Stories Worth Repeating: Authentic Brands

Michael Colton / Creative Director – Visual Brand Personalities

Most people who start companies have a mission, and a vision, and an attitude that they want to take forward.

They want to improve on whatever experience they had before, build on it, and bring forward a better one. The venture ultimately becomes personal story.

The founders, employees and even the clients or customers feel like that they are part of something where they actually matter. They become part of the story.  More often than not, that early vision and enthusiasm becomes diluted, and sometimes lost. And sometimes it gets lost forever.


Companies that are successful typically have a mission. That mission and how it gets translated in the marketplace and ultimately to customers can take a number of different forms and is communicated in many different ways.

But even as companies improve their products or services, and even over time, their image, the original store and how and why the company started… still resonates with customers.

There is an authenticity about being true to whom and what you are that is becoming rare in today’s marketplace. But for some enlightened and strategic companies, staying with their original simple philosophies is paying off with increased customers, increased sales, and a belief in those companies that takes on an almost cult-like status.


toms logo 2TOMS – One for One

In his recent book, “Start Something That Matters”, Blake Mycoskie, founder of TOMS, describes the basic idea that would come to define his business model and the shoe company that he started in 2006.  “With every pair of shoes you purchase, TOMS will give a pair of new shoes to a child in need. We call this our One for One idea.”

The continued growth of TOMS multi million-dollar Company can be attributed to the company’s ongoing commitment to giving.  This emotional philosophy appeals to both customers and employees and also generates media attention to potential partners who also want to give something back. Today the TOMS company has wide appeal and sends a popular, emotional, and clearly under the radar message to everyone it touches.

The people wearing TOM’s canvas shoes can be easily spotted by the TOM’s logo that is strategically positioned on the back of each shoe. And if a customer purchases shoes on line, a small TOM’s logo flag is included in the shoebox to further extend the company’s brand awareness in the marketplace.

Customers are familiar with the story of the TOMS company and its mission.  There is a progressive and hip attitude affiliated with wearing the TOMS brand and a deep, almost visceral appreciation for the company’s global effort to do a bit of good in the world.

subauru2SUBARU – Confidence in Motion

A number of automobile makers, both foreign and domestic, have been slowly emerging from the recession step by step.  The global downturn impacted almost every car company…some more than others. But meanwhile, Subaru of America has been consistently racking up record sales and market share since 2009.

Subaru has taken the time and made the effort to develop a deep and clear understanding of the customers who drive their cars.  Their original message of frugality, outdoors and safety with all-wheel drive vehicles is the force that drives their core philosophy and it has never changed.

Subaru customers are generally more upscale and typically tend to buy as bit less car than they can afford. But importantly Subaru has strategically seized the high ground in the automotive wars. The company has built their brand around the emotional appeal of the word “LOVE”.

As most marketing practitioners understand brands that can find a way to connect with their customers on a functional AND emotional level are the ones that transcend the category and perceiver for years to come. And of course nothing is more emotional than the concept of LOVE.

The marketing efforts of the company stay true to the early philosophy of vehicle safety but connect the idea with the notion of LOVE with the tag line. “LOVE, it’s what makes a Subaru, a Subaru.”  The company’s research shows that their customers are eco friendly and are not buying things for the sake of image but want to buy life’s experiences.

It is interesting to note that the manufacturing plant that’s making Subaru’s in the US is located within an official wildlife preserve in Indiana and it sends no waste products to landfills. This is in keeping with the company’s support of causes like the American Canoe Association and the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics.

The do good approach of Subaru coupled with the savvy connection to the word LOVE has helped differentiate the brand and connect it to a particular segment of the market that has become loyal to the company and its products. Never forget the power of an emotional brand connection.

patgonia border_0

PATAGONIA – Making a Difference

The original company founders created a mission statement that is still religiously followed today: “Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire, and implement solutions to the impending environmental crisis.” Patagonia started making tools for climbers and later expanded into clothing for the “silent sports”.  Being a socially and environmentally progressive company with unconditionally guaranteed products, plus employees who want to be affiliated with a company that makes a difference, have brought Patagonia to the forefront of the outdoor adventure clothing industry.

The company blog encourages customer dialogue about the products they build, the sports they love, and the environmental issues they are concerned about.

The Patagonia brand stands by four basic philosophies:

The Footprint Chronicles – Examines Patagonia’s life and habits as a company. The goal is to use transparency about the company’s supply chain to help reduce adverse social and environmental impacts.

Common Thread Partnership – This is a company-wide recycling effort to reduce the environmental impact through concerted and focused recycling efforts.

Patagonia’s Ironclad Guarantee – Reinforces the position that any product not meeting customer expectations can be returned, repaired, replaced or a refund granted.

1% For The Planet – The Company has consistently given 1% of all product sales since 1985 to the restoration and preservation of the natural environment. Additionally, $46 million dollars in cash and in-kind donations have been made to domestic and international grassroots environmental groups making a difference in the communities that have been targeted for grants.

When someone is wearing a Patagonia branded item, there is an image and a story being conveyed by a company that is making a difference. And for Patagonia it is this type of difference that is making consumers gravitate to these kinds of companies with their bottom line numbers telling the true tale.


In all three of the corporate examples above the executives and employees of these institutions never forgot what got them started. They never gravitated away from their original vision, principals, and philosophies that differentiated them in the marketplace and formed bonds with their loyal customers.

Today, in their efforts to chase an ever-nimble and evolving consumer, many brands try to re-invent and/or re-stage themselves. Examples include J.C. Penney, AOL, Pert Shampoo, the DeLorean automobile, McDonald’s McRib sandwich, and the Susan B. Anthony coin.  The efforts are often too late and the brand connection with its audience is typically permanently severed by the time the efforts kick in.

The best time honored businesses know that staying true to their roots can and often does pay great dividends to the firms. This does not suggest companies should not innovate or avoid developing and launching new products. Quite the contrary. These strategies can help re-invigorate brands and keep them vital and relevant over time.

Staying true to your roots means remembering what appealed to your customers in the first place. It is the hallmark of the company and often the glue that binds customers to the brand.

We suggest winning brands and their companies remember to stay true to what got them there!


Proper marketplace positioning and well-targeted brand communication can make the difference between effectively connecting with your market and just blending into today’s already over-messaged world.

If your company could use use strategic help evaluating your marketplace positioning and re-calibrating your brand communication program(s)… contact us at

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