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    Gilbarco Conference Offers Lessons in Branding

    Keynote speaker Denise Lee Yohn says great brands avoid selling products.

    By Brian Berk, Convenience Store News

    GREENSBORO, N.C. – The importance of building a great brand was the first message delivered yesterday as Gilbarco Veeder-Root commenced its 2014 Retail Technology Conference here at the Grandover Resort & Conference Center.

    Delivering the keynote speech was branding expert Denise Lee Yohn who told the more than 100 attendees, including representatives from Alon USA Energy Inc., Sheetz Inc., The Pantry Inc. and Aloha Petroleum Ltd., that they must “think different, ignore trends and advance your own cultural movement” as ways to separate from competitors.

    She expanded on that comment by explaining that great brands avoid selling products. She cited Nike Inc.’s decade-long “Just Do It” advertising campaign as the ultimate example.

    “These ads were inspiring spots about values, communications and ethos featuring people who talked about emotional rewards of what they do, including an 80-year-old long-distance runner and a basketball player,” said Yohn. “They never promoted the company. Once new Nike products came out, they sold great.”

    The ads were so powerful that Yohn acknowledged she only wears Nike sneakers, even today. She added that Starbucks Corp., Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. and Zipcar Inc. are other examples of companies that have built great brands.

    SWEAT THE SMALL STUFF

    What makes a company’s brand great? Thinking big, but sweating the small stuff, Yohn said. “Every interaction matters. Companies often underestimate the entire customer experience.”

    The author of the 2014 book, "What Great Brands Do: The Seven Brand-Building Principles That Separate the Best from the Rest," noted that she often speaks to company CEOs who make the same mistake over and over again by believing they have a superior product but just need the customer to know about it.

    “It’s very difficult to compete on product alone. There’s always someone who can come in and do the same thing you do,” said Yohn. “You must shift from a philosophy of ‘It’s all about us’ to ‘It’s all about [the consumer].’”

    The branding expert did acknowledge, however, that some retailers are successful based on selling products alone. Yet they often miss out on the opportunity to be much more successful.

    “Successful companies take branding for granted,” Yohn concluded. “Good is the enemy of great. Choose to be great.”

    The 2014 Gilbarco Veeder-Root Retail Technology Conference continues through Friday, May 9, at Greensboro’s Grandover Resort & Conference Center. In addition to educational sessions, the event features manufacturer exhibit booths.

    By Brian Berk, Convenience Store News
    • About Brian Berk Brian Berk is managing editor of Stagnito Business Information's Convenience Store News and Convenience Store News for the Single Store Owner, where he specializes in covering motor fuels, technology and financial news. He has served the magazine industry for 14 years and has also worked in the radio and newspaper fields. Berk holds a bachelor's degree in communications from the State University of New York at Cortland and a master's degree in journalism from Quinnipiac University in Hamden, Conn.

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