Three Things That All Great Companies Have In Common

Apple. Coke. Nike. Starbucks. Target. BMW. Southwest.

Generally, most people agree they are great companies and great brands. They are more than their products and prices. There’s something in the experience that adds value. But how do they create that experience? Obviously, I’m no expert, but they all seem to have these qualities:

  • Have a differentiating factor.
  • Define the brand and stay true to it.
  • Don’t be dependent on price.

Apple brought innovation to two areas of personal computing no one previously thought were important – design and the retail environment. With design, they created products people want to look at, touch, and use. With retail, they own the entire experience, including delivery. Both qualities are differentiating factors from their competition.

BMW used to make spartan, boxy, little cars that were fun to drive. Over time, the cars got luxurious, less boxy, and bigger, but they stayed fun to drive. They branded themselves “The Ultimate Driving Machine,” which is focused enough that everyone knows a what a BMW is, but flexible enough to include 12-cylinder luxury cars and large SUVs. You’d be hard pressed to find an automaker with a more enviable brand position.

Southwest Airlines has a low-cost, low-frills business model, but low cost doesn’t equal low profits. The Southwest experience and loyalty programs have created legions of fans that fill seats, making Southwest consistently the most profitable airline in the U.S. year after year. And their passengers feel part of something special, not something cheap.

Don’t fall into the trap of trying to offer the same thing everyone else does for less. Great companies are different, not the same.

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