If you’re like me you’ve probably read more articles than you can recall about the idea of brand. All this “brand noise” has driven me to this blog, in an effort to finally define this elusive notion. Over the years, we’ve heard brand referred to as a promise, a set of beliefs, a logo, a tagline, the product’s positioning and much more. But a brand isn’t any one of these things, but rather the collection of these aspects that ultimately form expectation about a product or service in a consumer’s mind. Simply put, this expectation IS the brand.
It’s important to point out that engaged brands, that is, brands that have engaged a consumer, rather than existing unknown, require a consumer to be active rather than passive. The more engaging a brand is, the more we can call it a brand. Furthermore, because every brand is “for sale” in some way, those engaged with it are always in a state of consideration. People don’t just perceive brands, like many espouse. They consider them. While they are considering, they are forming and reviewing their expectations. These expectations, though not terribly tangible, are the brand in the consumer’s mind. The more expectation you build, the bigger and more multifarious your brand becomes.
When someone says to you “tell me about your brand” he or she is asking you to tell them about the expectations people have of your company’s brand name product. What do people believe about it? What are the typical experiences surrounding it? What does it promise customers? What do customers promise it in return? What other products are associated with it? In fact, this list of questions can go on and on and diverge many times based on the nature, longevity and notoriety of the brand. Great brands have great expectations (inadvertent literary reference) and poor brands have poor expectations. But that’s a lengthier discussion.
To put all this in a neater package, I’ve identified four diverse dimensions that coalesce to form expectation, and thus brand. They are: Brand History, current Marketing Communications, Competition and Brand Promise. In the coming weeks I will briefly discuss each of these in turn. To make these dimensions clearer, I will try to use a particular company or case to illustrate how each dimension contributes to expectation and thus, forms the whole of a brand.
Please feel free to discuss, refute, agree, praise, chastise or otherwise opine about these posts.
I will post Part 2, Brand History, later this week.