By Jim McCarthy May 27, 2011 0 comments

What Do You Mean “Brand”?

“Brand” is one of those terms that you hear a lot if you hang out in the general vicinity of marketers.  Even non-marketers, as long as they’re vaguely involved in the selling of something, throw the term around a lot.

After listening to this for the last decade or so with a growing sense of unease, here’s what I’ve realized: most people say “brand” when they mean something else.

For example, “we’re trying to build this performer’s brand” usually really means “we’re trying to build this performer’s sales.”  There is nothing wrong with trying to build sales, but it’s not the same thing as building a brand.  Another misuse is when people talk about logos and imagery synonymously with brand, as in “we really want to get our brand out there, so we need the logo bigger.”

A brand is a distinct set of characteristics to a product, service or, yes, a person that help consumers understand what it’s for.  In other words, it’s who the product is.  Building a brand is a process of uncovering that identity, constantly adding to the truth of it, and then doing a good job of telling the resulting story.

Most of the time, if we’re truthful, the identity of a company, product or performer is nothing special, at least not the way they’re seeing it.  If that’s the case, and that entity hasn’t figured out how to accentuate the strong points of what they’re about, “building the brand” is beside the point.  If there’s nothing special about who you are, the second and third steps are irrelevant.

To say that a different way, here’s what “building a brand” is really about, in its most abstract form:

1.  Being interesting and distinct, or if you’re not naturally interesting and distinct, figuring out what about you might be interesting and distinct and putting it at the forefront,

2. Doing more and more of what makes you interesting and distinct

3. Doing a good job telling the world (in all forms) about how interesting and distinct you are.

So if part 1 isn’t there, parts 2 and 3 are a waste of your time: you don’t want to do more of something that’s boring and you don’t want to go around screaming to the world about your boring qualities.  That’s not “branding.” That’s just pushing a product.

Branding isn’t about image.  It’s about identity.

Share and Enjoy

    Comments are closed.