What is Brand & Why It Matters

A Better Way to Think About Brand Series – Part One

Brand is critical.

In fact, it’s one of the most essential things in business, regardless of industry, niche, or target audience.  However, brand is also one of the most misunderstood concepts when trying to build a new brand from scratch or grow your organization into a newer, better version of itself.

That’s why it’s helpful to truly understand what brand is, what it isn’t, and what yours can be with the right mindset. In this four-part series, we’ll explore the real meaning of brand and dive into three useful metaphors that can help you visualize and direct your brand more clearly than ever.

Brand: it’s not just the logo

When most people discuss what brand is, they often refer to things like:

  • Logo or brand iconography
  • How a brand looks or sounds – its “aesthetic”
  • The tone or voice a brand has for its marketing or customer relations

In a certain sense, these definitions of brand aren’t wrong. They cover the most tangible aspects of brand that people interact with on a daily basis. But they’re also not what brand truly is, or what brand means to an organization.

Brand is not just the logo

So, what is brand?

To truly understand what brand is – and to build your company’s brand most effectively – it’s wise to stop thinking about brand as a specific thing, like an object or a goal. Instead, it’s better to think of brand as an idea – the most important idea for a company. It’s what your company is and what it could be with the right approach and strategy.

There are two ways to better grasp this concept, and each directly affects the other: brand as reputation and brand as experience.

What is brand

Brand is reputation

In a nutshell, reputation is what a brand is known for. That can include reviews, word-of-mouth, cultural or societal impact, and so on.

More broadly, reputation is the cumulative attributes or characteristics that people intrinsically associate with a brand; think Apple and quality computers or high-tech mobile devices, for instance. Reputation is what your brand “owns” or is associated with, both explicitly and implicitly. Put another way, reputation is what pops up in the minds of people when they think about your brand.

Reputation can be positive or negative, of course. But thinking about brand in this way – as the associations that people have for your organization – is essential for reconceptualizing how you build your brand and differentiate it from competitors in the same niche.

It’s also essential for planning how you want to grow your brand as time passes, markets change, and goals shift.

Brand is experience

You can also think of brand as experience. “Experience,” in this sense, is the embodiment of your reputation in the real world. It’s the internal or external things that your brand does or provides, whether or not consumers consciously notice those things.

Some examples of brand experiences include:

  • Customer service interactions
  • Marketing emails, especially personalized ones
  • Media that people consume from your brand
  • Purchases or services that your brand provides

However, a word of warning: don’t take this to mean brand experiences have to be big gestures or meaningful decisions. “Experience” can also include all the little things and impact your brand has on its customers and the wider world, ranging from making an emotionally engaging ad to one of your employees creating a fantastic experience for a client or customer.

Using experiences to build brand reputation

Brand is experience, but brand is also the reputation you build through cumulative experiences. These two ideas are intrinsically connected, and you should think about how one affects the other as you cultivate a brand image that aligns with your business’s goals.

Let’s look at an example:

  • In the early days of your company, one of your employees makes a mistake for an important client
  • Because integrity is an important core value for your organization, you own the mistake up front and take on the associated costs to make it right for the client
  • This move likely has negative financial implications for your company in the short term, but the experience is invaluable
  • Externally, clients or customers might be impressed by your willingness to do the right thing, even when it hurts
  • Internally, your organization’s employees see you (or the rest of management) do the right thing and live up to your standards

Thinking about brand in terms of experience is important – you use experiences to build reputation. As you build that reputation, your brand grows, evolves, and hopefully thrives in the direction that most resonates with your target audience. In this scenario, your reputation affected your actions, which resulted in an experience that fits into that reputation, creating a cycle of positive evolution.

So, what is brand?

Brand is an idea, but like many of the best ideas, it’s never finished. It changes and evolves with your organization, your goals, and the market at large – and it’s up to you to ensure the idea of your brand grows the right way.

Experience to Reputation

Better ways to think about brand

It’s one thing to know what brand is. It’s another to know how to build or grow one in the best possible direction.

Thinking about brand as a collection of parts – like a logo, a color scheme, or a slogan – isn’t exactly helpful. But there are ways you can think about brand that will help you better grasp your current brand identity and imagine what changes you need to make for long-term success. In the following articles, we’ll show you three effective ways to think about your brand.

Better Ways To Think about Brand

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