia’s customers buy, but what they buy into. They are totally open about their process, and utilise their brand awareness and success into a platform for environmental advocacy. This hasn’t been a recent move to leverage growing environmental awareness – since 1985, they’ve pledged 1% of sales to the preservation and restoration of the natural environment. 

Messaging across these different outlets varies from recommending consumers to send back well-worn clothing for repair, to running ad campaigns on Black Friday to caution against buying unnecessary goods. My personal favourite (shown below) is their “Don’t Buy This Jacket” campaign. 

Ironically enough, through their staunch commitment to principle and anti-consumerism, they’ve become an iconic clothing empire. 

Read more about the campaign.

 

Three fundamentals for building a remarkable brand

Now these aren’t all of the fundamentals you can consider or focus on when building a great brand, but they are ones that I think Nike and Patagonia do exceptionally well in. 

 

Share Your Brand’s ‘Why’/Purpose

Brands that have developed and share a meaningful purpose that goes beyond financial gains are the ones who attract the most loyal followers.

Simon Sinek summarises this well in his famous TED talk – ‘Start With Why’. This previous article sheds more light on this.

The articulation of your brand’s ‘Why’ could be funny! It could equally be blunt and sombre – the most important thing is it actually stands for something, rather than just trying to fit in or settle for convention. The crowd is rarely purposeful. 

 

Tell Captivating Stories 

Secondly, what stories are you telling about your products or services? 

In turn, what stories are your audience telling? Rather than framing your products or services as the hero of this story, do so instead with your customers. People are much more likely to buy if they can quickly see how that product or service will enrich their lives and make them the hero. 

I’ve written an article on storytelling which gives some further examples of small businesses getting it right. 

 

Make Beautiful Things

The third – and this is harder to do because it’s so subjective – is to make beautiful things.

Nike and Patagonia have beautifully designed and packaged products, and just walking into the curated atmosphere of their stores is an experience in itself. The content they produce is meticulously crafted and always punchy. Every aspect of the brand adds up to create a perception of total quality. Is the quality of the Nike shoe you buy, in absolute physical terms, better than any range of competitors? Realistically, no. But once that tick is on there, its value increases and you become a part of something, not just a recipient of a product.  

 

Further reading:

Interestingly, both of these brand’s founders have written brilliant books.

I haven’t personally read ‘Let my people go surfing’ however it has been recommended multiple times by my guests. 

I thoroughly enjoyed ‘Shoe dog’ and highly recommend it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If you or someone you know has questions about making their brand more remarkable, please give me a call — I could talk about this stuff all day.

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