5 Things A Brand Is Not

Bbranding, brandrand and branding, the most overused but yet misused terms in marketing & advertising.  We hear it over and over, I like that brand, I only buy that brand or they have a good strong brand.  What really makes up a brand?  How is the brand different from branding? A brand is the message of promise based upon principles; what we tell people and what we want them to believe from their first exposure.  The message of promise is created from the personality of the company that becomes the brand persona. Branding, is the utilization of the tools to introduce the message to consumers, gaining awareness and asking them to create their own brand identity. So why all the confusion and misuse?  As new channels are introduced to the marketplace to expose consumers to a brand and create the actual branding, the idea of what a brand is gets lost in the translation and technology.

5 Things a Brand is Not

1. Name.  The first impression that starts to define and identify the company.  The name is eventually what you want you want to be synopsis to the “only one”  in the minds of consumers.

2. Logo.  A logo brings the company to life artistically. A painted picture to embed in the minds of consumers to identify with when they hear your name, see your  product or even see a logo that is similar.  The logo sets the stage for the corporate identity and the graphic standards by identify the colors that represent your company.

3. Business Card, Brochure, Signage, etc.  These are extensions of the corporate identity  that supports your colors and product/service benefits.

4. Website. A website is the receiver of your marketing  and advertising efforts while expanding upon the corporate  identity through content marketing. Websites are where the meat of the content is located as large brochures become coffee table books that collect dust where engagement levels online continue to grow.

5. Controlled by Consumers.  If a brand is a message how can consumers control that? They influence it but never do they control it.  Social media marketing brought an entirely new wave of the consumer controlling the brand.  Did companies talk to customers face to face prior to social media?  Did the consumer control the message then? No, they did not, so now that the audience is broader how can the consumer control the message?

Consumers control sales.  If they like you, they buy from you, if not they do not see where  you fit into their lives or did not receive and develop a positive brand identity. When you hear that consumers control the brand, especially with the implementation of social media think of this: bladder cancer – it is a brand, it is something we all have heard of it so we are aware, so then we control what they say and do?  I am pretty sure that if we did, it would be obsolete.  Agree?   So why would we think that we as consumers would control any brand? Do we sit in the room and write the message? Nah, we influence it but never control it. Ever.

Agree?  Your thoughts? Anything else that is a brand is not that I missed?

photo credit: Kevin Dooley

  • Completely agree, so often businesses focus on branding and forget all about what their brand is about.

  • the terms brand and branding see to be like a one word fits all to relate to their advertising and marketing. As new tools emerge, this will remain on the surface.

    Thanks for dropping in and sharing your thoughts.

  • bobyoung

    What are your thoughts on the immense challenges faced by Toyota in North America and Japan? Consumers can walk away (influencing sales) but they are not impacting the brand, are they? The tarnished Toyota brand reflects cultural shifts within the corporation, particularly in design and production.

  • joelbbarker

    How interesting to come across this. I believe that I disagree, or at least I am starting to disagree.
    I just wrote about this earlier this week, coincidental to bobyoung's comments taking on the issue of Toyota's brand. http://joelbyronbarker.com/?p=342

    When you say “If a brand is a message how can consumers control that? They influence it but never do they control it.” My English degree gets all ruffled and I reach for my Marshall Macluhan, or perhaps get French mid-century philosophical about it. Messages are affected by the recipient, as they interpret the message based on other information they have.

    If you say “Brand X is a Big Bang!” and some cultural subset thinks of bang as having a sexual connotation, they are getting a different message than someone who first and only thinks that Brand X is supposed to be a revolutionary thing.

    I say that brand is collaboratively built by the audience and the company.

    Perhaps what I am talking about it what you are calling “Brand Identity.”

  • Bob

    What a wonderful question. I think back to the Tylenol problems of yesteryear. The brand image is tarnished and consumer confidence is at an all time low. The sales will remain low until the design and production are changed and they can instill consumer confidence again. It can be done. Are these impacting the brand – I would say yes to the extent as the message will have to be changed to get back consumer confidence. If this was not as widespread then it would not have but this is so large and now the government calling them in … it is too big for the current brand to remain in place.

    Excellent question. I love it.

  • Joel

    Ok so what happens if the company is brand new and consumers have not been exposed therefore there is no interaction or experience – is there not a brand until after they are in the marketplace?

    Messages are received and interpreted by the recipient. The interpretation is based on quite a few factors which include the exposure to the brand prior to the receiving the message, the manner in which they received the message and their level of attention at that time, which affect the perception of the brand. It may not be too far of a stretch to say that when the company is developing the message they consider the perceptions of the consumers as it has to be believable.

    Thanks for reading and sharing your article.

  • Suzanne asked: “Ok so what happens if the company is brand new and consumers have not been exposed therefore there is no interaction or experience – is there not a brand until after they are in the marketplace? “
    My answer: There is no brand (or brand identity) until there is perception of brand. So the development of marketing at that point is strategic, not material. However, once it is unleashed, the marketing message is going to intermingle with other messages and other experiences out there.

    Certainly we make every effort to predict what the consumer is going to feel and how they will receive the message, but that is all theory until they get a hold of the message and make buying/behavior decisions based on it. If brand is not the faith that customers have in a product or company, then it does not do much good as a marketing tool.

  • Joel

    I see your point and I am agreeing on the brand identity part. So if the brand is established once there is perception who and how is perception measured?

    I am not sure what you mean by “However, once it is unleashed, the marketing message is going to intermingle with other messages and other experiences out there. ” Other people's experiences or experiences with brands that are similar?

    The resources now available to predict what the consumer is going to feel are very different than even 10 years ago. That makes a big difference in the theory. What is faith in the product based upon? Previous products or interactions that were positive with the company/brand? You referenced the article about automotive where the author felt there was an emotional attachment. Is the emotional attachment a contributor to the faith that the product will be a good one or the message will resonate better?

    Love to hear your thoughts.

  • Perception: I would say that perception is measured by the activities of the consumer, their buying patterns. Talking about that, we are in the inevitable thorny problem: We have to understand general populations by surveying individuals. But we can be pretty sure that if your product is selling well, your brand is well perceived. There are of course possible exceptions, inflexible goods like gasoline.

    When I said “once it is unleashed, the marketing message is going to intermingle with other messages and other experiences out there.” I mean that a consumer's experience and perception of a product, their faith in the brand, will be affected by other media and messages that are out of the control of the company. You release a new soda made with acai berries and spontaneously a researcher publishes an article about how acai berries will save the world. Lucky you.

    You release a magazine about travel to the Arabian Peninsula on September 10, 2001. Unlucky you.

    I am not a totally cantankerous person, but I disagree again with your statement about theory being changed by predictive tools. The theory remains constant, but our practice has certainly changed.

    We both started our blog posts with images of old logos, because those are brands that we can look at with some distance. They look trusty and quaint. Of course, this will be how people look at many contemporary brands in just a few years. The interaction that turns into buying is essentially the same as when your 7-Up sign hung outside a rural gas station 60 years ago.

    It is true that a marketing pro can predict somewhat better now the outcome of a product release better today. As a result, I hear people apply more rigid structure to the concept of brand and brand identity where we used to talk about product and company. I think that we can perceive the process better, but it is the same process.

  • Since the idea is to associate a name or image with a message, I do believe that the two part definition of brand includes what Suzanne called a company’s “message of a promise” AND the name, logo, mark or imprint that “seals” that message in customer’s minds.

    Historically, a mark was just a short form way to convey a company’s message to customers. Marking packaged goods with a company seal, which usually included a name, ensured that customers knew where a product originated and what could be expected from the product. Home furnishings and accessories were often branded by unique marks and names. This is what Antique Road show appraisers use to date items and access value. People and animals were also branded (physically or, as it relates to slaves, renamed) to designated ownership. Today, affiliation or loyalties to people, places, and things are expressed via branded tattoos, again names and images of a deeper story.

    The primary issue is that business owners use the media, events, word-of-mouth and advertising, etc. to promote a product/company that does not have a well defined message, i.e., vision, mission, objectives, long and short-term goals.

    A lack of consistency with use among marketers is also an issue. If brand is used as a noun and branding as a verb, then the mindset of marketers would match consumer’s mindset. A brand is not just a message, name or distinguishing mark. From an intellectual property perspective, a brand can also be a color (Tiffany blue) or sound (the NBC chime). I define branding as the process of sealing or reiterating a message through the five senses using a series of vision or mission-specific experiences.

    Well defined brand messages naturally open the door to better defined target audiences, enhanced, relatable experiences, consistent messaging, and exact partnerships. Problems arise with consumer control when a company compromises their message for money or they fail to adjust their message to support new objectives, new products, new target audiences or new market demands…

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  • Michelle Ibbetson

    A brand is the meaning that people make of you.
    A successful brand is creating meaning that is valued.

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