What is a ‘Brand’?

‘Brand’ and ‘Branding’ are big words. Two very powerful marketing terms that are often referred to as the same thing when they are, in fact, two very different sides of a coin. Brand is the perception people have of your business in their mind; branding is the organisational process of shaping that perception.

In fact, I’d like to introduce a third term that is integral to ‘brand’ and ‘branding’, and that’s ‘brand strategy’. Great brands start with a focused and clear brand strategy that enables concise and consistent branding to build and develop your company’s brand. But before we look at how you get there, let’s first examine what a brand actually is.

A ‘Brand’ is a set of associations in people’s minds

A ‘brand’ is a set of associations, beliefs, and feelings we have in our mind about a company, service or product. In our cluttered and noisy world brands are essential in guiding our decision-making. And these choices are made based on the perceptions we have about brands.

A brand is the sum of all perceptions people have in their minds of your company’s behaviours, actions and interactions, as well as how they experience your environments, communications, as well as your visual and verbal style. This means that your brand is not actually owned by you, it is owned by your customers. Brand strategist Marty Neumeier defines a brand as: A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company. […] When enough individuals arrive at the same gut feeling, a company can be said to have a brand. A brand is not what you say it is. It’s what they say it is.

Or put in simpler terms by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos: “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

An example: the Nike Brand

Think about a brand you like or totally dislike? It can be anything. What associations come to mind when you think about this particular brand?

Let’s look at Nike, for example. Think about their advertising, retail environments, website, PR, sponsorships, brand ambassadors, social media, customer service etc? How would you describe your perception of the brand?

Here’s what comes to my mind when I think of the Nike: I would describe them as bold, provocative, high performance, dynamic, progressive and inclusive. I also feel encouraged by their tagline ‘Just do it’ which motivates me and spurs me on.

That’s a quite substantial list of associations, and I am sure these are shared by many of you. Nike keeps these association fresh, so that we keep them top of mind and choose them over alternative brands.

It’s no accident that we have a similar and collective set of associations when we encounter Nike. The foundation of any strong and successful brand is rooted in a clear and focused brand strategy and its consistent implementation. That’s what we’ll look at in our next article What is ‘Branding’?

Get in touch

We’ve only just skimmed the surface of what ‘brand’ means. There’s so much more to explore and discuss. As expert brand strategists, we love talking about brand and branding, so please do contact us if you have any questions – we’re always happy to help.

About Franzi Scheithauer

Franzi is Creative Director at Studio Brand Up and specialises in brand strategy and identity design.