03 May, 2017

What is a Brand?

03 May, 2017

Many would say that the McDonald’s arches are a brand. But, I like to tell my students that the McDonald’s arches are only “representations” of the McDonald’s brand – not the brand. Think of logos, colors, store design, and packaging as a visual shorthand. They remind consumers of the brand and are referred to as brand “identity”.

So, what is a brand? If we use the analogy of an iceberg, then brand identity would be the top 10% of the iceberg that people see. The other 90% of the iceberg is under the waterline. Brand can be defined many ways. But, I think the best definition is that a brand is “a person’s gut feeling about a product, service, or organization.” So, a brand is a feeling about a product that is triggered by some form of identity or experience.

Branding is the process of developing a authentic brand story that resonates with consumers, creating design elements that elicit the desired “gut” feelings, and then delivering that story through various channels of communication. In the past, branding was accomplished through “mind-share”. That is, brands would purchase mass-media advertising, which was cheap and plentiful, to build their brands. Today, digital tech and social media have made this approach near impossible due to a variety of factors. So, branding today must reach the right consumers, in the right way, to succeed. Today’s branding is not just about advertising. In fact, some campaigns may only use brand content distributed through social media channels. Brand content can include blog posts, podcasts, video, games, e-games, and a host of other ways to engage consumers.

This is the first of several posts about branding. I’ll discuss the evolution of branding next time. We are moving from mind-share branding, where the loudest voice won, to viral branding techniques, where the most meaningful content wins.

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