Max and Mollie had two sons – Michael and Arthur. They lived as a typical family in Queens, New York where Max owned a small pharmaceutical company. The youngest boy, Arthur, attended Stuyvesant High School, which offered accelerated academics to qualifying city residents and funded by New York City. From there, he graduated from Babson College in Wellesley, Massachusetts – considered by many to be the top entrepreneurship college in the United States.
After working for a short time at Arthur Young and Company as a senior accountant, he went to work in the family business. That business was purchased by the Daylin Corporation which owned a discount drug chain. Arthur became their controller and after four years, in 1972, he became president and CEO. Two years after that, Arthur was moved to Los Angeles and made controller of Daylin’s home improvement business, Handy Dan.
It was there that he met Bernie Marcus, Handy Dan’s president and CEO. Together they developed and began testing a low-price concept in one of the stores. Overall, Handy Dan was tremendously successful, yet in 1978, the two men were fired when Daylin was purchased by a turnaround ‘artist’. On the one hand, the two men were shocked at being let go. Their termination, however, opened the doors of opportunity for them.
With the help of a strong financial backer, the men opened two home improvement stores in Atlanta. These stores were built on the concept they had developed at Handy Dan. Their business strategy was simple – offer thousands of items, at the lowest price, while offering unequaled customer support. On day three a customer brought them a batch of okra as a thank you for the great customer experience she had the prior day. With that, Arthur and Bernie knew they had a winner.
Today that company is the world’s largest home improvement specialty retailer, boasting over 2,200 stores in the U.S., Mexico and Canada. Sales exceed $80 billion and it ranks 37th on Forbes list of World’s Most Valuable Brands. Home Depot was built to be a fearless brand under the direction of Bernie and Arthur.
Bernie retired from Home Depot in 2002 – Arthur had retired in 2001. Both men left as billionaires. Arthur wasn’t one to be idle, even as a wealthy retiree. His attention turned to one of his passions – sports. He was a resident of Atlanta and a sports fan, which made him one of the long-suffering fans of that town’s football team, which had never had back-to-back winning seasons it its history.
He set out to buy the team, determined to make the franchise successful, both on the field and with its fans. He acquired the team in 2002 and immediately began to incorporate the identical strategies with which he and Bernie had built Home Depot. Determined to deliver an excellent customer experience, he surveyed fans to discover and address their interests and frustrations.
Lowering ticket prices led to the first sold out season in decades. He bought land to add more parking at the stadium and added special events including pre-game and halftime concerts. Importantly, he focused on improving the product on the field, hiring talented football people and letting them make the decisions about players and coaches.
The result is similar to his Home Depot performance. The team has had multiple winning seasons, winning their division three times and coming up one win short of making an appearance in the Super Bowl. Financially, the franchise is now valued at $1.67 billion – Arthur bought the franchise for $545 million. Arthur built the Atlanta Falcons into a fearless brand, much as he did Home Depot.
The success of both Home Depot and the Atlanta Falcons is the direct result of them having been built into fearless brands. That happened because the driving force behind each of them, Arthur Blank, is himself a fearless brand.
Fearless Brands are built on the same principles regardless of industry
Arthur Blank is a fearless brand who builds fearless brands. Early in life he pursued excellence, in sports, school and business. He applied his learned talents to running a business. Overtime, he found his purpose – to create a business which would revolutionize its category.
To do that it was imperative to deliver tremendous value to customers everywhere. He and Bernie Marcus went even further by creating core values. Those include a commitment to take care of their employees, respect all people, foster an entrepreneurial spirit, give back to the community and satisfy shareholders.
What makes Home Depot a fearless brand? The company vision is clear – offer quality products and services at low prices, hire knowledgeable employees and always focus on delivering an excellent customer experience.
What makes the Atlanta Falcons franchise a fearless brand? The organization’s vision is clear – put a quality product on the field at fair prices and always focus on the fan experience.
What do those two brands have in common? Arthur Blank. While each of these businesses seem to be significantly different on the surface, Blank knew that the same core values, brand-building principles and strategies would lead to business success in both instances.
The same concepts will help you as you build your own fearless brand.
Be relevant, fill a need – Home Depot was started with a new approach to home improvement, filling a need most people weren’t even aware of. The premise was to expose the average consumer to the concept of do-it-yourself (DIY) and showing them how to become Mr. and Ms. “Fix-its”. The ‘new’ idea was widely embraced and that relevance led to the company’s success.
Respect all people – This seemingly simple core value has far-reaching impact. Home Depot and the Falcons understand that business is reliant on people. Blank knows that employees, customers, fans, suppliers, the community and shareholders are all vital to the success of any business. Treat people with respect. Value them. Fill their needs. Success will follow.
Give back – Home Depot started the Olympic Job Opportunities program in 1991, providing U.S. Olympic athletes the opportunity to work and train. Eight of those employees medaled in the 2002 Winter Olympics. The Home Depot Foundation was begun in 2002. The most recent philanthropic organization is the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation. Giving back is not just a nice practice, it helps to strengthen the emotional connection between a brand and its customers.
You should always strive to upgrade your brand and when you do, learn from Arthur Blank. His branding approach has worked for Home Depot, the Falcons and of course, Mr. Blank himself. You can believe that if these principles have succeeded with each of those brands, they will certainly work for your brand.