In almost twenty years of helping people and organisations with their brands, I have struggled to find a definition of a brand that I was comfortable with.
The problem was that I had been searching for a couple of sentences or a paragraph at most that would sum up what a brand is. Surely one existed that I could use in my discourse with clients?
Of course, there are hundreds of definitions available in dictionaries or from branding agencies. The problem is that they’re either too narrow or too broad and tend to focus on the various tangible elements such as visual design or product design.
In our never-ending quest for brevity exacerbated by limited character use in social media and the insistence that we all devise an ‘elevator pitch’ so we can sell to people before they reach the 7th floor, I’ve realised that I wasn’t thinking about it the right way.
Finding a definition of ‘brand’ is like asking what the meaning of life is.
So my search for a few words that provide a pithy and succinct explanation of brand has been futile.
So here’s my definition of a brand that will free you to focus on what you need to do to achieve a brand you want.
A brand is what the public, your clients, your prospective customers and the world at large know to be true about you, your products or your services.
They know this to be true because of what they hear about you, what they see of you, what they’ve read about you and what they have personally experienced.
It’s as simple as that. Forget logos. Forget taglines. Forget websites. Forget colour schemes. A brand is neither a single issue or superficial concern.
Relevant and useful brands are built on habits, actions, behaviours and guides decision making.
Once you come to terms with that definition the sooner you can start taking effective action to influence how people think about you, and more importantly, determine how you need them to think about you so you can generate revenue.
A brand is something that is owned in the minds of your audience. A brand is a destination. You don’t own the destination; however, you can influence how people get there. It’s your job to point them in the right direction.
Once you change how you think about a brand, you can begin to make better decisions on how you can influence your market. Achieving real influence that can impact your price point is the tricky bit.
Moreover, that’s why I struggled with a definition of a brand for so many years because in helping my clients I wasn’t providing them with a ‘brand’ at all.
What I have done in every situation is to determine what actions need to be taken to influence how their market thinks about my client - making it easier for them to sell and easier to maintain revenue streams.
Some were starting from scratch. Some had established brands that were over 100 years old which took much effort to change how people thought about them. Every situation required a different approach.
Countless influencing factors are constantly shifting in your market that will change how your target audience and the broader community perceive you, your product or your service.
A new entrant to your market or an existing competitor changing their offering or strategy will affect your comparative value.
An established business that implements new visual branding can either reinvigorate interest or attract cynicism. Is it signalling real change or is it just a facade? Either scenario presents an opportunity for you to make positive changes.
Branding is all about influence, not control. You can’t force people to buy from you, so you cannot expect a brand strategy that is not supported by required behaviours and actions to foster a desirable operational culture.
A brand strategy must be all-encompassing if you want to be competitive and profitable. When you appreciate this, you will stop seeing your brand as perhaps something fanciful and nice to have and instead see it as something that is hard won by companies and individuals who are mindful of the decisions they make.
Maintaining an effective brand is not easy, but it does pay off.