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Breakthrough Brand: Learn what it takes to build one.

Breakthrough Brand. I love the verbiage. Interbrand, the global branding agency that brings us the annual list of the “50 Most Valuable Brands,” has just published its inaugural list of “Breakthrough Brands.” Interbrand Breakthrough Brands

The story of a breakthrough brand is informative, instructive and inspiring. A study of the companies that made the list as a breakthrough brand provides a greater understanding of the meaning of “brand” and how you can create your own breakthrough brand. Become informed, instructed and inspired by them. But first,

I’d like to clear the air about the word “Brand”

The word “brand” has become a common buzzword.

Do you really know the meaning of “brand?” I didn’t. And, I confess that for a long time when I saw or heard the word “brand,” I was triggered inside. Because the word was everywhere, all the time, I assumed everyone else must know something I didn’t. Was I the only one that didn’t fully get it? I couldn’t consciously admit I really didn’t comprehend its full meaning.

If I were to consciously admit to myself, much less say out loud, ‘What exactly is it you are talking about?’ I would feel very uncool, and admit I wasn’t ‘in the know.’

As far as I know, an intuitive understanding of the meaning of brand certainly is not a strand of human DNA. This is despite the fact the word has been incessantly buzzing in media, business and pop culture for years now. Close enough to pique my interest, but far enough away that I didn’t really have to deal with it. Yet, each of us interact with “brands” multiple times on a daily basis. We base our buying and even social decisions on an often, unarticulated relationship to this thing called “brand.”

Like me, did you ever sub consciously skip over the word? While it might be something important to the future of your company, you have no conscious understanding of the meaning behind the word.

Yes, as a trademark attorney I was well versed in one aspect of branding, namely legal protection for the symbols of the brand, the words, logos, and slogans. But legal protection is only one of several and distinct silos of branding that have traditionally operated independent of each other. Yet each lay claim to the word “brand” for some one aspect of this thing called “brand.” That worked for years, in the BIE, “Before Internet Era.” No longer can the word “brand” be separated into silos, used conveniently by different elements of the collective whole that make up a successful brand.

Were we born knowing the meaning of brand? ‘Me think not.’

When you see or hear the word “brand,” do you say to yourself,

“Yes, of course I know what a brand is. It’s . . . a logo, a feeling, an identifier, a culture, a bridge to the consumer, an experience, a valuable business asset.”

Likely not. A brand is actually all of those things, and more. However, understanding the “what” is not that matters. It’s when one learns the “how,” and engages in a consistent mindful enduring process that one can create and build a memorable, long lasting brand.

Breakthrough Brands are putting customers right at the center of their organizations—and building their businesses around them.

Paola Norembuena, Chief Content Officer |  Interbrand


Interbrand’s 5 Key Measures for a Breakthrough Brand

  1. CLARITY. Breakthrough brands have taken time to develop internal clarity about what the brand stands for: values, positioning & proposition. They also develop clarity about their target audiences and what drives them. In today’s “brands are everywhere,” “customers are everywhere,” we need a deeper, more intimate understanding of their audiences.
  2. DIFFERENTIATION. Differentiation is important since emerging brands must first compete first to be noticed, then to be chosen over the competition. “What’s the unique selling point that motivates consumers to switch from an existing brand that they are loyal to or to experiment with something new that they didn’t know existed—or didn’t know they wanted or needed.” Interbrand opines: “It is often this unique proposition, and experience a brand delivers on top of that, that builds consumer perception and, if done right, will drive demand. The brands that clearly communicate their distinct stories are the ones that stand out—and break through.”
  3. RELEVANCE.  A breakthrough brand is convincing customers that its something new or different is relevant. The truth is, it’s not enough to be different. Different only matters if the difference the brand stands for matters to the consumer. If no one cares, or if one’s life is not better in some way, different is useless.
  4. PRESENCE. Today’s breakthrough brands must create a presence across a multitude of channels and consumer touch points. “A brand’s clarity of values, proposition, and purpose; its relevance to consumers; and its differentiated offerings—all of this needs to be communicated to audiences and reinforced.”
  5. ENGAGEMENT. Engaging audiences is not about the old fashioned one-way conversations. “Consumers don’t want to be talked at, they want brands to see them eye to eye and to be able to communicate their needs back to the brands.” Consumers want to feel as if their thoughts, feedback, and concerns are being heard. Holding two-way conversations is how the emerging and successful brands of the future will build a loyal customer base and drive up their margins. Mutual engagement creates a feedback loop, providing even greater clarity about audiences’ needs and desires—and about customers’ perception of the brand—allowing growing brands to continuously refine their products, messages, and experiences. Read more about all of the Breakthrough Brands. Meanwhile, here are two of my favorites that made the list.


Wework Breakthrough Brand inpost


Ok, we’re biased. Our Brandaide and Hodgson Legal offices are based at Wework in Portland, OR and Santa Monica, CA. I can travel the world and have an office to work from- over 100 locations and 13 countries.

Wework and it’s dedicated community teams have redefined the old fashioned idea of “office space.” Here at Wework, we meet others, we collaborate, we educate, and bring our pets to work! Those member events each week are the best!

I’m especially proud of referring in Stoller Vineyards, one of my favorite Oregon wine brands. Stoller has a local team in the Portland Wework. Wine tastings just got way better.

AWAY Travel

Away Travel Breakthrough Brand

First Class Travel at a Coach Price. After obsessing on finding the perfect road warrior carry on bag for frequent trips between Portland, LAX and points beyond, I discovered AWAY in the list of breakthrough brands. I was intrigued about what made them different and relevant. Away got me with the slogan, top quality at the not so top price. The features helped too!

The travel brand was launched in 2015 by two Warby Parker alums. Away intends to do for travel bags what Warby Parker has done for eye glass frames. High quality, lower prices. And the brand experience of the delivery was carefully considered, well executed.

And did I mention, my new bag has a built in, rechargeable battery for my phone and computer. Just plug in near the handle while sitting in the boarding area! Sweet.

There are so many more that made the list–so little space–do read more about them at Interbrand. Be inspired. Be a breakthrough brand.