What Is Brand?
My first blog will discuss getting back to basics in an aim to uncover the true understanding of what a brand is.
This blog is useful for anyone who is looking to kick-start a new business or build a personal brand, an existing business looking to realign or improve their brand or indeed, if you are a marketer within a business and maybe brand is something that now falls under your role.
Before I start, I want to quickly touch on what a brand is not…
What A Brand is Not
Thankfully these days, people do recognise that a brand is more than just a logo but still some businesses fall into the trap of putting their shiny new brand suite into a metaphorical box, or most appropriately for this day and age, a folder on their desktop labelled BRAND.
They keep it there for appropriate occasions, such as special marketing events, advertising or updating their Facebook profile before closing the symbolic lid again until further notice.
This isn’t what building a brand is about, there is a big difference between having branding and having a brand.
Why Do We Love Brands?
It’s important to get in the right frame of mind when embarking on a brand journey because when you’re not, it’s kind of like going on a hike with bad footwear, not being too sure of the directions or even having a proper understanding of your final destination, not to mention all the milestones along the way.
To start, I want us to think about some of the brands we love and why we love them?
So, if I think about me personally and the brands that I love, Nike is up there for me and has been for a long time.
Of course, it goes without saying that I love their product, their style and the way in which they keep innovating their designs. I also perceive their products to be good quality, however this doesn’t really cover all the reasons why I love them.
Their brand slogan, ‘just do it’ is very motivational but I think it’s how they have brought it to life through some of their advertising and brand campaigns that has transcended it from motivational to inspirational.
Their 2019 ‘Dream Crazier’ campaign narrated by Serena Williams, depicted many memorable sporting achievements by women in decades gone by, along with the criticism of these moments and women in the media. The result is an inspirational and emotive 60 seconds of what it means to be a woman. It is and will remain one of my favourite brand campaigns of all time.
(Campaigns of the World, 2020)
So as a brand, Nike doesn’t just speak to me as a consumer about its products, it speaks to be as a woman, it speaks to the emotional side of my personality, the side that is bound up with femininity, as well as its motivational side, the side that is driven to do, create and succeed. It’s really a cheerleader shouting at me and all women from the side lines, just do it, you can do it.
I could list a number of other brands that I love and the reasons why, however I think if you write down your own, it will become apparent that the reasons why we are so attached to certain brands and why our recall for these certain brands is so strong is because we have an emotional connection or attachment to them and that some part of their brand personality speaks to our own personality.
Nike are a good quality product with innovative design and a catchy brand slogan that it brings to life through motivational and inspirational brand and advertising campaigns… so is this what a brand is?
The Definition Of Brand
The truth is there is really no set definition for what a brand is, even out there in the branding world.
The oxford dictionary describes brand as; A type of product or service etc. offered by a particular company under a particular name. (Oxford Learners Dictionary, 2021)
Philip Kotler, the famous marketing guru says a brand is; a name, term, sign, symbol, or design or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of the competition. (Gersch, 2020)
The American Marketing Association describes brand as; A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. The legal term for brand is trademark. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller. If used for the firm as a whole, the preferred term is trade name. (Cohen, 2011)
But these definitions don’t really work for me because they don’t take into consideration all the reasons why, for example, Nike is one of my favourite brands.
Here are some other definitions which further explain the realms of brand;
Brand is the proprietary visual, emotional, rational, and cultural image that one associates with a company or a product. (Bhasin, 2019)
Brand is the sum total of how someone perceives a particular organisation. Branding is about shaping that perception. Ashley Friedlein- Econsultancy (Cohen, 2011)
Brand is an experience and advertising is the temptation (Airey, 2011)
Branding is the representation of your organization as a personality. Branding is who you are that differentiates you. Dave Kerpen- Author of Likeable Social Media. (Cohen, 2011)
A brand is a reason to choose. Cheryl Burgee- Blue Focus Marketing. (Cohen, 2011)
So as you will see there are a lot of people out there who have their own special definition of what a brand is, this is mine….
Brand, A Guiding Principle
A brand is a business’s story, a book made up of its past, present and future and how it brings these pages to life in an authentic, aspirational and meaningful way so that these stories live on in the minds of its audiences.
A business’s past represents the roots and foundation of a business, and is often what makes the business unique, helping to inspire brand values, personality and tone of voice. These are the things that are going to give your brand authenticity and shape brand entities such as logo, design, slogans and more.
Defining the story of a brand’s present, its here and now and who and what your business is, should bring to life brand experiences for the consumer to give them an insight into what type of memorable experiences they can expect from your business. It should further develop things like brand personality, values and ethos and weave these into how you approach things like your brand promise, your brand experience, your brand environment, your brand culture and community in an aspirational way.
Telling the story of the future of your business should help the consumer understand how you plan to grow your brand and how they can grow with you. It should bring to life your overall brand purpose, your vision and mission, your place in the world and how you use that place for good.
Brands are at all different stages of this journey of brand.
Some brands out there have only just begun telling their story and bringing to life the things that make them unique and authentic.
Other brands are continuing their journey of brand exploration, experimenting, and innovating new ways in which to connect with their audiences in a more meaningful way to create long-term value.
And brands that have been on this journey for a while, are out their telling other stories, stories about their future, why they exist and through their existence how they want to make a difference and even connecting with other businesses and personal brands to help them do it.
I hope that you have found this guiding principle helpful in thinking about brand and what it means to be a brand. If you would like to further explore any of these topics for your own business, please get in touch and in the meantime thank you for listening.
Bhasin, H (2019) ‘What is brand’ Marketing 91 [online]. ‘Available at: https://www.marketing91.com/what-is-a-brand/ [Accessed 11 May 2021]
Marion (2015) ‘What is branding’ The Branding Journal [online]. Available at:https://www.thebrandingjournal.com/2015/10/what-is-branding-definition/ [Accessed on 11 May 2021]
Cohen, H (2011) ’A Brand is’ Hedi Cohen.com [online]. Available at https://heidicohen.com/30-branding-definitions/ [Accessed 11 May 2021]
Campaigns of the world (2011) ‘Nike, Dream Crazier, Just Do It’ YOUTUBE [online]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zWfX5jeF6k4 [Accessed 14 May 2021]
Oxford Learners Dictionary, (2021) ‘Brand noun’ Oxford Learners Dictionary [online]. Available at: https://www.oxfordlearnersdictionaries.com/definition/english/brand_1 [Accessed 14 May 2021]
Gersch, M (2020) ‘What is brand according to Philip Kotler’ Find any answer [online]. Available at: https://findanyanswer.com/what-is-brand-according-to-philip-kotler#:~:text=In%20the%20book%20Principles%20of%20Marketing%20%28Philip%20Kotler%2FGary,and%20will%20regularly%20purchase%20products%20from%20that%20brand. [Accessed 14 May 2021]
Airey, D (2011) ‘Brand thinking and other nobel pursuits’ David Airey.com [online]. Available at: https://www.davidairey.com/brand-thinking [Accessed 14 May 2021]