By Michael Stodola Special to Published Nov 07, 2009 at 3:13 PM
For many of us, the formula for success seems as elusive as an invisible leprechaun. Yet, for some, everything simply works. It works so well that certain brands don't just do well against the competition, they transcend them. People imagine how wonderful it must be to work "there." Some brands even seem as magical as Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory on a casual Friday.

What makes these companies so special? It's called focused, enthusiastic, balls-to-the-wall branding.

Many times the gold that flows downhill from the CEO or company founders is enough to inspire strong brands organically. It's the stuff that others try to imitate, but fall short of in the "genuine" category.

So, who am I talking about? Which brands walk happily to the beat of their own drummer? They're all around us. Brands like Vitamin Water, Ben & Jerry's and Apple have a glow that never ceases to seduce us with confidence, fun and heart. I could go on with brands like Volkswagen, Organic Valley and Harley-Davidson. Speaking of local, there's Trek bicycles, Johnsonville brats and Lakefront Brewery (not to mention our very own

Now, I realize it's not always sunshine and roses within the walls of these companies. I'm just recognizing the magic of our brand perception of them. Sure, the work is sweaty, ugly and stressful at times, but I'm guessing it's a bit less at these places.

It's largely due to the narrow focus of these brands. Number one, their brands reflect their true nature. Number two, they stand for something (and something mostly uplifting or positive). Number three, consistency, consistency, consistency. Not too mention, the work force is on the same page when it comes to the company line.

It's why companies like these have branding standards thicker than the Hong Kong phone book. Every aspect of their communications is drafted in detail. From the core identity to the graphics on the side of the company security vehicles, everything is done for a reason.

The voice is singular.

I truly admire a strong brand. It goes beyond a clever television spot or dynamic packaging. It bridges the gap from their soul to my mind, and makes everything they do better in my eyes.

Michael Stodola Special to
Michael Stodola is the Creative Director at Boelter + Lincoln – a Milwaukee advertising agency. He loves his job, but not as much as he loves scuba diving, crab cakes or playing with his kids. His favorite thing is sneaking off for dates with his hottie wife. Born and raised in Nebraska, he’s been calling Milwaukee home for well over 10 years. After Michael’s impending death, he’d like to return to this world as your next American Idol®.