The Evolution of Brand Definitions ~ Brand Mix

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

The Evolution of Brand Definitions

There's a well-worn joke that if you put nine economists in a room you'll get ten different opinions. But, in the branding community, we are sometimes further back up the trail, still arguing over basic definitions.

I talked in a previous post about why this is--that there's a continuing quest for a simple way to talk about what is, in fact, a number of moving parts.

Those parts being:
1) The name/logo: How the brand is represented
2) The promise: The story that brand managers want to tell
3) The experience: What a brand's products/services deliver
4) The perception: What people think about a brand, influenced by their experiences and expectations

Over time, there has been an evolution of shorthand definitions from the representative towards those that focus on experience and perception. It's certainly become something of a mantra that "brand is not a logo," even though that is still a commonly held view in the business world.

Starting to also fall out of favor is talking about brand as a promise. This definition tends to be favored by brand managers* because it's action and control oriented--implying that they can shape their brand to achieve business goals by the right combination of message, product and service.

But the idea that you "own" your own brand is being challenged as being too "inside-out" and not focused enough on the realities and expectations of customers. As Marty Neumeier has said: "The brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is."

Which brings us to brand definitions that focus on experience and perception. Here, for example, is Tom Asaker's definition: "A brand is an expectation of someone or something delivering a certain feeling by way of an experience."

Definitions like this one bring us closer to the challenge that brand managers face, especially in these new marketing days. It's more than designing a logo or making a promise. It's even more than doing things consistently to keep a promise. It's about figuring out how to deliver experiences to customers that fit into their lifestlye and their needs which you can deliver better and more credibly than anyone else.

* Brand managers: I'm using this term in the most general sense to mean anyone who has responsibility for the management and development of a brand (whether that's their actual job title or not)

Links:
1) The Very Definition of Branding: Brand Mix
2) A Model of Brand: Dubberly Design Office's brand map
3) What is a Brand?: The Marketing Fresh Peel
4) Pithy quotes: AllAboutBranding
5) Why a brand is not a promise: Tom Asacker
6) BrandSimple: Allen Adamson (Landor)

4 comments:

BIG said...

Martin, as a brand identity guy I believe that this quote is not on par;

As Marty Neumeier has said: "The brand isn’t what you say it is. It’s what they say it is."

The problem I have with it is that if you let consumers dictate your brand image (which is what Marty is referring to) you're mostly likely going to have a problem.

Do you think Volvo let consumers make them the safe car company or do you think they made consumers buy into them as the safe car company?

The problem with most companies is their lack of brand identity and the willingness to let consumers make a brand image.

Personally I think brands should no who they are and leverage their brand identity to get the right customers to buy into them.

Just my opinion as a brand identity guy...

BIG said...

And apparently I spell "know" as "no", yikes, need more coffee!

ramdin khan said...

Nice post...
While brands are far more than logos
corporate branding and brand identities are an expression and reflection of an organizations culture, character, personality,and its products and services.
Thanks for sharing such a nice post on branding.

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