What is a brand?

Brand strategy
Jon Scott
Omar Lopez

You can answer the question ‘what is a brand?’ from a number of perspectives.

From a customer perspective, Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon says “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”. So, from a customer’s point of view your brand is your reputation.

From an internal company or organisation’s perspective a brand is made from all the aspects that make up the persona for your company. This includes your purpose, ambition, values, personality, behaviour, tone of voice and the way your brand looks. This persona informs how you think, act and communicate with your customers.

Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room

Jeff Bezos

All companies and organisations need customers, supporters and advocates. Walter Landor, the founder of global branding agency Landor says “Products are made in the factory, but brands are made in the mind”.

This concept of brand is further articulated by Seth Godin, founder of Google. He states ‘A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and the relationship that, taken together account for a customer’s decision to choose one product or service over another’. This is by far the clearest, most succinct definition of a brand, and most importantly, places perceptions front and centre.

This set of customer expectations, perceptions, memories and stories forms the most important ingredients of your brand. They contribute more to your decision to buy. These elements form your brand value. Steve Forbes, Editor in Chief at Forbes Magazine states, “Your brand is the single most important investment you can make in your business”.

The value placed on your brand is reinforced by research from The Reputation Institute, who report that 60% of our decision making is based on perceptions, with 40% based on the product or service. Think of your brand as living, breathing, growing, learning, achieving, making new friends and celebrating long-term ones.

If people like you they will listen to you, but if they trust you, they’ll do business with you

Zig Ziglar

Another way of answering ‘what is a brand?’ is to organise it into a set of component parts. Just like all living things, brands have an anatomy and are in constant state of evolution. These component parts have grown over time from the moment the brand was born.

The components of a brand
Brandbuilding.works have organised the components of a brand into three main categories. Business, Culture and Reputation.

The business of branding
The business components of a brand are closest to those found in a business plan: the market you operate in, what you are selling, how you position yourself amongst your competitors, and who your customers are. It includes how you organise your products and services, a discipline known as brand architecture.  It includes the performance metrics that determine the health of your brand, which includes brand awareness research, or what we call brand monitoring.

The culture of branding
The cultural elements of a brand contain your vision, mission, values, personality, behaviours and how you look and sound. How you look is referred to as your visual identity, and is made up of your logo, tagline, colour, type and graphic language (photography, illustration and graphic elements). How you sound is not what you say, but how you say it, and is referred to as your tone of voice. The final piece of the jigsaw for your brand culture is how all the individual elements come together – your brand guidelines.     

Brand as reputation
Your brand can very much be seen as your reputation. Your reputation is affected by a number of key factors. These are the promises you make, your service, the perceptions your customer have of you, and lastly, the level of trust you hold with your existing customers and how trustworthy you appear to potential customers. This trust is a measure of how likely someone is going to buy from you.

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