Buy Stock in Attitude

By now it is practically brand religion that “you don’t control your brand.”

Consultants routinely lecture their clients that:

“Brand = the sum total of other people’s perceptions of you, NOT what you are trying to say.”

This is actually an important message. As many clients continue to think that brand DOES equal whatever it is they want to say. (Or more frighteningly they still think that it equals their logo.)

So this is not the brand (the Coca-Cola logo).

And this is not the brand (Coca-Cola press release).

And not even this is the brand (Coca-Cola-issued blog).

This is the brand – not the total brand, but part of it – because it represents an audience’s perspective not the sender’s. (An article written about Coca-Cola online.)

And so is
this (a positive image generated by somebody “out there” who is hopefully not propagandizing for CC).

If the brand is a product like Coca-Cola, then brand-ing becomes a very simple exercise.

Measure perception of the icon, come up with the baseline, create a goal, and map a strategy for getting there.

But what happens when the brand is a based around service, not a product?

And this includes times when the brand appears to be a product, but really isn’t.

Let me give you an example.

Here is a Starbucks.

Here is Seattle’s Best.

Let me tell you flat out – the coffee is better from Seattle’s Best.

But I will still go to Starbucks any day of the week.

And it has nothing to do with wireless access or a place to sit or anything like that.

Seattle’s Best is even OWNED by Starbucks.

The difference between the two is that Starbucks has better attitude. Better vibe. You want to be there. Somehow, someway, the employees have this really good spirit. And that is what I want to be around in this frequently dreary, depressing, dark and (yes, let me say it again) dreary world.

Another brand that has a great attitude: California Tortilla.

Went there and picked up their newsletter. Which is so, so tacky. Orange and black for Halloween?
Xeroxed? “Taco Talk!” Ay ay ay.

But they’ve got spirit.

The first paragraph is headlined: “Whoops.” And it’s all about how the CEO or whoever writes it made a mistake and said the company is committed to ending “childhood” instead of “childhood hunger.” And the person actually mocks themselves – “Could there be a worse typo?...Or a worse promotion?”

Trust me when I tell you that California Tortilla has got the attitude. Baja Fresh – beautiful, clean store, but no. Chipotle – owned by McDonald’s – same thing.

When you are building a brand, and you are not sure how to do it, focus on your attitude and the rest will follow.


Dr. Dannielle Blumenthal is an author, independent brand researcher, and adjunct marketing professor with 20 years of varied experience. An avid researcher and prolific, creative writer, Dr. Blumenthal's interests span communication, marketing, qualitative media content analysis, political rhetoric, propaganda, leadership, management, organizational development, and more. An engaged citizen, she has for several years worked to raise awareness around child sex trafficking and the dangers of corruption at @drdannielle on Twitter. You can find her articles at Medium, and, and she frequently answers questions on Quora. All opinions are Dr. Blumenthal's own.