Is a pure definition of the word “brand” really possible?

26325932.thl copyHas the word “brand” become dreadfully overused in today’s business world? What is your simplest definition of a brand?

This is a 2-part question question I posed a while back in Sticky Branding, one of the better LinkedIn groups I belong to. I like this group because it is filled with street smart branding people who are all capable of expressing themselves honestly and succinctly.

From these answers, I can conclude, as I’m sure you will, that there is a great deal of consensus, despite all the different modes of expression. The idea here is that you read through these wonderful comments and let your own definition of the world form in your mind. And that’s usually the best way to move forward.

At the very least you are being exposed to a lot of high quality (unedited) thinking, which for me is a big part of why I like LinkedIn so much. The learning is all experiential and not theoretical.

Bennet Bayer (拜耳班納特)

An emotional context to the perception of what the organization does.

Tim Masters

It is true that the word ‘Brand’ is being over-used and, very much like the word ‘Design’ very often in entirely the wrong context. I’m beginning to wonder if the word could be easily replaced with ‘Reputation.

Preety Khatri. Y

To me the simplest definition of brand is the connect customers develop with any product/service.

Simona Dorobat

i believe “brand” equals “personality”. you have to create that for a brand so the customers can relate to or feel that by having that product or using that service somehow transcends its qualities to himself/herself.

Nuntxi López Unanua

Brand is the character of a company or product.

John LaCarter

The by product of every interaction all people have with a company.

Ruth Reed

A brand in short is a story told very well to the point it’s believable and credible and influences action.

adrian woodliffe

Jim. I can’t claim this as my my own definition. I can’t recall who said it. But I think it is the best I have seen in 30 years of doing brand work: BRAND IS THE SUM OF ALL EXPERIENCES. love it…beautifully simple and says it all

Michael Schneider

It’s the first impression that comes to mind when you hear a company’s name. It could be an emotion, image, belief, culture, etc. It’s a perception.

Ranjit Kaul

As someone also said, a brand is the most valuable piece of space in the consumers mind.

Gary Kullberg

A brand is an on-going promise to consistently deliver a perceived value to its constituents.

Chris Kelly

It’s a set of perceptions, relationship and stories, that support a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.

Fernanda Mano

Brand is the most valuable asset a company can have. It’s the symbol that comprises the promise you make to the market and the outcome of the service you provide.

Ted Manasa

A brand is a belief that differentiates you from your competitors and that your customers find important. This definition encompasses everything that matters for a brand: company, competitors, customers. Jim, I think you’ll gain much from this:

My favourite definition is “your brand is what your customers believe about you.” We know we’ve got it right when they believe what we hope they believe.

Lillian Moya

Simply stated… your “brand” is your definition. It is what defines and describes you, or the “brand”, as a whole. A brand is what a company breathes, eats, keeps, and lives. It’s a business personified… or “brandified”.

John Carscadden

A particular product, service, or entity that evokes a specific feeling or thought among consumers and is readily identified via its unique name or image (a logo).

Jeremy Miller

Well if our comments will be immortalized in a blog post, I feel compelled to weigh in too 🙂

I view “brand” as a two-sided coin:
– On one side is the external perception of your business/products/services. It’s what the market says you are.
– On the other side is the internal perception of your business/products/services (whatever area you are focusing on to enhance its value, awareness and relationship). This is shaped by your company’s vision, values and purpose. It’s what you aspire to be. Brands become strong when both sides of the coin mirror each other. Your customers experience what you are aspiring to be, and you’re both on the same page.

The comments on this discussion are interesting, because they tend to lean towards one side of the coin or the other. But both sides are equally important, especially when you are considering how to enhance, improve or change a “brand.”

Tim Otis

A brand is the consumers’ perception of an organization based on experience with any touchpoint – whether internally (people, operations) or externally (products brought to market, advertisements, etc.

Marko Stijepic

To cut in the middle of the chicken and the egg discussion… 😉 another simple definition of a brand: It’s the look & feel of what the company is all about.

Renee Hunt

Yes, it has! A “brand” is what your stakeholders perceive about your company (or product) based on their total experience with your company (or product). And that experience is created with every

Richard Lysinger

The lasting impression left from the sum of all interactions with a [blank] (person, business, any entity).

Arnold Fishman

its the perception of the audience and users to your product. its messaging. its a set of promises and benefits and expectations. its a way people associate themselves when they are participating in its membership. it requires lots of research. its way beyond just look and feel, photography and typefaces, color and logomark–and if thats what a company just wants (look, feel, logomark, etc), they really dont

Craig Patterson

A brand is the promise of an experience.

Javier Samudio

Brand is the emotional connection between consumers and companies which main purpose is to sell a product or service

Stan Garber

Perhaps the word “brand” gets used a lot – but that’s because it is critical. Brand is the company’s DNA and how customers relate to the company. Someone may come along some day with a new term to

Dale F. Reeves

Brand is the equity… good or bad, you have in the mind of the consumer.

Juan Garzón

A brand is so many things that I think to replace it with another word, be it reputation, mindshare, promise, personality, etc., is to only see a piece of what it is. All of those are part of a brand, but they are all correct in supporting the idea that a brand is inherent (everyone has one, clear or not), whereas a brand strategy is intentional.

To Jeremy and John’s discussion above, I’m not sure it’s as simple as making a blanket statement that external perceptions of a brand are more important than internal perceptions. After all, in addition to some of the above definitions, a brand is also an experience that exists at the intersection of the entity’s promise (internal) and the audience’s expectations (external). You can’t have one without the other.

Robert Raible

“Reputation” is probably the simplest definition for brand. Marty Neumeier points this out in his book

Paul Roland

A brand in essence is how something or someone is identified by others, it contains the characteristics and attributes that make it unique. Building a brand that has universal meaning, now that’s another

Brian McGrath

Yes the term is overused in today’s business world and society. For example, politicians speak of their family surnames in terms of a brand ex: the Bush brand, or the Clinton brand. I believe that a brand name is still refers to the name and attributes delivered in a product or service that is marketed by an

Terry Lowe-Edwards

Brand is a feeling, response, or impression evoked by contact with a product, service, or experience.

Ken Kring

I like thinking of a brand as being “the plaquey residue left in someones head, that is the product of every impression they ever have had of you”.

Jasmine Plowright

Brand = Reputation – what people think and say about your product / service when you are not in the room.

Tim Masters

I think the words ‘brand’ and ‘reputation’ are practically interchangeable.

Steven Tharler

Your brand is what you stand for, it’s what you want people to think of when they hear your name. Volvo = safety. Too often, people confuse “brand” with corporate identity; I hear people all the time telling me they’re getting “re-branded,” then see that all they’re talking about is new logo/typography/colors. And some times I hear people refer to their “brand” as a synonym for their company or product.

Brian M. Fraley

A brand is the perception and feeling created by a logo, tagline, etc. that reflects the personality of a company, it’s culture, and its product and/or service. The term is overused, but the concept is necessary, especially in today’s marketplace, which is far more crowded with competition than it was in past decades.

Andy Powell

I agree that brand = reputation.

Brian Miller

It’s the sum total of the symbols that exist in the mind of your audience. Hopefully, what they think and feel is as close as possible to your intent and your output matches their expectations.

Sarita (Rao) Ranjith

The simplest statement : a Brand is unique identification!

Patrick Gerst

Brand is the DNA of a product.

Denis Ndavi

A brand is a unique personality. With a look, feel, touch and smell.Don’t over-think it.

Ishraq Dhaly

A brand is a unique of a set of perceptions in the customer’s/consumer’s mind that tells a story and comes alive through its identity, unique features, and tangible/intangible associated benefits, I think

Shakti Patil

Brand is nothing but a tangible asset of a company, which creates an image (Good or Bad) in customer mind.

Maria Luz Coviella Actis

is what people say about your product when you are not with them

Vivek U

A Brand in one word is the ‘Assurance’ the clients conceive in their minds about it.

Graham Abbott

a consumer or customer perception of a product or service

Rodrigo Scalon

For the first question I give a plain Yes. I see the word being used for everything, something like: “People looking for a job should brand themselves, same for politicians. Put a brand on a government program even ( often) if it fails. Brand a law ! Stick a name to it so people can remember it…” No wonder why is so difficult to find an unique definition for the word brand and many others actually. Language is a tricky thing and we marketers tend to abuse of it.

Matthew Wos-Lavoie

I think the simplest definition would probably be identity. Truly, the “brand” is what your company (or product) represents and what it is all about. As with an individual, we all have a personal identity and it comprises all of our skills/abilities, our personality, our lifestyle and so on. I find looking at it this way makes it much easier to connect with consumers.

Jagdish Joshi

i would say brand is a “promise” made to customer.

Kevin Kardosh

The BRAND is the company. The perception of the company in the minds of it’s market and within the circle encompassing all it’s stakeholders. If the circles of perception from Management/ ownership to all those that are and could be touched by the company are convergent (i.e. concentric) the brand is perceived equally by everyone it can affect – it is a superlative and unassailable brand (everyone is thrilled!!). If the circles are diverging, then the perception is not in alignment and the different stakeholders do not share the same opinion of what the brand signifies – the further apart – greater the gap between stake holder groups – e.g. employees and customers from management – the bigger the brand – ergo the company is in and the higher the propensity of the best clients and employees to move

louisa lu

brand is the mark of a particular product/service/company etc, like the name for a human being. it is a man-made creature, it has life. it lives in the social society, and interacts with people and other brands. so one brand has its unique DNA, character…

Norman Clarke

Simplest is based on where the word brand comes from. Identifiable mark on a cows backside. So identifiable mark

Stephen Semple

I agree that brand is the emotional connection. Earlier brand was described as the companies personality. I think connecting those two concepts – emotional connection and personality creates a strong and memorable brand.

Brian Crew

Brand is not what marketers do for a product, it is the sum of the consumers experience. The customer owns it. Marketers can add and reinforce a brand or distract from it, but I don’t think they can write it.

MEL! Epstein

A brand s clearly, concisely and successfully communicating exactly who you are, what you do and why your target market should CARE to remember you.

And last but not least, guaranteed to make your head explode, yet always making an odd kind of sense…it’s Nick!!!

Nick Dachris

Jim’s question, comprised of two sub-questions each of which requires a different approach to answer, is so frivolous that I would reckon it was deliberately ‘designed’ to provoke a debate between practitioners and academics, if only it had included the academics in it, i.e. ‘Has the word “brand” become dreadfully overused in today’s business and academic world?’ For it is only academically speaking that one can define ‘brand’ and ‘branding’, as per the latter of the two sub-questions, and only practically testing against dreadful overuse that a definite conclusion – i.e. a temporarily final definition and therefore answer – can be reached.

I find that the comments so far tend to simply verify that the first sub-question has grounds in the practical field, and that the second sub-question is physically impossible to answer meaningfully from the same point of view, so attracting us to the exciting conclusion that Branding is a ‘mystery’ to which we are the sacred masters by appointment from… God?…

Lovely and wonderful as the popularity of this discussion is, let it be one step closer to some common understanding to which the common practitioner and non academic can relate. Let it be definable by our subjective, practical experience, and leave objective definitions to rigorous philosophy.

In fact let’s talk about it on a new thread, from which we can all learn something about ourselves and what we all share in common. Something that defines our industry as a legitimate service to the business world and that brands Branding as a field of expertise rather than a clique of charlatans (as it would appear to a potential client or employer or employee checking out this discussion).

Thanks for all the intelligent and well reasoned responses.The quality of responses was very high as is the learning quotient…so thanks again.

As for my own definition of brand. I’m already on the record as defining brand as simply, “A promise made to the customer that the company is designed and equipped to deliver on 24/7. The perception of that brand is measured purely in terms of customer satisfaction, because that is really the only standard that means anything.”

Hope you enjoyed this post, and got some solid learning from it. Apologies to those who didn’t get included.

Jim Murray Creative Director

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