We often talk about “brand” as if it is one thing. It’s not of course – in fact, the meaning and the use of the term differs, quite markedly, depending on the context. By my reckoning, brand is categorized in at least 18 different ways. (So much for the single minded proposition!). In no particular order:
1. Personal brand – Otherwise known as individual brand. The brand a person builds around themselves, normally to enhance their career opportunities. Often associated with how people portray and market themselves via media. The jury’s out on whether this should be called a form of brand because whilst it may be a way to add value, it often lacks a business model to commercialize the strategy.
2. Product brand – Elevating the perceptions of commodities/goods so that they are associated with ideas and emotions that exceed functional capability. Consumer packaged goods brands (CPG), otherwise known as fast moving consumer goods brands (FMCG), are a specific application.
3. Service brand – Similar to product brands, but involves adding perceived value to services. More difficult in some ways than developing a product brand, because the offering itself is less tangible. Useful in areas like professional services. Enables marketers to avoid competing skill vs skill (which is hard to prove and often devolves to a price argument) by associating their brand with emotions. New online models, such as subscription brands, where people pay small amounts for ongoing access to products/services, are rapidly changing the loyalty and technology expectations for both product and service brands – for example, increasingly products come with apps that are integral to the experience and the perceived value.
4. Corporate brand – Otherwise known as the organizational brand. David Aaker puts it very well: “The corporate brand defines the firm that will deliver and stand behind the offering that the customer will buy and use.” The reassurance that provides for customers comes from the fact that “a corporate brand will potentially have a rich heritage, assets and capabilities, people, values and priorities, a local or global frame of reference, citizenship programs, and a performance record”.
5. Investor brand – Normally applied to publicly listed brands and to the investor relations function. Positions the listed entity as an investment and as a performance stock, blending financials and strategy with aspects such as value proposition, purpose and, increasingly, wider reputation via CSR. As Mike Tisdall will tell you, done well, a strong investor brand delivers share price resilience and an informed understanding of value.