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Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto, License: N/A, Created: 50 48 49 55 58 48 51 58 50 52 32 49 51 58 49 56 58 48 50 0

by Dave Taylor

Without belief in your brand, it doesn’t exist.

The leadership of a company must believe in the brand. The staff and employees must believe in the brand. Most importantly, your next customer must believe in the brand.

Brands that are different—Uber, Apple or Tesla for example—have to convince people that the difference is better, that their innovation is real and not just flash or fad. Apple has created an aura of individuality and creativity around its products. They have an incredibly loyal following that literally buys into the entire “ecosystem” of Apple products (iPhones, iPads, Macs, Apple Watches) and services (apps, iTunes, Apple TV). Their customers believe in the products and the brand, with many waiting in line to buy the latest upgrades as soon as they become available.

Lots of companies make great products that compete with Apple, but this incredibly strong belief in the Apple brand is what makes it the most valuable company in the world.

Uber is much earlier in its life cycle as a brand. Uber has created a belief in its concept of easy transportation that’s a better experience and usually cheaper than catching a traditional taxi cab. Taking an Uber has become a daily practice for many users and at least weekly for many more. So-called “Uberites” love the service and the brand, and they promote it.

But there’s big difference between Uber and Apple. Uber is losing money. In effect there hasn’t been enough belief in the brand for the company to make a profit. The believers who are keeping Uber in business right now are the investors who have put up millions of dollars of venture capital to support the concept. And you better believe that they believe in the brand because they’re betting a whole lot more than a ride home from the bars that they’re right.

It can be even harder to convince audiences to believe in a brand that claims the same concept as others in their industry. Exhibit A: Healthcare. Brand A may very well be a very caring organization. Its employees may very much believe that “we care.” But how effective is Brand A at proving that it cares more than Brand B or C? They all think they care. The key is: does the market believe in Brand A more than another?

I should note that while trust and belief have overlapping meanings, there is a subtle difference for a brand. Trust in a brand is earned over time. But belief can come first, as in a person will believe a message before having it proven to be true and therefore earning trust. So establishing an early belief in the promise of a brand is key.

Startup brands often do this with early adopters who may become unofficial ambassadors for a new brand. Gradually as more and more “believers” are created, a brand can build the trust that is needed to grow and sustain its business. Apple has done this. Uber has created a lot of belief in its users, but hasn’t turned a profit. In a sense, they are buying some of that belief by discounting the true cost of their service.

A simple question for any brand manager to ask is, “do our customers and prospects truly believe in our brand and what it can do for them?” If the answer is yes, that brand should be successful. But if the answer is no, believe me, there’s work to be done.