The American Marketing Association defines a brand as a “Name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s goods or service as distinct from those of other sellers.”
To further define a brand— it is a unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, working together to create an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors. Over time, this image becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality, and satisfaction in the consumer’s mind. It is the perception and emotional connection, good or bad, that your customers or prospects have about you.
The definition is very precise and a bit sterile, but it is spot on. I feel like I still talk to lots of people who say they understand what their brand is and what a brand is, in general, but they have never done a brand development or fully developed their brand. They may understand very basic brand elements— be the best in their industry, have outstanding customer service, produce great products or services. These are all good things your company should have (they are no-brainers really). All companies should absolutely be best, outstanding and great but sometimes it is not enough.
Your brand encompasses EVERYTHING. I know that is a very vague statement but it is true. Think about everything you do as a company—your literature, business cards, website, advertising, social media, events, photos, customer service, content, sales calls, customer experience and anything else I may have missed. This is worth keeping in mind—once people have a perception of your brand, it is going to be the perception forever…or, at least, for a very long time.
Think about the brands you know and love. What do you love about them? Why do you love them? How do you identify and identify with them? Why do you identify them (in your mind) in a certain way?
The reason I was giving this topic some thought is that I heard Danica Patrick lamenting that the term “sexy” was being used to describe her. “Can’t you use another word to describe me” is what she asked. I get frustrated when I hear her say this because this word is being used to describe her, not because of a sexist twist to the story about her, but because this is how she has portrayed the Danica Patrick brand for many years now. With her choice of sponsors, commercials and photos, they seem to outweigh the serious Danica Patrick race car driver brand and image she says she wants to portray. Whether or not there is an element of sexism in how she is portrayed, she made a willing choice to join in and contribute to that sentiment. No way around it—it IS her brand. She has made a lot of money from the “sexy” brand and that is fine…but understand it. It IS your brand and you have profited mightily from it. It is the brand she developed over the years. (I find it to be a shame because she is truly a trailblazer and I think her brand could be so much more…and so much more valuable.)
On the opposite side of the spectrum, I think about Tiffany and Co. They are so consistent; I do not think I can find a single example of straying from their core brand values. Their products, look, service, customer experience…their everything…is unmistakable. They are fiercely protective of their brand, even when they speak at a non-Tiffany and Co. event. They control every aspect of their brand and do so with the long-term benefit in mind.
I like the way they brand!
So…what is a brand, really? It is EVERYTHING. It is everything that contributes to the perception your customers and prospects have about your company. It is vitally important that you plan for it.
Please contact Anna Brice at Pinnacle Peak Marketing, Scottsdale AZ about Marketing for Small/Medium Business.