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PART I: Favorite Brands from our Favorite Certified Brand Strategists

March 24, 2017

Welcome to part one of a two-part blog series about the most and least admired brands. At our recent Brand Establishment meeting, where nearly 40 of the country’s best minds in brand gathered to share ideas, best practices, and maybe a few cocktails, we polled the Certified Brand Strategists (CBS) about their beloved and not-so-beloved brands.

Favorite Brands from our Favorite  Certified Brand Strategists


Nike to Sephora: Retail Romance

Adidas –To this Georgia CBS and resident “soccer guy,” Adidas provides a positive image and high-performance gear for the dedicated athlete.

Tom’s Shoes – Our Texas CBS loves the product. But more importantly, she loves and supports Tom’s “cause marketing” and the prioritization of giving back as part of their DNA.

Nike – Our Oregon CBS, also an athlete, agreed about Adidas, but promoted Nike, as it’s in his own backyard. He knows many Nike employees and added that everybody absolutely loves working there, and no one leaves. The basic ethos at Nike – If you are a body, you are an athlete – is inclusive and empowering, and their people truly live their brand.

BMW – This California CBS won’t drive any other car. He loves the performance, the service, and their brand position. As he noted, since BMW’s introduction into the US, their business strategy has aligned with its brand strategy. On a mission to bring a high- performance car to people who love to drive, “The Ultimate Driving Machine” was born.

Our CBS points out that today, BMW has been named global brand of the year in its category and #1 in employees recommending people to work there.

Sephora – The Massachusetts CBS (okay, that’s me) admires Sephora for its consistent brand experience at all touchpoints. From the online experience, to in-store, to the products and services they offer. It is a responsive, helpful, and feel-good brand. I also noted that the employees not only showcase their products in an amazing way, that they really help you look your best and aren’t too salesy in the process. As another CBS neatly summed it up, “They are on your face, not in your face.”

Trader Joes – One of our Illinois CBS’s loves the people at Trader Joe’s. They are universally friendly, they go to find things for your, bend over backward, and are quirky and cheerful – just like the Trader Joe’s brand. Consistently good quality products, service, people.

LL Bean – Another of our Illinois CBS’s has always loved LL Bean. Since their founding, LL Bean has always stayed true to their roots in providing high-quality, long-lasting products that stand the test of time. They even guarantee their products by offering to replace any product, anytime. He cited a person he knew who sent a pair of 40-year old boots in that he thought should have lasted him 50. LL Bean promptly sent a new pair. Additionally, he noted that their employees at the Maine store know their stuff. Whether you’re being outfitted with a fly rod or canoe or winter coat, the amount of knowledge and enthusiasm of their employee base is amazing.

Marshalls/TJ Maxx – This Kansas-based CBS  is not sure of the company’s mission, but to her, she claims “They exist to make me look better.” Additionally, it was noted throughout the group, that the employees speak of the company with love, and get incentivized to find US-based vendors.

Red Bull – A Georgia CBS doesn’t drink Red Bull, but he is admirable at how well the brand is able to execute on its strategy. They have been able to infiltrate sports and extreme sports in a huge way and have done a great job with content, and really connecting with their consumer. They really get who their customer is.

Vitamix – Another Ohio CBS notes this regional Cleveland brand whose product line was designed to compete with the bigger national brands. What this CBS loves most is that the company is fantastic to employees and really walks-the- walk of a healthy company by providing free healthy lunches, exercise classes, health checks, and in general, a really healthy environment.

Guinness – One of our California CBS’s loves his Guinness and claims that all other beer pales in comparison. The way it’s merchandised is what sets it apart, and it is the most protected brand in the world. You can’t just open bar and get a tap. You have to pass a test, and your bartenders need to be trained, and you need to use Guinness glasses.

Always – Another California CBS loves the Always Brand and how it stands for more than just its feminine products. It stands behind all girls and women and is about being empowering and celebrating being a girl. She cited their famous “Like a girl campaign.”


Loving SpaceX to the Moon and Back

Tesla and SpaceX – This Florida CBS loved the loftiness of these two brands’ “why” – their purpose.

Tesla: To make a world without carbon emissions vehicles. SpaceX: to make human beings an interplanetary species.

Google – Our Florida along with many of our CBS’s also admired Google for always looking at what’s next. Apparently, up to 25% of your time as an employee can be spent doing something/anything for the company. This is how they innovate. One CBS with first-hand experience with a child who is working at Google mentioned the on-boarding process was amazing. It was also noted that Google unseated Apple for the most valuable brand (albeit for only 4 months in 2015). They are the only brand to have done that.

Amazon – An Illinois CBS is turning more and more to Amazon first to see if they have what he need. He has Alexa at his house. He feels that they are constantly improving their customer experience because they are learning about you and your patterns. On the flip-side, one of our CBS’s who lived in proximity of Amazon claims their efficiency-based culture is not kind to people. People in Seattle Amazon and don’t like working there. Shockingly disappointing brand on a number of levels. Stay tuned for more brand disappointments in our part two blog post.

Apple –Another Kansas CBS admired Apple for transforming their business so many times and at just the right times. From computer supplier to device provider to now content/services company, they have always maintained their commitment to innovation.

Lyft – Our CBS from Colorado praises Lyft for donating $1M to ACLU on the day the recent travel ban went into effect. He claims he deleted his Uber app and will continue with Lyft and Lyft alone. He really likes a brand that stands for something.


Marines, Airplanes, and Mickey Mouse

Disney – Our Ohio CBS loves Disney for its multigenerational appeal and providing a consistent brand experience since its inception. With a brand promise of providing pristine entertainment, Disney hasn’t moved away from their true core. Additionally, it is well document that their employees are well trained to be flawless at delivering the brand promise.

Marine – Our Iowa CBS always stands by the marines. He poses the question, “’The few, the proud’ which came first? The people or the tagline. Yeah, the people, and guess what? You are a marine for life. You live it, you breathe it, it’s in your DNA.

Southwest – Our Pennsylvania CBS has always admired Southwest for being able to align their 15,000+ employees with a unique, fun, and helpful culture that buy into and deliver on the airline’s brand promise.

PART II: Certified Brand Strategists’ Least Favorite Brands

Notes were loosely transcribed from the BE Winter meeting; statements and figures captured from off-the- cuff discussions and may not be exact.

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