This article is part of our “Business Startup Guide” – a curated list of our articles that will get you up and running in no time!

We all know that customer loyalty is the key ingredient to a successful and sustainable business. But how do you create it? You focus on your brand.

Remember, a brand is way more than just your logo. It’s the whole package: your sign on the street, your website, your business cards, even how you answer your phone. But a real brand goes far deeper than just those elements. A well-crafted brand is based on an unwavering promise to the customer that meets an important need.

A brand based on a compelling promise creates what’s called loyalty beyond reason. This means that customers will stick with you through thick and thin. When the customer is connected to you for more than rational reasons, they believe in their hearts that there’s no substitute for what you offer.

Let’s take a look at brands that have successfully cultivated loyalty beyond reason.

Apple computers: The perfect marriage of technology and design

Image courtesy of Beta News.

Image via Beta News.

When Steve Jobs first started Apple, the computer industry was a sea of ugly black boxes and complex technical features. Steve knew that humans crave intuitive design and elegant simplicity.

So, he created museum-worthy products with gorgeous packaging, and used a “friendly genius” language that made technology more accessible than ever before. Steve knew that if he appealed to the artist in each of us, he’d have a customer for life.

Harley-Davidson: Calling all rebels

The Harley-Davidson brand is about fierce independence. Everything the company does speaks to this singular rebel yell.

Harley-Davidson customers come from all walks of life—from blue-collar steelworkers to corporate executives, but their customers all share a love of the open road and a yearning for unfettered freedom. Harley-Davidson customers are so loyal to the brand, that some have actually had the logo tattooed on them.

IKEA: Follow the yellow brick road

IKEA brought Swedish design to the U.S. market and created an instant cult following. By carefully studying the entire brand experience—from the friendly signs to the clever furniture vignettes to the savory-smelling meatballs—IKEA hooked a broad audience of loyal customers who delight at the DIY nature of their products.

Umpqua Bank: Banking on a new approach

While other banks were competing on interest rates and free checking accounts, Umpqua Bank decided to take a different tact. They brought in a whole new look and feel, nixing the traditional bank colors of blue and red and using fresh pastels offset by rich earth tones.

They served chocolates and coffee, and set up community spaces that local businesses could use for free. They even provided lemonade stand materials for the kids of customers to encourage smart business practices from an early age.

Target: Beating the low price blues

Target faced dark days when WalMart entered the marketplace. The Target executives knew they could never compete against the ridiculously low prices that WalMart could offer.

So, Target took a gamble. They made design a core part of their brand DNA—defying the assumption that only the elite valued design. They partnered with Philippe Starck, one of the top designers in the world, and started a new tradition of low-priced, yet stylish products.

Finding your brand promise

So what’s your brand promise to your customer? Once you identify it, be sure to let it shine through in everything you do—from how you hire employees to the colors in your brochures to the home page photograph on your website.

If you pay attention to every part and piece, you’ll find something magical start to happen. Your customers will swear by you. They’ll believe that you offer something that no one else does—whether you run a landscaping business, a tutoring service, or a financial consultancy.

So build your brand. And watch your customer loyalty increase and your profits grow.

Brand Genie Tool - PrestoBox and Bplans

AvatarElicia Putnam

Elicia Putnam believes in brands. After running a boutique branding agency for 12 years, she's now turning her attention to Small Business, USA and how to bring them branding services in a way that's affordable and fun. She and a group of really smart co-founders have started Brand Genie, the world's first fully automated branding agency.