What Is A Brand?


I’m certain most people would agree a brand is much more than just a logo, name or tag line -but rather a complex interplay of these elements and more. I can think of many interesting levels surrounding the brand strategy sphere: loyalty, equity, engagement, orientation, implementation. Many of these components help us understand a brand’s identity and ultimately become essential in orchestrating meaningful customer experiences and interactions.
But there’s a silly side to branding I’d like to briefly explore, which I’ll get to in a moment. First, in terms of defining the essence of a brand, let’s consider the numerous interpretations and perspectives on the subject out there. Here are a few of the more popular definitions of brand I’ve dug up to refresh our memories:

A brand is:

• a promise .1
• what people think of you. 2
• the unique expression of a deep belief system. 3
• differentiation.
• the sum of all the associations, feelings, attitudes and perceptions that people have related to the tangible and intangible characteristics of a company, product or service. 4

I think these are all really good and I could probably go on filling this page with 20 or 30 more bullet point definitions of brand -but I won’t. If anything these points illustrate the relative subjectivity in trying to quantify precisely what a brand represents and how we can leverage brand concepts to drive things like product awareness, credibility, and trust -things every company/product want.

But is a brand something we can simply distill down to universally accepted (limited) set of attributes? -or is it something less tangible, driven by emotion and open to interpretation?

I wonder if the very idea of “brands” has become somewhat stale in recent years. You can find countless  discussions online by [branding] strategists and experts proclaiming “a brand is this…” or “a brand is that…”. But what exactly are we debating? Are brands even relevant anymore in the age of digital transparency and social media?
Regardless of how you feel, brands can mean different things to different people, so rather than write yet another blog post authoritatively analyzing the theoretical nuances of branding, I thought it might be more interesting (and fun) to explore one of the more ineffective, mediocre and, shall we say, idiotic trends in corporate branding.

Case in point, the monotonous and bizarre over-usage of “Ameri” as a prefix to a company name.

America: land of the free, home of the brave; America: land of opportunity; America: the beautiful, the great, the strong, the bold; made in America; proudly American. Well, I suppose all these phrases vividly encapsulate how companies adopting the Ameri-prefix envision themselves and how they would want to seen by others. But this angle to branding is really quite tasteless in my opinion -most people see through this flaky nonsense.
Patriotic inspiration can be a great touchstone for enhancing corporate mission, vision and values, but in this context it seems exploitative, unoriginal and downright fabricated to the point of undermining perceived trustworthiness.

I don’t consider myself a branding expert, but if you feel as I do that branding (certainly company naming) is about fostering differentiation, telling a unique story, building trust and awareness among consumers, then clearly the CMOs of these companies listed above need their heads examined. There’s nothing creative or memorable about repurposing your country name into a corporate identity. What are these companies promising? How are they expressing something unique? Perhaps this is just lowest-common-denominator design thinking at its best.

If you find any good Ameribrand examples I’ve missed, please send them to me.

1 Your logo Is Not Your Brand
2 Brand: It Ain’t the Logo
3 Brand Identity Is More Than Image – The Case for Product Informed by Brand Truth
4 Brand – Defined

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