How to create a brand that becomes a household name

A household name is about being the go-to. The default option. The preferred choice.

A brand that becomes a household name does so because it meets a need in an optimal way.

Why then, do so many excellent businesses never reach this point, or even get close?

From my experience, there are two critical factors that differentiate the brands that become significant from the ones that disappear.

The first factor is competitive advantage, which is about creating a business that will matter to its customer.

The second is symbolism. A way for a business to let their customer know their search is finished. They have just found what they’re looking for.

Let’s explore these factors a little further.

Competitive advantage

Becoming a household name is synonymous with success, what you do contributes to people’s lives. It matters.

It’s hard to become a household name when you’re lost in a crowd of alternatives. It’s also hard to be profitable when your time and money are locked up in trying to meet needs that are already met, competing with other businesses just like you, using the same techniques to differentiate in superficial ways.

I approach creating competitive advantage as differentiating in a way that matters. A way to find your niche comes from a detailed vision not of the future of your business, but the future of your world.

A detailed vision enables the creation of a business that matters to you, so it’s fulfilling. It also matters to the world, so it’s profitable. And as the profit from your competitive advantage grows, so too will the significance of your impact. Win-win.


The point of branding is not to be likable or to stand out.

The point is to feel like your brand is the #1 way to get someone the outcome they seek. It’s to signal “I’m what you’re looking for”.

The way to do this is by leveraging mental models. Mental models are the way that we understand the world and are a universal language of symbols, especially those based on archetypal psychology.

We have about three seconds before our brand is either significant or forgotten. So, the key is to find the symbol that has the most magnetic pull for your audience and then tweak that symbol to reflect your competitive advantage. Think Nike’s tick, the symbol of completion to an audience of action takers. Or, if you want to be transported to a faraway world? Look no further than Disney’s magic castle.

On a subconscious level, a brand created through this process is experienced by its target customer as “This is what I want and they do it better.”

A brand should do the work for you

Most people think that word of mouth is something that you can’t control. After all, it’s based on someone’s personal experience and opinion of your brand. Well, what if I were to tell you that word of mouth is controllable. Here’s how.

Everywhere your brand appears, it should appear with:

  • One claim that is unique to you and something you do 10 times better.
  • The emotion your customer seeks more of as a result of this need.

If you appear everywhere with those two things, they are the two things your customers will pass on. The way to test if this is working also reveals if your brand is successful. You can be confident in your brand if members of your target market describe you using the exact words in your strategy.

Becoming a go-to brand is within your reach, if you differentiate through a potent competitive advantage and magnetic symbol. As the saying goes, the best way to predict the future is to create it.