Four States Small Business Blog

The Bricks and Mortar Approach (How a Brand is Built)

Posted by Chad Elliot on December 21, 2017 at 8:00 AM
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building a brandOne of the hardest lessons to learn in marketing is that building a brand takes time. While some lucky brands get struck by advertising lightning — e.g., TOMS, which first made headlines when it was barely a company, nearly tripling orders in one day and sparking even more news coverage thanks to its core cause — most companies have to work hard to carve out a place in their market. Even major brands, like beverage powerhouse Coca-Cola, have to build their momentum over time.

Coca-Cola started as a mere soda fountain syrup that was available in one pharmacy and advertised with just coupons to generate interest, although the iconic Spencerian script was already in place. It wasn’t until the emerging brand changed hands in 1892 that real marketing efforts took off, including in-store displays and reminder products (i.e., clocks and calendars) for consumers. Even then, by 1915 it was easy to confuse Coca-Cola with other brands. Since bottling had become the standard, the brand finally took its first step toward differentiating itself. It ran a contest for a distinctive bottle shape, which in turn developed the bottle that’s so easy to recognize today.

While this summary may seem oversimplified, it does much to show how a brand is built — brick by brick, with a consistent brand identity at its core. That consistency allowed the company to conquer one market at a time, channel by channel, and has scaled to become one of the most recognizable brands worldwide. Our Bricks and Mortar process relies on similar principles, and it enables any business of any size the ability to be consistent and dominate their media channels.

Keys to Building a Brand

A number of steps are required for developing a powerful brand, and even a bricks and mortar approach is just one of those processes. To help you understand the context and role of this approach in your Joplin marketing, we’ve put together an overview of the 4-Step BrandsFormation system.


In order for your brand to stand out, you need a unique angle to help differentiate your brand from the competition. That requires researching your target audience to identify interests and pain points, as well as your competitors to see how they’re addressing those pain points and interests. Filling in a spot that your competitors aren’t addressing — i.e., your difference maker — is a powerful way to capture attention. For example, Coca-Cola’s brand is one of nostalgic happiness, and Pepsi differentiated itself by becoming the “young” brand that regularly changed its design and flavor to attract younger generations. Each fills a particular desire, and the one time Coca-Cola deviated by changing the flavor it had for nearly a century, it was a disaster.

Strategy-Based Message

Your marketing needs to capitalize on your difference maker, and this is where Bricks and Mortar become important. The things that differentiate your brand are the very things that make your customers want to do business with you. It’s all about the promises you make and the ways you keep them. TOMS is the great example here — its unique take on making a cause the heart of its retail business is the very thing that caught so much media attention, and which allowed a small company to take on a huge corner of the market despite the fact that it put TOMS in direct competition with huge brands like Nike.

Your difference maker needs to be the center of every ad, and it becomes what defines each brick and underlies each element of your mortar. Bricks are what dramatize your difference maker; they’re the stories that pack a punch and elevate your ad into something truly compelling. This requires some skill — each ad should only have one brick, and you want to spell out your difference maker without directly stating it. Bricks should be changed every six to eight weeks. Your mortar, on the other hand, shouldn’t change much throughout the year because it’s what cements your bricks together. It includes elements like your jingle, brand colors, or logo — just think about how recognizable the white-on-red Coca-Cola wordmark is.


Consistency in advertising and branding is critical. For one thing, consistency makes your brand instantly recognizable, which in turn lifts trust and consideration. It’s also what makes your difference maker so effective and lets your brand obviously stand out from your competition. There are two sides to this. First, your branding needs to be consistent; your fonts, colors, sound, and content tone need to feel the same no matter where a current or prospective customer encounters you. That includes in-store signage and OOH marketing, print and digital ads, and TV and radio spots. Brand consistency should extend to other standards, like the vision for your company and the quality of service that customers can rely on. Second, your advertising needs to run consistently to make an impact, which leads us to the last step.

Dominate through Frequency

Consistent advertising is the only way to dominate a medium and nail your message home. Don’t try to do everything or say everything all at once; that undermines your efficacy. Be thorough with each before you move to the next. That means putting your message out day after day in order to achieve the most effective frequency. Our 21/52 plan — i.e., running ad spots 21 times per week for 52 weeks of the year — is designed to provide the best saturation to reach that frequency.

If you’re looking for overnight success and immediate brand recognition, you’re unlikely to find it. That simply isn’t how a brand is built. Building a brand requires a number of elements, and each takes time to establish. But by taking the Bricks and Mortar approach, you can steadily and consistently build and strengthen your brand over time.

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Topics: Marketing Strategy, Advertising Creative, BrandsFormation