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The first time I really recognized the value of branding was about 12 years ago. I was driving down I-476, coming back from a Pocono Mountain weekend with my three daughters. A five-year old voice from the back seat perks up and says “McDonald’s!”.

Now, I’m thinking “Where?” We were among the trees, coming down from the mountains and miles away from anything resembling a rest stop. And, I’m no health nut, but my kids don’t “do” McDonald’s® (one viewing of the movie Super Size Me and I gave up the Big Macs and never looked back). They had never been to one. But, lo and behold, way out in the wooded distance of the Lehigh Valley, sitting atop what must have been a 75-foot high pole, were the “Golden Arches.” Nothing else – just the big, giant, welcoming yellow “M” in the sky.

So, my five-year old daughter taught me the power of the brand.

She’d never been to a McDonald’s, but let’s face it: McDonald’s sponsors everything that can possibly be televised, so their symbol is everywhere on kids’ TV. That symbol was etched in her five-year-old brain for life. And her uttering that one word – based on nothing more than a giant “M” in the sky – shows they are effective marketers…because that one word set off a chorus of whining from the back seat, begging that we stop for a Happy Meal™.

So grab a McCafe Latte (or your favorite McBeverage), and I’ll share three fast branding lessons from these fast food-hawking geniuses that you should consider for your own brand:

Brand Consistency is Key
The Golden Arches are the image and worldwide-recognized symbol of the McDonald’s brand – and they never stray from it. You don’t see the Florescent Green or Magenta Arches; they’re always Golden. You know it…you trust it…you can count on it anywhere in the world! And you want your customers to feel that same sense of recognition and trust for your brand.

Fake McDonald's

Imitation is the sincerest form of brand flattery, right?

Sub-Brands Are An Extension of Your Core Brand – Respect the Core Brand
McRibs, McNuggets, and McMuffins…no, these are not unfortunately-named Irish rugby players; they are McDonald’s products, brands-within-the-brand. And they are a clear extension of the overall brand itself. Chicken Nuggets are available anywhere, but there’s only one place to get McNuggets. If you have more than one product under your marquee brand name, consider how those products are promoted and served under that brand.

Be Unique…Be Memorable
Look at the core of The Golden Arches and what you’ve really got is a big yellow “M”. Think of the other major brands that start with the letter “M” – Microsoft®, Marathon®, Mobile® Macy’s®, etc. None of these brands would be represented by a single letter. McDonald’s has cornered the consumer market on the letter “M”! Your brand should share that uniqueness.

Just some fast food for thought.

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