Print this page Share

What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest

ISBN: 978-1-118-61125-8
272 pages
January 2014, Jossey-Bass
What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest (111861125X) cover image


Discover proven strategies for building powerful, world-class brands

It's tempting to believe that brands like Apple, Nike, and Zappos achieved their iconic statuses because of serendipity, an unattainable magic formula, or even the genius of a single visionary leader. However, these companies all adopted specific approaches and principles that transformed their ordinary brands into industry leaders. In other words, great brands can be built—and Denise Lee Yohn knows exactly how to do it. Delivering a fresh perspective, Yohn's What Great Brands Do teaches an innovative brand-as-business strategy that enhances brand identity while boosting profit margins, improving company culture, and creating stronger stakeholder relationships. Drawing from twenty-five years of consulting work with such top brands as Frito-Lay, Sony, Nautica, and Burger King, Yohn explains key principles of her brand-as-business strategy.

  • Reveals the seven key principles that the world's best brands consistently implement
  • Presents case studies that explore the brand building successes and failures of companies of all sizes including IBM, Lululemon, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and other remarkable brands
  • Provides tools and strategies that organizations can start using right away

Filled with targeted guidance for CEOs, COOs, entrepreneurs, and other organization leaders, What Great Brands Do is an essential blueprint for launching any brand to meteoric heights.

See More

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 Great Brands Start Inside 19

2 Great Brands Avoid Selling Products 47

3 Great Brands Ignore Trends 71

4 Great Brands Don’t Chase Customers 99

5 Great Brands Sweat the Small Stuff 125

6 Great Brands Commit and Stay Committed 155

7 Great Brands Never Have to “Give Back” 183

8 The Eighth Principle: Brand as Business 209

Notes 221

Acknowledgments 239

About the Author 241

Index 243

See More

Author Information

Denise Lee Yohn is an in-demand consultant and speaker with more than twenty-five years of experience helping organizations take their brands to new heights. She developed her innovative brand-building philosophy while working with such companies as Burger King, Frito-Lay, Land Rover, and Sony. An influential writer and speaker, Yohn has contributed to outlets such as the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, and the Harvard Business Review, and her powerful speeches regularly inspire business leaders around the country.
To learn more, please visit www.deniseleeyohn.com
See More


Yohn, a branding consultant and speaker, with an all-star client list that includes Sony, Frito-Lay, and Burger King, knows exactly what it takes to raise a brand to the top and keep it there. Here she shares techniques that can elevate a brand to icon status. She explores how a great company can avoid obsolescence by using its brand as a management tool to fuel, align, and guide its people and initiatives. The eponymous seven brand-building principles are each given a chapter: start with a brand-building corporate culture; ignore trends; don't chase customers; commit and stay committed; and avoid selling products. Yohn's exercises, tools, and action steps will help elevate the conversation and undoubtedly enhance any company’s focus on branding. In addition to case studies that feature Google, Trader Joe's, IBM, and Shake Shack, Yohn provides her most valuable recommendations in her "Brand as Business" chapter, which ties together the seven principles and shows how to integrate them to produce growth and brand strength. Yohn's book is helpful reading for executives and managers at all levels, and it will guide the next generation of great brands. (Jan.) (Publishers Weekly, December 2013)

"With her finger on the pulse of today's competitive business landscape, Denise Lee Yohn knows more than most how to create, sustain, and leverage a great brand. Her writing style coaches readers in a warm and conversational way as she offers up-to-the-minute advice, inspiring examples of organizations that have done it right, and cautionary tales of some who haven't. If you care about building your brand to grow your business, you can't afford not to read What Great Brands Do by Denise Lee Yohn."
—Ken Blanchard, coauthor, The One Minute Manager and TrustWorks!

"Every leader—from CEOs and CMOs to start-up entrepreneurs—will find Denise's seven brand-building principles inspirational and immediately useful.???I wish Denise had written What Great Brands Do five years earlier—I would have made it required reading for all P&G brand builders!"
—Jim Stengel, former global marketing officer, P&G, and author, Grow

"The Internet has resulted in an explosion of options for consumers, and never before have brands and branding been more vital to the future of a commercial enterprise. Denise Lee Yohn has bottled the elixir of brands and the magic behind brands in this book."
—Om Malik, founder, GigaOM

"Denise Lee Yohn beautifully highlights some of the most beloved brands and how they've separated themselves from the rest by creating an emotional connection between the organization and its stakeholders. When employees, vendors, customers, and the community feel like a part of the brand, that's when the magic happens."
—Kip Tindell, chairman and CEO, the Container Store

"The seven brand-building principles of What Great Brands Do represent a provocative view of branding. You will look at brand building with new eyes."
—David Aaker, vice-chairman, Prophet, and author, Brand Relevance

"Chock full of astute insights, compelling case studies, and practical tools, What Great Brands Do demystifies the brand-building process and shows business leaders how to revitalize and strengthen their brands."
—John Gerzema, executive chairman, BAV Consulting, and coauthor, New York Times bestseller The Athena Doctrine and The Brand Bubble

"If, like me, you’ve never been a 'brand person,' let Denise Lee Yohn be your guide in building your brand into your business. Follow her principles, embrace her tools, and execute through every single thing you do. As she taught me, that's what great brands do."
B. Joseph Pine II, coauthor, The Experience Economy and Authenticity

"While brands have become increasingly complex and challenging to manage, Denise has done a terrific job of breaking down what matters in building brands that don’t just thrive, but win."
Scott Davis, chief growth officer, Prophet, and author, Building the Brand-Driven Business

See More

Press Release

January 06, 2014
WHAT GREAT BRANDS DO: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate


The Seven Brand-Building Principles that

Separate the Best from the Rest 

By Denise Lee Yohn 

“Yohn’s book is helpful reading for executives and managers at all levels,

and it will guide the next generation of great brands.”

Publishers Weekly

Ask a CEO or leader to define a “brand,” and they will often turn to the usual suspects: tagline, logo, advertising, public relations, social media. Traditionally, brands have been understood in this way – as outward-facing, image-focused expressions, confining the stewardship of the brand to marketing and advertising. But today’s most successful and iconic companies – think Zappos, Starbucks, and Nike – have one critical attribute in common: they have elevated brand-building from a siloed function and use their brand as a strategic management tool that guides every aspect of their business. And they have achieved higher-than-average profit margins as a result.

In her new book WHAT GREAT BRANDS DO: The Seven Brand-Building Principles that Separate the Best from the Rest (Jossey-Bass; January 27, 2014), brand-building consultant and speaker Denise Lee Yohn proves that a company’s brand is its most powerful tool for growth, and offers business leaders, owners, and general managers seven principles and powerful tools for putting the brand where it belongs: in the driver’s seat of the organization.

Yohn’s “brand-as-business” approach – the systematic management of the business around the brand – works, yet a recent survey of marketing executives revealed that 64% feel that their brands do not influence decisions made at their companies. This means that nearly two-thirds of companies are pouring millions of dollars into marketing and advertising without aligning their business strategies with the values and attributes they’re communicating. And the current brand thought leadership is not closing this gap, because most “best practices” focus narrowly on expressing the brand through advertising or design, marketing it through new media, or managing it through culture and employee engagement. The concept of using a brand as an operating tool has yet to be widely embraced at the highest levels of business. In WHAT GREAT BRANDS DO, Yohn seeks to shift this mindset by demonstrating how a brand-as-business approach fuels growth by driving culture, company operations, and customer experiences.

Yohn’s approach is based on 25 years of success helping companies build and position exceptional brands. After serving as lead strategist at advertising agencies for Burger King and Land Rover and as the marketing analyst for Jack-in-the-Box and Spiegel catalogs, Yohn went on to head Sony Electonics Inc.’s first ever brand office. During her time as vice president/general manager of brand and strategy, Yohn garnered major corporate awards, but she also experienced firsthand how even the strongest of companies can lose their advantage when the brand -building is relegated to marketing tactics. Yohn worked at Sony during the height of the digital transition, and watched Sony’s brand strength begin to weaken as fast followers and pioneering disruptors began to challenge it on pricing and innovation. She and her colleagues knew they needed to find new ways to leverage Sony’s brand value, but they faced the same hurdles that so many corporate leaders still face today: how to recognize the early warning signs in time, think differently, challenge ingrained ways of doing things that may have worked in the past, and make tough changes, even if it means replacing tested best practices with new principles.

WHAT GREAT BRANDS DO is the playbook Yohn wishes she and her colleagues had had to help them leverage Sony’s brand to face the business challenges of their time. She has since used the “brand-as-business” approach to build, position, and extend iconic brands in a number of industries and the same principles have been proven out by the experiences of some of the best companies in the world. Drawing on first-hand case studies, practical tools, and examples of iconic brands as varied as IBM, Patagonia, and Shake Shack, Yohn introduces the seven principles that epitomize great brands:

  1. Great Brands Start Inside – cultivate a vibrant corporate culture around the brand
  2. Great Brands Avoid Selling Products – develop superior emotional connections through products
  3. Great Brands Ignore Trends – challenge and anticipate trends, rather than follow them
  4. Great Brands Don’t Chase Customers – accept that your brand is not for everyone
  5. Great Brands Sweat the Small Stuff – overcome silos to align and unify all your customer experiences
  6. Great Brands Commit and Stay Committed – sacrifice short-term profit to maintain brand integrity
  7. Great Brands Never Have to “Give Back” – make social contributions by creating shared value

Companies that embrace this brand-as-business approach will use their brands to fuel, align, and guide every person in the organization and every task they undertake. They will create value by exposing new growth opportunities, shaping business strategies, creating unified and focused teams, and connecting the daily activities of every employee to bigger picture. By reimagining brands as strategic tools, WHAT GREAT BRANDS DO will show leaders how to use their brands not just to gain a competitive edge, but to change the game completely. 


See More
Back to Top