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According to Lara McCulloch, branding expert and Chief Shift Disturber at Start Some Shift, every great brand has three things in common: they're magnetic, novel and singular. — U.S. Chamber of Commerce

When most people think about successful, powerful brands that resonate with consumers, they think of industry giants like Apple, Nike, Amazon and Airbnb.

But what makes those brands so effective? What makes customers get excited about those brands, to the point where they rave about them and tell all their friends about them?

According to Lara McCulloch, branding expert and Chief Shift Disturber at Start Some Shift, every great brand has three things in common:

  • They’re magnetic. A magnetic brand feels like it was made just for its target customer. It’s an extension of that customer — the brand reflects who they are or who they want to become.
  • They’re novel. Novel brands offer something unique that people feel like they just can’t get somewhere else.
  • They’re singular. A brand that is singular is known for doing one thing exceptionally well.

During a CO— Roadmap Roundtable discussion, McCulloch explained that this “singularity” is the most important point for small business owners who are building brands. Some entrepreneurs mistakenly believe that if they narrow their focus to one thing, they’re missing out on market opportunities to do all the things they’re good at.

“The opposite is true,” said McCulloch. “If you do all of these things ... you’re now competing with everyone else who also does all of those things, so you increase your competition pool dramatically — and you're not memorable.”

[Read: 10 Startups Taking Branding to a New Level]

Watch our full branding workshop on demand.

Does your brand have a ‘disruptive cure’ that stands out?

There are three potential strategies a business can use to build their brand, said McCulloch. They can spend a lot of money on advertising and making noise, they can slash their prices to undercut competitors, or they can present a disruptive cure for a very specific group of consumers. This means their brand looks, thinks and says things differently than any others in their industry.

The third option is the most effective and sustainable branding strategy, but it’s harder to achieve than most business owners think. A Bain & Company study found that 80% of leaders believe they offer something superior (i.e., a disruptive cure), but only 8% of customers agree — and it’s what the customer thinks that truly matters.

“If we're looking at three different choices and they're all pretty much the same, we are inclined to pay the lowest possible price,” McCulloch told CO—. “Unless you want to be the low-cost leader, you need to have a disruptive cure.”

[Read: 4 Key Elements of a Successful Branding Strategy]

To determine whether you truly have that “cure,” McCulloch recommends asking yourself three questions that correspond to the three elements of a great brand:

  • Can you describe the single problem you solve for a specific person? (Magnetic)
  • If you didn’t exist, would your customers be able to get what you offer for the same or better price for the same or better service? (Novel)
  • Can you describe your business in a single sentence? (Singular)

How to communicate your brand

Even if your brand does pass the disruptive cure test, you still need to invest in a solid communication strategy to get your offering into the right hands, said McCulloch. That strategy involves three fundamental elements:

  1. Market.Who are you looking to connect with and where do they spend their time, especially online?
  2. Money. How much of a budget do you have for paid, earned, rented and owned media, and which of those options is best for reaching your market?
  3. Message. What message do you want to get out there and what is the best format and channel to share it?

By identifying your company’s disruptive cure and developing a solid strategy to talk about it, you’ll be well on your way to developing a magnetic, novel, singular brand.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

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