The very definition of branding ~ Brand Mix

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The very definition of branding

I recently came across a comprehensive, beautifully designed and, I think, accurate brand concept map, designed by Hugh Dubberly. It shows, better than most other brand models, the interaction between brand managers who create the brand promise and build the products that deliver brand experiences and individuals who develop brand-building perceptions based on those experiences.

It's reality. But complicated. I think that, in well-intentioned efforts to simplify or perhaps a failure to understand the complete picture, many brand definitions focus on just one piece of this overall map and use it as a proxy for everything else: “Brand is a promise," “Brand is experience.” Partial truths at best or, if "Brand is a name, logo etc," completely wrong.

But just because it's difficult to come up with a simple definition doesn't mean that branding is unimportant. Ignoring branding altogether (and being dismissive of it as a practice) which appears to be the approach of some new marketing pioneers doesn’t seem right. A couple of examples below.

1) Creativity Today Review: Where Chris Wilson and I discussed (in the comments) why Ramon Vullings, co-author of this book, did not directly answer either of the questions posed to him about branding.
2) What about branding? Part of my interview with Seth Godin about his new book, Meatball Sundae.


BIG said...

Martin you are 100% correct. Not a 110% correct because there is no such thing. It drives me nuts when people say "I give 110% all the time. No you don't, cause you can't.

Why am I rambling?

Anyway, most people don't understand the difference between brand identity and brand image. It's frustrating to say the least.

And these word of mouth guys (like Seth Godin) only really get tactics. Tactics that are warm and fuzzy like permission marketing.

I had a heated debate with a start-up branding company last week ( who argued that a well positioned tagline isn't always needed. He claims word of mouth can carry a company.

By the way don't these word of mouth guys understand that word of mouth IS branding? Or part of it.

Rambling again, sorry. Branding is defined they only thing that's not is brand equity. Now that's a subject for anoth ramble.

Chris Wilson said...

Martin - As I mentioned in our conversation in the comments on my blog, I'm preparing a presentation on branding, that I will be doing in a couple of weeks, and this talk has got me questioning what approach I should take in correctly introducing 'brand' to my audience.

When we are introducing the concept of branding, what should we tackle first?

There is so much to wrap heads around that if we aren't careful we can overwhelm our audience pretty fast. Where do you usually start?

What do you think of the Marty Neumeier presents the brand concept? He seems to simplify the concept, but clearly lets his audience know that there is a lot more to it than can be presented in the time alloted. Here is his Brand Gap presentation on Slideshare.

Martin Bishop said...


I like Marty Neumeier's approach but, from memory, it's a brand management approach. Such approaches tend to underestimate the importance of customers and the permission they may or may not give you to do whatever you want.

I guess I would start by giving a high level overview of the interplay between promises made by brand managers, the expectations of customers and the critical role of experiences delivered.

Then focus on one part of the "map," probably the brand management part because that will be the most relevant.

Not a perfect answer.

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