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BLOGBrand Building and Brand Transfer

by Randall CraigFiled in: Blog, Branding, Make It Happen Tipsheet, MarketingTagged as: , ,

Beyond ads, media mentions, and the web, is there another mechanism to build your organization’s brand? One that might cost significantly less, yet yield powerful positioning advantages?

Brand Transfer is the “borrowing” of another organization’s brand to better convey – or even amplify – your own. Consider the following examples:

  • How differently is your organization perceived when everyone uses a sleek Macbook compared to a clunky no-name clone laptop?
  • What do prospects and clients think about the quality of your work, if you are an IBM “partner” versus if you are not?
  • What type of image do you portray if you have your annual conference at the Travelodge… or at the JW Marriott?

Each of these large companies has invested millions building their brands. And the brands – what the companies represent – are broadly known in the market. While it is easy to think of Brand Transfer almost like an unauthorized theft of their reputation, nothing could be further than the truth. Brand Transfer is similar to a rental transaction: You pay JW Marriott for their conference center and hotel rooms, and they encourage you to use their name. In fact, they employ a sophisticated sales team precisely to make sure that you choose their facility – their brand – over others. And since their brand has more value than Travelodge, it costs more. It has value, and you’re willing to pay.

Interestingly, Brand Transfer works at the individual level as well.  Answer these questions (there are no wrong answers):

  • Are you a Cadillac person, a BMW person, or a Prius person? (We seek cars that match our personal brand aspirations.)
  • What type of watch do you wear? (Do you wear a Rolex because of it’s accuracy, or its reputation?  Or the newest Apple Watch?)
  • Do you shop for clothes at Brooks Brothers, or Costco? (We prefer retailers – and buy clothing – at places whose brands sync with our own personal brand.)
  • How similar are your friends to you? (We prefer to spend time with people whose values are similar to our own.)


Brand Transfer can also be a problem. Over time, a partner’s brand can veer in a different direction… tugging yours with it. Or, you can simply grow out of it.  This week, evaluate your Brand Transfers. Extinguish those that do more harm than good, and look for new partnerships that provide a positive boost.

Insight: The best strategic partnerships are those where there is Brand Transfer in both directions, not just one.

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