The Brand: Martha Stewart
What It Stands For: The ultimate in "how to" information to raise the quality of life at home.
Who's Buying: Martha Stewart Living, the magazine, has spawned books, a television show plus specials, and a newspaper column.
Recent Brand Leverage: Supplementing information with high-quality home "tools" such as bath towels and paint. The key now is to extend the Stewart brand in ways that make sense. Perfume? No way! It's off-point — and Stewart doesn't license her name and likeness to anybody. As the company strives to push to the next phase, the most important branding isn't with consumers; it's with the company's 150 employees.
The Brand: The Dust Brothers
What It Stands For: The ultimate in cutting-edge production.
Who's Buying: The Rolling Stones, The Beastie Boys, Beck, Howard Stern, and Hanson.
Recent Brand Leverage: Launched their own record label; cut a talent-finding deal with Dreamworks SKG; produced music for Microsoft ads. This two-man team — John King and Mike Simpson — had to rebuild themselves as a brand after a fast start. Step one: The Dust Brothers brought in specialists to run a "Dust Is Back" press blitz, targeting trade magazines. Step two: leverage your proximity to someone else's buzz. The Dust Brothers's publicity jam kicked off after the release of Beck's smash CD "Odelay" in 1996. The album put the Dust Brothers back on the map — and the brand back in demand.
The Brand: Chip Kidd
What It Stands For: The ultimate in hip graphic design.
Who's Buying: Knopf; Little, Brown; and a host of other publishing companies.
Recent Brand Leverage: Converted his Batman-collectible fixation into a coffee-table book; one recent issue of the "New York Times Magazine" featured both a Kidd-designed cover and an article on his design philosophy. A decade ago Kidd opted for a staff job at Knopf, handling book cover design and other graphic design projects, rather than setting up his own independent shop. Kidd pushed the design envelope on breakthrough projects like his covers for "Geek Love," "The Secret History" (designed with Barbara deWilde), and "All the Pretty Horses" — acclaimed novels that he believed in.
The Brand: Ronald Labinski
What It Stands For: The ultimate in sports arena design.
Who's Buying: 22 of the 28 major league baseball franchises; 28 of 30 pro-football franchises.
Recent Brand Leverage: The international market, with projects in Hong Kong and Sydney, Australia. Architect Ronald Labinski built his brand by designing stadiums that combine aesthetic quality with sports nostalgia (like Coors Field, right). The biggest boost to his brand came with the outpouring of praise for the Oriole Park at Camden Yards project in Baltimore. "We're the guys with the experience," he says. "These are major projects. These things are on the sports page, the business page, the front page." Today he's a senior principal of HOK Sports Facility Group.
A version of this article appeared in the August/September 1997 issue of Fast Company magazine.