Often referred to as “The 6 Billion Dollar Man” and “The Man Behind the Brands,” Bernt Ullmann is the CEO and chairman of the board of Celebrity Lifestyle Brands. He has been the trusted business acceleration expert by top fashion moguls and CEOs, such as Daymond John, Eddie Lampert, and Tommy Hilfiger.
Ullmann is the world’s leading expert in celebrity brand development, brand management, licensing and distribution, and monetization. He’s contributed to the successful launches of brands for clients, including Jennifer Lopez, Adam Levine, Nicki Minaj, and many others. And, the brands he has worked with have generated over $6 billion in global sales.
With such an incredible track record of directing brand success, he’s the perfect person to get advice on how to improve branding strategy and execution. Recently, Ullmann shared his perspective on branding, common branding mistakes, and celebrity brands.
What is a Brand?
Ullmann defines a brand as a name, design, or symbol that sets a product apart from the competition in the mind of the consumer. Although he believes the overall principles around what constitutes a brand has stayed the same over the last decade what has changed is how brands and brand messages are communicated to consumers.
He noted, “With the onslaught of social media and direct-to-consumertransactions, brands have learned how to communicate very directly and accurately to a core demographic. In addition, access to an audience is now at an all-time high. This has given birth to a plethora of new personal brands for online influencers.”
How to Evoke Positive Emotions Through Branding
Ullmann has been quoted as saying that “successful brands evoke a feeling in the consumer.” However, this is much easier said than done. Of course, brands want that feeling to be a positive one. Regardless of industry, there are tactics that brands can employ to evoke those positive feelings among consumers.
He explained, “The singular biggest thing any brand can do is build trust. Brands do this many different ways. It can be by leveraging customer testimonials, online ratings, and positive brand messaging. And, of course, they can do it through delivering a superior customer experience. We often say that the consumer may forget what you say, and possibly even what you do, but they never forget how you make the feel.”
Big Branding Mistakes
Unfortunately, there have been more misses than hits when it comes to most company branding efforts. Ullmann believes the biggest mistake that brands are making today is not focusing on, or understanding, how they fit in the business ecosystem. Too many brands make decisions in a vacuum without properly recognizing how their decisions will be received by their audience and where they belong in the competitive landscape.
Also, the majority of brands focus on “making money.” Generating a profit is obviously important. However, it is not really a good reason for a brand to exist. Instead, the focus should be on brand promise. This promise is the problem you solve for the customer. Once a brand can learn how to execute on that flawlessly, the profits are likely to follow.
Celebrities and Branding DNA
Additionally, Ullmann has worked with many well-known stars and celebrities. “First, none of the celebrities I have had the pleasure to work with arrived at their level of success by accident. They all have a few personality characteristics in common, such as vision, drive, tenacity, and perseverance. These celebrities all had a big dream they were not afraid to follow. And, regardless of what the ‘haters’ said, they stuck to their guns.”
Ullmann went on to explain that most successful celebrities are also perfectionists. They are fiercely protective about their personal brand. That’s what led him to tell me about his experience working with multi-talented performer Jennifer Lopez. “The keen attention to detail led me to spend two days in Jennifer Lopez’s closet with the design team from Kohl’s before launching the Jennifer Lopez Collection. While it may sound dramatic to spend that much time in her closet, it was quite enjoyable. Jennifer’s closet is larger than most people’s living rooms.”
Ullman said the objective of the closet visit was to uncover what we refer to as Brand DNA. “This is the essence of what makes a brand unique. Jennifer showed us all her favorite pieces and explained why she loved them. This allowed us to understand her personal style and recreate it successfully for her collection. It clearly worked because the Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony collections at Kohl’s were hugely successful.”
When building your brand, Ullmann illustrates the importance of defining what makes it unique (Brand DNA) and then using this to develop a positive and engaging relationship with your audience, particularly focused on how you can help them and create a memorable experience.
This article originally appeared on Forbes.