The Impact of Brand Significance

The Importance of Establishing Brand Significance 1 of 1

No definition for brand significance exists on Wikipedia or in the dictionary, but search "brand significance" in Google, and you will be provided 20 million results. Companies fail for thousands of differing reasons; but companies cannot thrive without creating a successful brand.

The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a "name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and differentiate them from those of other sellers." In short, a brand, as described by The New York Times, "is a company's face to the world." When that company's face becomes an unmistakable, trusted celebrity, the company has amassed enviable brand significance. Although no written-in-stone definition for the term "brand significance" exists, the most finely wrought explanation of it I have seen comes courtesy of the blog Dangerous Kitchen:

"It is a combination of:
1. Inventing a culture that brings meaning into people's lives.
2. Providing a personally enriching experience that reinforces the culture."
Consider that company whose face has become an unmistakable, trusted celebrity. When that company's audience thinks of the company or of its name, their minds typically aren't flooded with images of employees working in an office, operations channels, board of directors or a balance sheet. Yes, every one of those pieces are crucial to the overall health of a company, but they very rarely cross the minds of the company's audience. What the audience does think of, though, are the exceptional products, advertising, social strategies and personal experiences they take away courtesy of the company. All of these strengths of the company constitute the culture that Dangerous Kitchen alludes to. When the consumers feel a trusting relationship with the company as a direct response to their interactions with and impressions of the company's culture, that "personally enriching experience" transpires and brand significance is achieved.

Hundreds of apt examples exist in the worldwide marketplace of companies, whether Fortune 500 outfits or localized niche organizations, achieving brand significance through such means; but two prominent successes can make the point clear: Apple and Starbucks. Both companies have created unmistakable, trusted faces to show their customers (and the world,) invented cultures that hadn't previously existed and then provided personally enriching experiences for millions of individual consumers that reinforced the culture exponentially.


Apple had a recognizable brand for decades, but it would be difficult to argue that Apple had brand significance during most of the '80s and '90s. However, as the new millennium rolled around, Steve Jobs and his team revolutionized mobile technology and music through innovative products, altered its logo and overhauled its image with groundbreaking ad campaigns. The decision to shift the Apple logo from a striped rainbow pattern to a single solid color, the sleek design, user-friendly interfaces, the black silhouettes dancing against brightly colored palettes with catchy tunes from hot bands providing the soundtracks in the iPod television adds, the "i---" names themselves, all of these were essential contributions synonymous with the Apple brand, its inescapable brand significance and the worldwide cultural revolution it ignited.

No aspect of that turnaround was coincidental. Every part was crucial to the creation of the Apple brand. Apple, the brand, consists of the products, the logo and the ads all coalesced into a definitive, groundbreaking culture that provided a truly distinct, world-shaking experience that cannot even be held by a descriptor as modest as celebrity.


Anyone who ever considered Starbucks to simply be a coffee company was gravely mistaken. Yes, Howard Schultz has had an unwavering passion for quality, gourmet coffee since the company's inception in 1971 and capitalized on a coffee community and retail market where one never previously existed; but he understood even more about branding, experience and relationships.

Much like Apple with its iMac, iPod and iPhone, Starbucks gave the world a whole new way of talking about coffee. The Starbucks brand is always evolving to flesh out the perfect customer/company relationship, and no detail of that relationship or the brand is minor or accidental.

  • Starbucks ensured its cafes became a "third place," meaning the first place you go besides home or work; it's an environment where you want to feel at home, build a community and recognize immediately, even if you are in a city or country foreign to you.
  • Starbucks employees are called "partners," their position is called "barista" and titles such as "store manager," "district manager," and "chief executive officer" are always lowercased.
  • Drink sizes are "tall,"grande," "venti," and "trenta."
  • A visit through the drive-thru or a walk into the cafe is called getting "the Starbucks experience."
  • Many regulars say "I'm going to get my Starbucks" rather than "I'm going to get coffee."
  • Howard Schultz gained worldwide respect and the passion of his employees by rewarding full-time benefits and stock options to part-time and full-time employees, extending those benefits to include long-term partners of gay employees, pursuing fair-trade practices in the roasting plants and growing regions where the company procures its beans and a total commitment to conservation and community service. 

Every one of these aspects of Starbucks' business has been absolutely essential in Starbucks' rise to brand significance, and that is without even mentioning the ubiquitous siren logo, the green aprons or the omnipresence of Starbucks locations worldwide. All those aspects of culture are essential to the well-being of the brand, and all of them establish brand significance through an intensely personal experience for customers, partners and the company as a whole while reinforcing the distinct culture.

Both Apple and Starbucks started small, just like any other company. However, the overwhelming reason why both have grown to extraordinary heights and and cultural ubiquity is due to Steve Jobs's and Howard Schultz's understanding of branding, dedication to creating experiences and a genuine pursuit of brand significance.


Justin Wesley | ChaCha Business