On this day in 1902, German automaker Daimler-Motoren-Gesellschaft (DMG) first registered “Mercedes” as a brand name. One hundred and eight years later, Mercedes-Benz remains one of the most recognizable, trusted and admired names in the auto industry.

Whether you are a for-profit corporation, a non-profit organization, a government agency, or a high-profile public figure (politician, celebrity, etc.), your success ultimately depends on the strength of your brand. Too often, we have a limited view of branding as the “stuff” associated with a particular product or service — its logo, packaging, and other tangibles. But a brand is so much more than what we can see.  In Brand Warfare: 10 Rules for Creating the Killer Brand, David D’Alessandro defines brand as “whatever the consumer thinks of when he or she hears your company’s name.”

Needless to say, the quality of the product itself plays an enormous role in the strength of the brand, but “building a better mousetrap” alone does not guarantee success. A great brand can be made or broken because of the customer’s experience of that brand — including perceptions of the people who manage it.  Every organization must put thought and care into the creation and nurturing of its brand. As D’Alessandro argues (even in 2001, when Brand Warfare was published), gone are the days when industry giants could rest on their laurels, confident that their brand — and the resulting market share — were untouchable.  Today, organizations of all shapes and sizes must pay much more attention to the care and feeding of the brand, take no success for granted, and above all, demonstrate a keen understanding of exactly what the customer wants and needs.