branding insights

What is a brand and why should it matter to you?

Branding Insights
One of a series by John Paulo Cardoso, Spyder Works Chief Creative Officer


As Michael Eisner says, “A brand is a living entity — and it is enriched or undermined cumulatively over time, the product of a thousand small gestures.”

I love that quote because it takes branding out of MBA seminars and puts it directly in your loading dock or on the desk of your sales rep or in your next e-mail to a supplier.

Brand is the culmination of everything an organization believes in, stands for and aspires to be. It must have real value and meaning for customers… and for everyone else. In essence, a brand is what you believe in (values), what you do (offer) and what you say (message).

A brand is not a logo. It exists in the minds of the marketplace. The visual aids like a logo, colour, typeface and design are the visible cues of your brand that ignite your customers’ emotions and how they feel about your business. A great brand is the consistently positive feeling that your customers, suppliers and employees enjoy when they deal with your company.

A more concrete way to think of it is to replace the word ‘brand’ with ‘reputation’. Through the process of creating a brand, we’re personifying a company. Why do we need to attach human characteristics and behavior to a company?  Simply because we want our customers to have a real relationship with our business so that they will have positive feelings when they think about our products, services or stores.  In other words, ‘branding’ is the management of our reputation in the marketplace.  It’s how we manage those thousand small gestures.


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Coke is timeless. Pepsi is timely.

Branding Insights
One of a series by John Paulo Cardoso, Spyder Works Chief Creative Officer


As a designer and branding junkie, I have always been fascinated by the marketing machinations of Coca-Cola and Pepsi Cola. As two of the savviest and most successful marketing companies in the world, you might imagine that the two companies would have evolved a similar, shadow approach to branding. But, the way I see it, they come at it from totally opposite directions. Coca-Cola, whose logo probably would have looked the same on Noah’s Ark, has steadfastly traded on its timeless, iconic connection to consumers, while Pepsi seems to juggle the look of its red, white and blue logo like a waverunner. It seems to me that Coke’s branding follows its consumers while Pepsi tries to anticipate them.

Which approach is right for your company?

If your corporate culture is about leadership and maintaining an enduring relationship with your customers, the Coca-Cola model will focus you on consistency, connection and continuous improvement. If you have an aggressive hunter/disruptor culture, the Pepsi model of continuous re-invention will keep your people and your customers on their toes. It will encourage constant re-assessment and promote maverick thinking. My mantra to clients is to be true to who you are and reflect it in your branding and re-branding. If your culture is about continuous improvement, you’ll grow by enhancing and nurturing. If it’s about continuous re-invention, your corporate destiny is finding the next big thing.

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Most trusted brands start here.

Branding Insights
One of a series by John Paulo Cardoso, Spyder Works Chief Creative Officer & Founder


One of the guilty pleasures of being a branding professional is reading the annual parade of polls that list the world’s ‘most trusted brands’. If you’re a small or medium sized company, the chances are, you’re not on those lists. That’s why I tend to look at them for entertainment purposes only. But even though few companies will ever grow to the stature of Coca-Cola, Apple, Google or Mercedes Benz, there is a key lesson to be learned from ‘most trusted’ polling. And to me, that lesson is ‘know who you are’.

Understanding what is unique about your brand and why customers buy from you is the foundation of your success. If you stay true to those insights, they will guide you through your strategic planning, your product development and your market expansion. In other words, staying true to who you are will allow your customers to trust you.

When I ask my clients who they are, some have a tendency to translate the question into ‘what are you?’ And they might answer with something like, “We’re the second largest manufacturer of low-flow control systems in the tri-state area.” Then I’ll nudge them into telling me why. And that’s where we begin the brand building process. Whether they tell me that they have the most stringent quality controls in their industry, the lowest prices or the best after-sales service, what they’re really articulating is what makes them a unique brand and why their customers trust them. They are defining the active ingredient in their brand. And knowing that is the battering ram that opens the door to future possibilities. It gives both of us the plotline we need to tell the company’s story and grow into the number one manufacturer of low-flow control systems in the tri-state area.

Lesson learned is that you don’t need to have revenues in the tens of millions to be a most trusted brand. You just need to be true to who you are.

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