Have you ever asked yourself how one company got to be so large and successful and another one didn’t? Both companies may have offered the same type of products and services and yet one excelled in the marketplace whereas the other had difficulty after difficulty. Why?

This past week, while writing a section for a brand engagement on Brands In Their Markets, I was very impressed by a major difference between leading versus lagging brands.  I was reminded leading brands keep their brand promises (or exceed them) whereas lagging brands routinely break them. In our business, that’s called positive versus negative equity.

Sound too simple?  As you might imagine, there are many ways to build a leading brand. Here are some time-tested ways:

1.    Always meet or exceed your customer’s expectations. This seems so obvious yet so many companies fail to live up to their stated mission and promises.  A quick example might be from a local printer that promises “Quick turnaround of your projects” and consistently delivers projects on time or before.  This is a printer on its way to earning a strong brand position.  Conversely, a different printer in the same market that consistently blows customer deadlines will earn a negative reputation.
     NOTE: It’s easier to build a strong brand position than it is to overcome a negative one.

2.    Be transparent. If you make a mistake admit it quickly and correct it. Customers do not want to hear excuses; they want answers and appreciate candor and quick remedies.

3.    Always listen to your customers. Two easy ways to listen is to continuously ask your customers “How are we doing?” And, “Are there any ways we could improve our service to you?” You’ll never go wrong fulfilling your customer’s requests.

The marketplace is glutted with brands and, as everyone knows, we are in a down economy. Now is an excellent time to evaluate where your brand is in the market: leading or lagging? The old marketplace paradigm leaders, led by established companies, need to ensure they are not relying upon yesterday’s successes. This is more true than ever because newer brands that are more in tune with customers can open up new markets and quickly gain market share. Google and YouTube come to mind.

Whether your brand is new to the market or established, your task is to ensure that all of its brand promises are relevant and reachable. By doing so, you will increase the likelihood that your customers are going to enjoy your brand, become a loyal customer, and recommend it to others. This is positive brand building at its best.