Why FUBU founder Daymond John believes in the power of branding

What’s in a name? Quite a bit if you ask Daymond John, founder of clothing manufacturer FUBU and star of the hit TV show “Shark Tank.”

“Having a strong brand, whether corporate of personal, always creates a halo effect,” John says. “A lot of time that’s the only thing that separates you from everybody else.”

Standing out from the pack as an original was John’s intent when he named his nascent company FUBU, an acronym for “For Us, By Us” that conveyed the business’ original, largely African-American target market.

John has since stretched the FUBU brand to reach a broader market and expanded into entertainment-related products and services. Yet, he has always remained true to serving the company’s core customer.

“It always comes back to the mission statement and the base,” he says. “Like a building, if you have a weak base the building will crumble. Whatever the identity and the product you’re building, you have to stay true to that first.”

John’s new book, “The Brand Within,” hit the book shelves in April. In it, he explains how branding relationships have become integrated with everything we do – from buying products and services to determining which television shows we watch; what music we listen to; and the food we eat.

Smart Business caught up to John and discussed the importance of personal brands, how to nurture a company’s identity and why you better sum yours up in three words.

Q: How can a company benefit from having a strong brand?

In a tough time like this, when everybody is holding their purses and wallets very close, the people they will end up spending the money on are the brands they are comfortable with because the brand is portrayed as something that gives them a comfort level.

Q: Can that help a company accelerate its business performance and expand its offerings beyond core products and services?

Sure. Let’s look at electronics. While they haven’t branded it this way, I’m not certain that I would buy a BlackBerry television or anything else beyond a phone from BlackBerry if they offered it. But I would buy a television or handset or any product that Apple came out with.

Why? It’s the branding and years of coming up with innovative ideas. It’s the marketing. It’s that everything Apple comes out with works with each other. And, it has a cool factor – Apple reinforces its brand with great service and beautiful stores.

So you look at Apple and you look at BlackBerry and have to think about the difference. If BlackBerry created a TV, you would ask yourself, ‘Why would I buy a TV from them?’ BlackBerry is known for giving very fast, clear, precise information. So it’s not a far stretch for them if they decided to follow the same path with televisions. But because of the Apple brand you’ll buy anything that comes from them. BlackBerry is probably behind them in branding only because they’ve concentrated on one device and didn’t grow the brand beyond that.

[Read a blog on leaders like John investing in brand in a down economy]