Have you noticed how we humans like to imbue things with human qualities? How many cars have got names and characteristics that we use to explain something cool or quirky about it?

So how does this relate to brands?

There’s a lot of noise out there about brands, what they are and what they aren’t, how to set one up and how important it is. There is no legal unified body that has defined what a brand is (is there?).  

They are part of our everyday lives but do we really know what defines a brand and why does it matter anyway?! It’s just marketing, right? 

We have worked in the creative brand strategy industry for over 35 years. During this time, we’ve set up, evolved, repositioned and marketed hundreds of brands – big and small. We’ve read forests of content about who thinks what about brands and all things associated with promoting, growing and building successful brands.

So, let’s keep it simple and start with the dictionary definition as that will make it clear, surely?

Brand

noun

the kind, grade, or make of a product or service, as indicated by a stamp, trademark, or the like:

the best brand of coffee.

a mark made by burning or otherwise, to indicate kind, grade, make, ownership, etc.

a mark formerly put upon criminals with a hot iron.

any mark of disgrace; stigma.

branding iron.

a kind or variety of something distinguished by some distinctive characteristic:

The movie was filled with slapstick—a brand of humor he did not find funny.

a set of distinctive characteristics that establish a recognizable image or identity for a person or thing:

Building your personal brand will positively impact your career.

a burning or partly burned piece of wood.

Archaic. a sword.

Ok, well maybe and maybe not.

Apart from my favourite – ‘a mark formerly put upon criminals with a hot iron’, I think that this definition is the closest to our interpretation: 

‘a set of distinctive characteristics that establish a recognizable image or identity for a person or thing’

It ties in with that desire to give things some relatable characteristics, emotional and human (but not always). It links to understanding human behaviours. Why does one brand of car, pants or even sausages create strong emotions in people?

We can’t claim to have done any pants related brands (hmm) but we have done cars and sausages and many things in between including services, events, locations, good causes and even the weather.

What seems to be a constant in all the stuff we read and do is that the interactions and experiences with the brand, across all touchpoints and over time, help to define what that brand means to that particular consumer or customer. It’s almost a dynamic living entity in the minds of those people that it engages with.

Ok it can get complicated and deep which is cool, but we are trying to provide a quick and simplified definition here of what we think a brand is, so I’ll cut to the chase. Please feel free to disagree and come back with what you think. 

Brand is the personality, character, values, behaviour, history, ambition, promise and look and feel that relate to the people you want to notice what you do and sell.

When we evolve or create a brand we look beyond the surface and help define or uncover that personality and character. This will inform the marketing and communications strategy by helping define the brand positioning and proposition to ensure engagement with the right audiences. 

This is important because the facts and research show that a strong brand is resilient and much more relevant to your audience (if you do it right).

It is not just about the logo and look and feel, though that makes a big impression. It’s that true depth behind that outer layer, the personality, behaviours and characteristics that make it real.

Of course defining the brand is just the first step on the journey, after that…

Author: Steve Kyffin, Managing Director.