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A definition of “brand” (it’s not your logo)

I think it’s helpful when speaking about branding to get some definitions clear. In this post we review what the terms “brand” and “branding” mean and what they do not mean.

What a brand is not ? To the average person in the street a brand is simply a logo. This probably comes from a simple deduction that if something is “branded” with a name or an icon then that name or icon therefore becomes a “brand”. However I would argue a wider meaning is actually preferable because a “brand” is not simply a graphic by which a company can be recognised. It goes much deeper.

What is a brand? There are many different definitions of "brand". Here are some of the ones I have found most helpful:

“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon

“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization” Marty Neumeier, writer and Director of Transformation, Liquid Agency

“A brand is 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.” Seth Godin, entrepreneur, author & speaker

I define brand as: “the meaning an audience attaches to an organisation, product or service”. Brand is meaning.

This meaning is not something which is ultimately defined by marketeers or the founders of a business because it is in the hearts and minds of their audiences. This meaning is defined by the audiences emotional response to any aspect of an offer. The truth is - you don’t own your brand. A potential buyer does. They create the meaning.

What is branding? Branding is "the attempt to manage the meaning that is attached to an organisation, product or service".

It is the things which an organisation does to firstly understand the authentic meaning and value it has in the lives of its audience and staff and then what that organisation does to communicate this. How does it give its audience experiences by which the audience will attach meaning in their minds to the product or service? How will those in charge of a brand seek to influence their audience so that the desired meaning will be connected to the brand?

True branding is about telling an authentic story which has emotional appeal to a prospect. It defines an organisation. It gives it something to live by. Branding is about working out a way of communicating to a potential customer that the brand has value and will help them achieve something. To review all of the assets of an organisation and all points of contact with its audience and ensure they are all communicating value which resonates with potential customers.

Within then without True branding therefore requires an organisation to firstly look within and define its true meaning. This might mean doing insights and research to see how it’s products or services are used by an audience. It might mean the sales team getting together to answer the question of what it really means to a prospect to make a purchase. It might mean getting back to the real reasons why a business was started by its founder. However a decision might be reached, it needs to be defined by a leadership team and set out as a strategy for the internal team to understand and follow.

Once this has been done it can become the basis of recruitment. Once the meaning has been subscribed to and begone to be lived it can then be used as the platform by which the organisation communicates its worth in marketing and advertising techniques. One (and this is one of many) of these techniques is to create a logo by which a brand can be recognised to ensure that an audience attaches meaning to a specific product or service.

Therefore before working on your logo, work on your brand.

In coming posts I hope to share some ways which meaning can be discovered by leadership teams and how that meaning can be communicated effectively.

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