Branding: Could Your Customers Describe Your Business Any Better?

If asked to describe your organization’s mission, vision, values, tagline or customer promises – key components of your branding – would your customers do any better than this?

If there’s something every marketer loves, it’s a great campaign that effectively educates and persuades new customers to adopt a product, lapsed customers to revisit a business, and motivates all of them to talk about a brand.

Marketers love them, business owners crave them, consumers – well – consume them. At the end of the day, from shows that showcase the best new ads presented each year in the Super Bowl to copy-cat campaigns and YouTube trolling, we want to see them again and we want to know why they worked.

I recently read an article about how more and more restaurants are tweaking the commonplace condiment otherwise known as ketchup into specialty ketchups – or special sauces. This idea inspired me to publish an article on the type of ingredients a brand can tweak in order to create its own special sauce, so to speak, at, which includes branding strategies in an article titles:  4 Ingredients that Could Take a Brand from Boring to Bold and Memorable.

While writing the article I stumbled onto this little gem, McDonald’s 1974 commercial in which franchise guests were asked to recite the list of ingredients that go into its signature Big Mac® burgers. While the marketing concept is genius, it also begs the question: if your customers were asked to describe your business, would they do any better?


This marketing campaign inspired young people all across America to learn the list of Big Mac ingredients – including reference to McDonald’s own “special sauce” (a.k.a. it’s differentiator) not only forward, but backwards. I know this because my 40-something husband can still recite the list of ingredients, forwards and backwards, now nearly four decades later; talk about staying power!

Though the ad’s intent is to reinforce the list and entertain and intrigue consumers, it also points out a glaring truth as you watch customer after customer fail in their attempt to recite the list of ingredients. If it’s difficult for a McDonald’s brand-fan to list off a few ingredients, how much more difficult is it for your customers to accurately describe the true brand – mission, vision and values – of your business?

When it comes to describing your brand, it’s not about getting your customers to be able to recite off a list of items they’ve read or heard. Rather, it’s about whether your customers can even discern the unique branding characteristics that set your business apart, the values they perceive your business holds as a result of all the interactions they’ve had, and the greater good they believe your organization does or can fulfill in their lives, the local community, and the world at large.

If Mickey-D’s finds it challenging to instill a short list of ingredients into their customer’s memories, it’s probably going to take a whole lot of brand impressions, effort and consistency on the part of your brand in order for your customers to personally understand and identify with the brand of your business!

For most businesses, the answer to our initial question is no – their customers would not be able to do any better when it comes to describing the branding characteristics that set their organization apart.

And this – in turn – explains why so many businesses could be categorized as commodities, rather than brands.

Brands have identity, commodities are interchangeable.

Burgers are interchangeable, Big Macs are not.

If your customers could get what you sell elsewhere for more or less the same price and receive more or less the same customer experience, you’re dealing in commodities.

If your customers can’t tell what sets your business apart – if there is no evidence of shared values driving the culture and operations, no sense of a greater good that will occur through fulfillment of your mission and vision – than you’re not yet building the strong brand you want to have!


Elizabeth Kraus is the marketing manager for business cash advance and receivables factoring company DB Squared Inc. and the author of From Beginning to End: 2014 Small Business Marketing Calendar, available on


My 2015 Small Business Marketing Calendar is available on — in print or digital format. It is absolutely packed with marketing inspiration and a working content marketing plan you can use to attract – engage – retain and motivate your customers in the coming year.

2015 small business marketing calendar template

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