How to Think Like a Big Brand

What do big brands do before they start to market their products? They brand. While employing marketing tactics, such as Facebook ads, to gain traffic is a worthy strategy for ecommerce stores, it tends to discount the importance of the message they want to send.

Online stores can learn something from big brands that use branding before marketing to inspire their audience. Online retailers tend to think marketing first, branding second. Big brands know that all marketing activity stems from branding strategy. First you have to discover who you are before you try to sell yourself. Big brands think deeply about who they are, and what they stand for.

So, what can smaller ecommerce brands learn from the big guys? Here are some steps online stores can take to focus on branding to gain a larger more committed audience.


Trust Sign

Build Trust

At the core the branding paradigm stands one powerful truth; trust attracts business. It is often said that the purpose of branding is to create trust, and that in turn; this trust enables brands to command a higher price and generate more demand for their products and services. While this is true, very few resources come to the rescue of small online brands that desire to start on the journey of “self” discovery of a diligent branding endeavor. Yes, branding is all about shaping the identity of your products and services while keeping in mind that trust is built through the degree to which your ideas, beliefs, and core values resonate with your audience. Ideas are powerful and inspire people to action. The power gained through the sharing of life ideals is a force to be reckoned with and the most critical concept to understand in establishing a sound and effective branding strategy. Brands who connect with their natural audience and nurture the relationships will surely get rewarded for their efforts. Each brand must stand for an ideal, and mean it. Brands who inspire help create a better world.

How do you build trust? Take a look at these brands and some methods they use. Starbucks uses communication to build trust with their fans. By retweeting fun audience-generated content they speak to their audience just like a friend would.

Starbucks Tweeting Strategy

Bellroy Tweet Example

Bellroy, the makers of thin leather wallets, builds trust through being authentic to their core values. This tweet is about something that obviously they feel passionately about to share with their audience. It also is authentically them. Nature and sculpture is what Bellroy does. They craft nature, the finest leather, into sculpture, thin functional wallets.

stop sign

Stop Selling Stuff… Start Promoting Ideals

If you think of your business in terms of being only a provider of products or services, you’re surely not doing as well as you could. This is an opportunity for you to take a few steps back and start asking some fundamental questions related to your products identity, namely brand, and also to attempt to better understand how it is perceived by your audience. A product is merely a physical and utilitarian object, which is difficult to relate to. The purpose of the brand is to allow for beliefs, core values, and even personality traits to be associated to the product on the same basis as those attributed to people. How attractive and relatable is your brand’s proposition. Consider your products name, core beliefs, personality traits and even recognizable physical features each as key elements of your overall branding strategy.

Datsusara Logo

Datsusara, which produces MMA gear made from hemp fabrics, is a perfect example of an ecommerce brand doing just that. The name “Datsusara” translates from Japanese into, “to leave the salaried workers’ life”. Chris, the guy behind Datsusara, is the personification of the idea of leaving the salaried life. Not only has the brand he’s built allowed him an entrepreneur's lifestyle free from corporate tyranny, but he also promotes this ideal through his brand. The name obviously, but also through his blog by writing with a clear message on what he stands for. People attracted by his ideals will bond with his brand.

Personality… Where to begin?

People who aren’t convinced that brands actually have personalities will be stunned to learn that scholars from top business schools have already developed and refined a framework over the last 17 years, which establishes five dimensions in the identity of brands. According to their research, the focus of your brand will either be Sincerity, Excitement, Competence, Sophistication, or Ruggedness. Of course, your job as a brand owner is to make your core values as specific and meaningful as you humanly can. Make a list of values and constantly refine it to see which one comes out on top. And little by little observe your brand’s personality and core values emerge seemingly out of nowhere. Answering questions such as “What does our brand stand for?” will also keep you on path toward bringing your brand to life.

What brands have personality? Here are some big brands that fit into the 5 dimensions.


Brand Pentagon


The Mantra, Your Gospel

Once you’ve established the core values of your brand, it’s time to synthesize it into a short, congruent, and powerful mantra. Ideally consisting of three words or less, no more than five, your mantra represents what your brand stands for. It is kept short so people can remember it. The attention span of online shoppers is incredibly short and you’re doing yourself a huge disservice by trying to cram more information into your audience’s minds. The only possible outcome of such a strategy is confusion. Start paying attention to the mantras of big brands. Trying to remember one of your favorite brand’s mantras will also be a good exercise and should convince you of the importance of keeping it as concise as possible. Keep in mind, your mantra, being a reflection of your core identity, is your brand’s purpose or reason to exist. Focus on being genuinely authentic and dedicated toward the realization of your brand’s ideals.

Some big brands mantras you can learn from

Apple Think Different Mantra

BMW The Ultimate Driving Machine



kickstarter mantra


And some parody ones too. Wouldn’t it be great if one day your brand grew big enough to be parodied?

Tic Tac toblerone

In the End: Let Branding Guide Your Marketing Efforts

A solid branding strategy coupled with a well-executed marketing plan can be a great combo in the quest for brand value creation. But don’t forget, branding is about who you are, and marketing is what you do. Branding is about evolving, becoming, and growing, while marketing is simply the collection of actions that take you there. Brand is value, marketing an expense. The ecommerce environment is filled with marketing tools ready to help online brands do more to promote their businesses, but to be truly successful; you must first do your branding homework. Follow the steps above to start thinking of branding like the big boys and watch your brand flourish.

header image courtesy of Anthony Irwin

Max Gaudet

Author Bio: Max Gaudet is an Asia based MBA educated marketing specialist passionate about entrepreneurship and branding across cultures. He is co-founder of and essentially believes in the driving force of positively channeled human creativity and dedication to shape a better tomorrow.