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Introducing Entrepreneur's Top Brands of 2014: Learn Their Secrets

We present the companies that have generated the most trust among entrepreneurs as well as the lessons you can take from them.

By Jason Daley

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Brand is one of those perfectly good words that has picked up a lot of baggage over the past decade. At one point, it simply meant the label used to signify a product. Chiquita bananas. Ford cars. Coca-Cola. Now we talk about personal brands, political brands and brand management. And even though the conversation around brand has become bloated with jargon and gobbledygook, its importance can't be oversold. Marketing guru Seth Godin defines brand as "the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer's decision to choose one product or service over another."

Entrepreneur set out to learn from its readers why certain brands elicit their respect and engagement. What our survey revealed is that brands that deliver on their promises, that consistently give consumers the highest level of service and best product--not just star-studded commercials or marketing hype--topped the list. Brands that think, feel and act like entrepreneurs, those that push to keep pace with customer demands and changing technology while staying true to their core principles, were the most respected. We also found some common themes and lessons among our top brands.These days a brand is the sum of a company's marketing efforts, customer experiences, its emotional impact and how it places itself in the culture. It's a mark of quality and status. In other words, it's the reason one company succeeds and another company fails.

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