The Brand-Design Process

From Walt Disney to Steve Jobs

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The Brand-Design process has four steps: imagination, innovation, operationalization and renovation. Through these four steps, we interpret the soul of the brand, bringing it to life for customers to experience.
Two of the brand-designing giants of the last century are Walt Disney and Steve Jobs.
Two of the brand-designing giants of the last century are Walt Disney and Steve Jobs. Credit: Ismael Roldan


By imagination, I mean generating insightful, creative brand ideas.

You need the creative idea before you focus on developing an innovative way of inventing the realization of that idea. Although many companies strive to build a creative process, creative people-not processes-are the real source of creative success.

Walt Disney was a legendary Brand Designer. He first imagined the creative idea of a magical place that was high-quality, safe and appropriate for the whole family. That creative idea led to the innovation that reinvented the amusement-park experience.

Starbucks founder Howard Schultz changed the definition of the coffee experience. He had a creative idea. He imagined the development of an experience he called the "third place." He defines this as a place other than home or work where a person can go to relax and feel part of the community.


Innovation dimensionalizes the creative idea. This is the inventive phase. Innovation requires a top-down commitment.

Apple's Steve Jobs is a passionate Brand Designer. He develops products that are Brand Designed, user-friendly experiences. Today, when you walk into an Apple Store, you walk into a brand experience. The iPod is more than a product. It is a lifestyle statement.

TravelPro redesigned the travel experience. The innovative concept of turning the product sideways, putting wheels on the bottom and adding an extendable handle reinvented the luggage category. This is a great Brand Design innovation.


By this we mean the practical implementation of the innovative concepts.

Thomas Edison is known as one of the world's greatest inventors. In his mind, the real purpose was to create inventions that were practical to produce and practical to use. The idea of electric lighting was not new. But nothing had been developed that was remotely practical for home use. Edison's eventual achievement was developing not just an incandescent electric light that was safe and economical but also creating the entire electric industry. In September 1882, the first commercial power station, located on Pearl Street in lower Manhattan, went into operation. Thomas Edison operationalized the availability of electricity, and Edison Electric later became known as General Electric.

Howard Schultz operationalized the premium-coffee-brand experience of the "third place" so that it could be consistently reproduced in thousands of locations.

Samsung has created a dedicated culture operationalizing market-driven design and innovation.


Products have life cycles, but brands can live forever. Renovation is about continuously improving the innovation. This is how we defeat the brand life cycle.

As Andy Grove, one-time CEO of Intel, liked to say, "Only the paranoid survive."

Relevant packaging with Brand Design at its heart is a way to renovate. L'Oreal's hair conditioners are packaged in bottles with the cap opening on the bottom. Heinz ketchup uses the same sort of bottle. Toyota is a great example of a company dedicated to continuous innovation and renovation-the automaker never stops trying to find more efficient ways to make better products. Soon Toyota will become the No. 1 car company in the world. Sometimes a renovation can lead to brand revitalization, such as chicken Caesar salads at McDonald's. This was not a product innovation, but it certainly helped renovate McDonald's brand.

Beware of those who think that being first to market guarantees enduring success. Whatever happened to Visicalc? Thermofax? Diners Club? Woolworth's? The pioneering advantage will be lost if you fail to innovate and renovate.
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