6 lessons from companies on creating a killer brand

Take some tips from the masters. There’s a reason we’ve all heard of these names, and although size, budget, and success may all be different between factors between these brand curators and your company’s brand, there’s still valuable lessons they can teach you about standing out. Take a look at these six lessons from companies who’ve mastered everything from email newsletter copy to reviving 90’s hip hop.

Lesson #1: Know your legacy and let it influence you

The expert: Sprite

Sprite’s been doing a bit of marketing speed-dating lately; they just switched creative agencies for the fourth time in three years. Flashback to 1994 when they launched the now iconic ‘Obey Your Thirst’ slogan with a campaign featuring underground hip-hop up stars and freestylers like Nas, AZ, and Grand Puba.



Over 20 years later, Sprite is returning to the ‘Obey your Thirst’ campaign and to their hip-hop roots. Sprite partnered with The Fader magazine to create a video series aptly titled ‘Obey your Verse’ featuring big names like Drake and Nas, alongside shining up-and-comers Vince Staples and Isaiah Rashad. The Fader president Andy Cohn spoke to Contently about the campaign, saying “I think Sprite had a really good handle on how they wanted to relaunch ‘Obey Your Thirst’ because I think they realized they had a legacy they could trade on“. The new twist on the famous 90’s campaign has been very successful; the series has totalled more than 1 million video views so far. Cohn also spoke of how the legacy of ‘Obey Your Thirst’ with famous rappers was so easy to rejuvenate because “ever artist we talked to…knew about Sprite and ‘Obey Your Thirst’ from 20 years ago'”.


Lesson #2: Speak to your audience like human beings

The expert: Mailchimp

If you look up Mailchimp’s public Style Guide, you’ll get pages and pages of content explicitly explaining a Mailchimp employee’s responsibility to help customers in a friendly and informative way. They’ve even created a whole website called Voice and Tone full of potential conversations between a user and Mailchimp, and appropriate way to respond. What you’re seeing is Mailchimp nailing the importance of frank and personable communication. Isn’t it refreshing when a company’s support line speaks to you like, well, the real human being that they are?


MailChimp voice and tone


Lesson #3: Understand your core message

The expert: Dove

Growing from a brand who sold soap to a well-known advocator for all women’s beauty is quite a feat. Dove’s “Campaign for Real-Beauty” evolved in 2004 and still runs strong in their ads today. In the past few years, they’ve also become experts at making viral videos. The brilliance of these videos comes with the underlying core message in each of them: a move to inspire self esteem in women and encouraging all girls to reach their full potential. Whether their ads focus on Real-Beauty sketches, choosing whether to walk through a door that says ‘Beautiful’ or ‘Average’, or teaching young girls to embrace their curly hair, each of Dove’s ads trace back to their social mission statement of creating “a world where beauty is a source of confidence, and not anxiety”. Other brands have begun to follow Dove’s lead, such as the Always #LikeAGirl campaign and CoverGirl’s #GirlsCan empowerment ads.


Lesson #4: Don’t be afraid to take risks 

The expert: GoDaddy

2015 marked GoDaddy’s 11th ad appearance in the Super Bowl. Over the last decade, GoDaddy’s Super Bowl commercials have been some of the most controversial and some of the weirdest ones out there, but definitely also the most talked about. Their bold marketing moves and insistence on being surprising year after year has cemented them as one of the country’s most recognizable brands. And what’s their thing? Providing website domains. It’s not the spiciest industry out there, but it’s a safe bet that anyone you ask has at least heard the name ‘GoDaddy’, even if they’re not sure what exactly the company does. But that brand recognizability is exactly what the company needs to keep doors open. This isn’t to say taking plunging risks like GoDaddy is always the smartest move (they’ve definitely fallen on their faces a few times), but the idea remains an inspiring one. If a website domain company can be one of the most talked about companies out there, they’re certainly doing something right.



Lesson #5: Be brilliant at something unexpected

The expert: Lululemon

Lululemon’s brand dominates their industry. The yoga-inspired athletic apparel company has been so successful for many reasons, especially the way they encourage an entire healthy lifestyle as well as selling their product. Lululemon’s ‘good vibes’ and lifestyle branding are driven by their lesser known talent online: their killer content creation. Lululemon’s daily email newsletters are brilliant moments of witty copy, and their blog is a space for everything from wellness articles to profiles on up-and-coming folk singers. They’ve recently also released a seven part podcast as part of their one week meditation challenge. The constant contact a user receives online from the podcasts, interviews, and blogs establishes Lululemon’s brand beyond simply producing comfy yoga pants. The become that super healthy friend who you’ve always admired who’s also there to motivate you with some good vibes and great reads.


lululemon podcast

lululemon podcast


Lesson #6: Keep raising your own bar 

The expert: Tesla

Heard of ‘Ludicrous Mode?’ Well, it’s Tesla’s new addition to the Model S sedan and Model X SUV that’s going to kick the car from 0 to 60 mph in 2.8 seconds, and the SUV in 3.3. It’s also a nod to one of the greatest movies of all time (no judgement, it’s a classic). Elon Musk announced the new speed last month,  as well as promising his adoring fans audience that “he’ll launch an all-new Roadster in four years” (Bloomberg). This announcement comes only a few months after the unveiling of Tesla’s next venture the ‘Powerwall’, their own sustainable home battery. The lesson here, in essence, is that Tesla refuses to quit. They’re pushing into multiple industries and demolishing  all expectations along the way. There’s a reason they’re called “the brand of the year, decade and possibly century” (Forbes). Even if you’re not on the Elon Musk level, there can be strong value in refusing to settle and constantly pushing out new ideas and ways to evolve as a company. The energy surrounding Tesla and its supporters seems more like fans at a rock concert than shareholders and consumers. That’s a sign of how crucial Tesla’s brand has been in their success. Now, it’s all about where they’ll go from here. Maybe all the way to plaid? If you didn’t understand that, you didn’t click the movie link.


Tesla Powewall


Marika Hirsch
Marika Hirsch

As Blender’s Content Manager (aka ‘Resident Wordsmith’) Marika enjoys bringing readers the latest and greatest in both digital trends and IR tips. Follow along on Twitter: