From the desk of Eric Molho:
What is a Brand?
In marketing, it’s the age-old question.
Ask 100 people to define a brand, and you’ll easily get 100 (or more) definitions. While this word is central to nearly every marketing conversation, it can be a struggle to clearly articulate what we mean when we’re talking about brands.
At Neuger, we believe your brand is the essence of your business. It is an intangible perception that you create in the minds of those you encounter – your customers or clients, your shareholders, your employees, the media, your competition – and it is constantly being shaped.
A Brand is in Flux
Since your brand is a perception, it is in flux. All. The. Time. It is up to you to:
- Manage that fluctuation
- Minimize disruptions if you have achieved a desirable brand
- Nudge it along if you’re hoping to change the perception
A Brand Transcends a Product Description or Identity
Successful and established brands go far beyond product descriptions. Apple is a technology company, but many consumers aren’t buying Apple products based on the technical specifications of their phones or laptops. Instead, they’re drawn to a powerful brand that evokes sleek modernism, simplicity and a particular social status.
Brands also transcend their visual identity. A powerful brand has a clear voice and tone that is established by a brand mark and advertising but goes well beyond those representations. In a commodity market, Southwest Airlines speaks with a distinct voice. How they present their fares, how they (literally!) speak to their passengers on board and how they advertise – all of these things send a clear message that shapes our entire experience.
A Brand is Not About Words
While it’s easy to define a brand with words, it is important to remember that, ultimately, a brand is not about words. It is about a concept.
Words are used to define a brand because there is no better option. Getting hung up on words misses the depth of the brand. Strip away everything about your company or business … reduce it to its core, to its most basic element, to its essence … and you have your brand.
Seven Requirements of an Effective Brand
What is a brand? is often followed by the second age-old marketing question: What makes a strong brand? Luckily, we have an answer!
Neuger’s list of seven requirements for an effective brand captures the questions you should consider when building and maintaining a durable, powerful brand.
1. Does it capture the essence of who you are?
This the cornerstone of defining your brand. It should capture who you are and what you’re about.
2. Do your customers care?
A brand needs to be valued by customers. Sometimes, they might not be able to express what, exactly, they want. But when they experience your brand, it should be noticeable and valued.
3. Is it distinctive?
Your brand should set you apart within your market. This doesn’t need to be complicated, just something that you own and something that distinguishes your work.
4. Can you operationalize it?
Everyone in the organization should be able to not only recite your brand, but to understand what that means in their work. Ideally, it is meaningful across all delivery points.
5. Does it have staying power?
Brands may evolve slowly over time. Guess what? Brands are not advertising campaigns. They are not slogans. A brand should be durable and long lasting. Remember, this is about the essence of your work, not this year’s goal.
6. Is it believable?
Your brand must ring true to customers. It’s tempting to look at hugely successful brands and the strong emotional connection that they have with their customers and want to claim a similar space.
Tide laundry detergent describes itself as “not just a product; it’s a promise.” They can say that because they have built a generations-long relationship with their consumers. A startup company likely won’t have the reputation to make such a bold claim.
7. Is it memorable?
At a minimum, your brand should be easily memorable for everyone in the organization. They should know it by heart. As you leverage your brand and use the language associated with it, your customers will also begin to remember what makes you an outstanding partner.
So, What’s Next?
Whether your brand is strong and stable or just emerging, you’ll want to support it through a variety of marketing and communications tools.
- First, this means a clear articulation and dissemination of the brand throughout your organization.
- From there, you’ll want to communicate it through your visual identity and style guide.
- A well-developed brand will then drive external communications through marketing collateral, advertising campaigns, and your digital and social media presence.
Questions about branding? Need ideas for how to strengthen your brand? Check out some of our previous work, or let us know how we can help.