top of page
  • Writer's pictureDeJuan Wright

The Most Successful Brands Do This 1 Thing Extremely Well

Updated: Feb 1

Every now and then, events take place that’ll either confirm or confound something we held true to our beliefs for years. Recently, one of the most popular brands on the planet confirmed one of my beliefs as it pertains to branding—when the QSR behemoth McDonald’s announced a partnership with Krispy Kreme, Inc. to offer Krispy Kreme doughnuts at select McDonald’s locations across North America.

The announcement left many—especially those in the marketing industry, puzzled to say the least.

I must admit that initially, I was also a bit bewildered by the news as I thought about the pros and cons of the partnership for both brands. But after analyzing the alliance, I came to the conclusion that the partnership made perfect sense for both brands. For Krispy Kreme, it gives the brand more exposure.

But for McDonald’s, the partnership only confirmed my belief of what’s one of the most important things that the most successful brands tend to do extremely well.

What successful brands do

Speaking of things that’ll either confirm or confound our beliefs, on June 8th, 2021, a book was released that thoroughly reaffirmed my marketing philosophy due to its disruptive approach towards the profession. The title of that book is R.E.D. Marketing, and it was co-written by former YUM! Brands CEO Greg Creed and the company’s current CMO Ken Muench.

In R.E.D. Marketing, the duo also reaffirmed my belief of a subtle practice that the most successful brands have in common. This common practice also explains why a brand like McDonald’s would sell Krispy Kreme’s products in its stores (which I'll discuss in detail later).

The practice that I'm referring to is owning top-of-mind status in as many category-use-occasions (CUOs) as possible for your target audience.

“In order to thrive, you have to offer multiple category-use-occasions or CUOs. A CUO is a need a consumer is trying to fulfill by engaging in the category.” Says Creed and Muench in R.E.D. Marketing. The duo went on to state, “Brands that are methodically successful will methodically look to own as many CUOs as possible.”

If you’re wondering just what a category-use-occasion is, here’s an example using something you may have in your hands at the moment. Think about whichever brand it is that produces your smartphone. Now, here's four CUOs the brand’s marketing team probably had to convey in order to entice you to purchase their product:

1. A phone with internet accessibility.

2. A phone that’s socially acceptable by your peers.

3. A phone that allows you to download and use all your favorite apps.

4. A phone that helps you alleviate boredom.

Now that you've thought about it, I'm sure you'd agree that whichever brand it is that enticed you to purchase your current smartphone—probably provided the most amount of CUOs to incentivize you to do so.

Why owning CUOs are so important for brands

The reason why McDonald’s—which is easily one of the biggest brands on earth, would partner with doughnut brand Krispy Kreme—is because the partnership allows McDonald’s to own another CUO for people that love Krispy Kreme doughnuts. Which gives McDonald’s another advantage over its competitors.

For example, one Monday morning, Sandra is driving down Main Street on her way to work. Sandra, hungry, and in a hurry to get to work—decides to grab a quick bite to eat before she gets to her office.

While thinking about the many breakfast options available, Sandra recalls seeing a McDonald’s commercial the night before announcing that they’re now serving Krispy Kreme donuts at select locations—with one of those locations being near her office—which is where she goes to grab a Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut (her favorite), hash browns, and a cup of coffee.

In this instance, McDonald’s won Sandra’s business by achieving top-of-mind status for the following CUOs; a quick breakfast, a handheld meal that could be eaten while on-the-go, a convenient location, a hot beverage, a hot snack, but the thing that pushed Sandra over the tipping point, and what really gave McDonald’s an advantage over all of the other QSRs and convenience stores at her disposal at the time—was that McDonald’s had all of the above, as well another CUO—which was Sandra's favorite sweet snack—Krispy Kreme's original glazed doughnuts.


When it comes to your target audience, owning top-of-mind status for as many CUOs as possible should always be one your brand’s primary objectives. However, please do not conflate that with brand extension—which often hurts a brand more than it helps it.

Instead of extending your brand—simply focus on trying to provide as many CUOs as possible within your brand's current niche. And just remember, great brands don't to be everything to everyone—just everything to their target audience.


bottom of page