The word “branding” is abused in common parlance to mean “placing one’s logo on something.” This is like saying marriage is about wearing a ring on the correct finger.

The brand of a company—or even a person—is its reputation. It symbolizes more than just name recognition, but the promises made, and how well they are kept. With that in mind there are several components to building a brand that people can love. Companies like Apple, Coca-Cola and Whole Foods are masters at this, and  it’s no accident.

1. Have an excellent product. Better yet, have the best product on the market. Don’t waste your money advertising until you have something truly different. Taking the extra time to figure it out will make all the difference between those who survive and those who excel.

2. Use a name and logo that is simple and timeless. It should be easy to recognize and able to outlast design fads. It should also be unique enough to capture the essence of the company and distinguish it from others.

3. Use a data-driven, creatively packaged advertising strategy. All the creativity in the world means nothing if you don’t understand your audience. Likewise, having data without a strong pitch is like having something something to say, but no voice with which to say it.

4. Hire people that understand customer service. This isn’t about the old adage “the customer is always right,” because it’s not exactly true. The point is to make sure the customer feels welcome, heard, valued and important. Customer service is about an experience that people are willing to come back to time and time again.

5. Be clear on the values, mission and unique identity of the organization, and make sure this comes through in every corner of the operation.

6. Be consistent. All of these practices should be done consistently to make sure the organization is keeping a critical eye on its standards, and to make sure clients and customers are continually satisfied.

None of these are easy to do, which is why most brands are unexciting and unmemorable. It takes time, hard work, and the right team of people. But when done well, a strong, positive brand can drive success.

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