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The Blair D.C. Project: Week 5

Welcome to The Blair D.C. Project, Blair Guilfoile's weekly blog about her experience being a fall intern for BRAVO!. We love our intern blogs and hope you enjoy following Blair!

Week 5

September 28 - October 2, 2015

“One belongs to New York instantly, one belongs to it as much in five minutes as in five years.” - Tom Wolfe

What does it mean to be a powerful brand?

I think it goes beyond name recognition, brand loyalty or popularity. Because the most powerful brands aren’t about a product. They are about an experience.

When most people think of powerful brands, they think of companies like Nike or Apple. Some might contribute these brand’s success to their ingenuity and familiarity. I wouldn’t disagree. However, I would argue that it is these characteristics in tandem to one another that is the crucial element to the powerful nature of these brands. Essentially, it’s the ability to create a feeling of innovation while still maintaining a sense of intuitiveness, even for those experiencing the brand for the first time.

I thought a lot about this idea recently during my trip to New York City over the weekend (yes I like to geek out about brand strategy in my spare time). I was visiting my friend Corrine who goes to school in the city. Until this past weekend, New York was only an idea I had heard about in books and movies. And, yes, I use the word “idea”, rather than “place” because I think New York is more than just a dot on the map; it’s a concept- its own brand, if you will.

It’s been coined as “The Big Apple” or “The City that Never Sleeps”. When people think of New York they think of energy and vitality, which is unique to the city itself. It’s a sensation I first felt on the bus exiting the Lincoln Tunnel as I found myself towered over by the New York skyscrapers for the first time. It’s the feeling I got when I hailed a yellow taxi cab or when I got swept up into a crowd walking down 5th Avenue. I’ve been to plenty of cities in my life, sat in countless number of taxis, as well as gotten jostled around more than my fair share of times in a crowd (I’m 5’2, so it comes with the territory). But these everyday experiences felt significant and unique to me because I felt as if they were crucial part of my New York experience. For me it wasn’t just any taxi cab that I hailed. It was a New York taxi cab. And for some reason, that was important to me.

While these familiar experiences took on a unique quality in a new place, it was also these experiences that made a new place feel intuitive. Every time I hailed a cab, rode the subway, or walked down one of New York’s famous streets, I felt as if I had been there before. Even though this was my first time in the city, I had associated and identified these symbols and experiences as part of the New York brand for years. Over the years, through media and pop culture, the same brand image and messaging had been reiterated in my head so many times that when I finally found myself standing in Time Square for the first time, I found myself standing in what felt like a familiar place.

Creating a sense of familiarity, while still striving for qualities of boldness and ingenuity, is, in my opinion, something that New York, as well as the best brands in the world do exceptionally well. These brands are not only successful in the consumer market, but they play a key role in shaping society and pop culture as a whole. And that is powerful.

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