What is this Brand thing anyway?

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I realise that the idea of a ‘brand’ is one of those ill-defined concepts that causes endless confusion. We all use the same word and yet can assign it very different meanings. Given that a blog post is meant to stimulate discussion, I am going to propose a definition and we can see where things go from there.

What is this Brand thing anyway?

Most marketers use the word without ever defining what they mean. The word ‘brand’ is taken at face value without anyone bothering to agree on a definition. That makes life really difficult, it leads to differing views on what it takes to develop a strong brand and, as a result, makes it more difficult to measure the benefits of creating a strong brand.

For the sake of brevity, let’s assume that there is agreement that a brand is more than a name and a logo. To that degree, I agree with Dan Pallotta that a brand is everything, from strategy to customer service, your people and facilities, the way you speak and how you communicate (and not forgetting what everyone else does with and says about your brand).

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However, what is implicit but not stated in his post is that it is how people interpret your actions that matter. By this, I do not mean active consideration of how well your product works or what is said in your ads. Rather people build up a cumulative sense or impression of the brand over time. The art and science of brand building, therefore, is to shape all your actions in order to build up a positive and motivating impression of the brand. One that encourages positive behaviours that add more perceived value to a product or service than when judged objectively (should such a thing actually be possible).

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Given all this, my definition of a brand is as follows,

The set of ideas, feelings and impressions accumulated over time in people’s heads that influence their behaviour in ways that produce a greater financial gain to the brand owner than would be realised otherwise.

Of course, the classic definition of ‘brand value’ is the additional financial gain to the brand owner compared to selling a generic product or service. However, given that “everything you do builds your brand”, it is pretty unlikely that you can find a generic benchmark, and most times we have to settle for a comparison to a lesser-known brand. For instance, when I checked earlier this year (before the latest batch of iPhones were announced), the iPhone XS Max sold for 60 per cent more than the comparable OnePlus 6T, in spite of the two being rated almost identically by the editors at ZDNet.

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So, there you go, that is your starter for ten (to be read in the voice of Jeremy Paxman).

What do you think? Any thoughts, build or rebuttals?

Written by Nigel Hollis, Executive Vice President and Chief Global Analyst, Insights Division, Kantar

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