When I speak, people often ask me to name some great brands. I know they're expecting me to say "Nike" or "Southwest Airlines," which are, of course, great brands.
But I don't. I usually say "The Cherry Pit." Then the audience looks at me funny.
The Cherry Pit is a small diner in my town, Deerfield, IL. Most people in Deerfield don't even know about The Cherry Pit. But those that know it love it. In fact, they love it so much that The Cherry Pit is always busy, though they never spend a dime on purchased marketing activities. The Cherry Pit has such definite character and such a rich personality that its customers give it a disproportionate amount of business and referrals.
A brand's strength isn't measured by how many people know its name. It is measured by how intensely people attach a rich meaning to that name that motivates them to act. Look around you—you'll see that it is often the smallest companies that are able to arouse the most emotion and meaning in their customers' hearts and minds.
Try this: Ask some friends to name their favorite restaurants. (Hint: You won't hear the names of a lot of chains.)