What is a brand?
According to Wikipedia “a brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or other feature that distinguishes an organization or product from its rivals in the eyes of the customer.”
The practice of branding is thought to have begun with the ancient Egyptians who were known to have engaged in livestock branding as early as 2,700 BC. Branding was used to differentiate one person’s cattle from another’s by means of a distinctive symbol burned into the animal’s skin with a hot branding iron. If a person would steal the animals, anyone could detect the symbol and deduce the actual owner. However, the term has been extended to mean a strategic personality for a product or company, so that ‘brand’ now suggests the values and promises that a consumer may perceive and buy into. In a nutshell “Branding is a set of marketing and communication methods that help to distinguish a company or products from competitors, aiming to create a lasting impression in the minds of customers. The key components that form a brand’s toolbox include a brand’s identity, brand communication (such as by logos and trademarks), brand awareness, brand loyalty, and various branding (brand management) strategies.”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Brand
A brand can deliver:
• Improved image and perception of value
• Preference for product/service
• Increased engagement and market share
• Increased revenue
Branding is a very complex topic and plenty of books are written about it. It is not easy to define what a brand is, along with how to create, manage, and value it. I would like to include a part of a well written, and well-researched, in-depth article about essentials of branding by Landor. This article was first published as Chapter 4 in The Big Book of Marketing: Lessons and Best Practices from the World’s Greatest Companies, edited by Anthony G. Bennett (McGraw-Hill, 2010).
“There are museum brands (Guggenheim, Smithsonian), people brands (Martha Stewart, David Beckham), political brands (Labour versus Conservatives), destination brands (Australia, Hong Kong), sport brands (Manchester United, New York Yankees, Super Bowl), nonprofit brands (Red Cross, Oxfam, RED), branded associations (YMCA, PGA), along with the product, service, and corporate brands with which we are all familiar.
Brands help people make a choice, a choice among salts, financial institutions, political parties, and so on, and the choices are increasing. The purpose of branding is to ensure that your product or service is the preferred choice in the minds of your key audiences (whether customers, consumers, employees, prospective employees, fans, donors, or voters).
The difference between a brand and branding
Most experts define what a brand is in one of two ways. The first set of definitions focuses on some of the elements that make up a brand:
- “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.”David Ogilvy, primary.co.uk/viewpoints (accessed 12 May 2009)
- “A name, sign, or symbol used to identify items or services of the seller(s) and to differentiate them from goods of competitors.”Dictionary of Business and Management (Oxford University Press, 2006)
The second set of definitions describes the associations that come to mind when people think about a brand:
- “Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.”Walter Landor, founder of Landor
- “A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or company…It’s a person’s gut feeling, because in the end the brand is defined by individuals, not by companies, markets, or the so-called general public. Each person creates his or her own version of it.”Marty Neumeier, The Brand Gap: How to Bridge the Distance between Business Strategy and Design (AIGA New Riders, 2006)
Accepting the second set of definitions poses more of a challenge. The first definition suggests that the brand is the purview of the marketing department–just get the name, logo, design, and advertising right and you have your brand. The second shows how the brand is inextricably linked to the business. The creation of the brand may begin in the marketing department, but the experience of the brand has to be driven through all parts of the organization. Every interaction, or touchpoint, in a customer’s experience of a brand makes a difference.
Branding cannot control what people think of a brand, it can only influence. A brand can put some of the elements in place that will help people understand why they should choose or prefer a particular good, service, organization, or idea over another. Branding, and the related marketing disciplines can help influence and explain how many of these associations in our minds have been built, and whether they were built through advertising, PR, employee behavior, supply chain management, and so on.
“Branding is about signals–the signals people use to determine what you stand for as a brand. Signals create associations.”
- Allen Adamson, “BrandSimple: How the Best Brands Keep It Simple and Succeed” (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).”
The original aim of branding was to simplify the process of identifying and differentiating products. Over time, manufacturers began to use branded messages to give the brand a unique personality. Brands came to embrace a performance or benefit promise, for the product, certainly, but eventually also for the company behind the brand.
Today, brands play a much bigger role. Brands have been co-opted as powerful symbols in larger debates about economics, social issues, and politics. The power of brands to communicate a complex message quickly, with emotional impact and with the ability of brands to attract media attention, makes them ideal tools in the hands of activists.