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Category: Brand Definitions

Brand Definitions

The Differences Between Brand And Reputation

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Brand Strategy And Reputation

Brand and reputation are tightly linked but not synonyms. I raise this because I seem to be having more and more conversations where brand projects are being renamed as reputation  projects to make them more “palatable” internally. That in itself says a lot about what senior management think brand is and why they believe it’s not what they need.

It’s commonplace to talk about having a brand and having a reputation, but in reality of course neither exists as a physical asset – and I suspect that this shared intangibility has fueled the belief that they are one and the same thing. They also share approaches and goals. Both are shaped by communications and both seek to improve perceptions.

For me, a brand functions as a multiplier. It generates desire and differentiation and motivates buyers to pay more for your products than they might otherwise. Reputation is the sum total of your track record. It is the accumulation of your actions and statements to date. So while you build brands in order to get the most return from them, you protect reputation in order to preserve credibility and trust. Brand is proactive. Reputation is defensive. Both are important. Each can be damaged – and the fallout will affect both. As Warren Buffett once observed about reputation: A great reputation is like virginity – ‘it can be preserved but it can’t be restored.”  

This insightful Sloan Review article makes another succinct comparison: “brand is a “customer-centric” concept … Reputation is a “company-centric” concept … brand is about relevancy and differentiation … and reputation is about legitimacy”. Nicely put.

Ideally in my view you build a brand and a business on the back of a strong reputation, and you use the credibility and consistency of your reputation to attract the people, the investors, the leaders, the media interest and the stakeholder support needed to resource the organization and its brand(s).

Overlaps complicate this relatively straight-forward arrangement: brands are increasingly judged on their back office – on the ways they do business and on the supply chains they use, on the leaders they attract and on who they are associated with – and our awareness (another shared idea between brand and reputation) of brand and organizational actions has been exponentially heightened by social media to the point where they are often fused. The brand is what the organization is.

But the dangers of focusing on one at the expense of, or in place of, the other are captured perfectly in the Sloan Review article: “Focusing on reputation at the expense of brand can lead to product offerings that languish in the market. On the other hand, concentrating on brand and neglecting reputation can be equally dangerous, resulting in a lower stock price, difficulties in attracting top talent and even product boycotts … A strong brand does not necessarily equate with a good reputation. On the other hand, a solid reputation does not always result in a strong brand.”

So you can have market presence and awareness without necessarily being liked or trusted. And you can be liked and trusted by those who know you, but remain largely unknown beyond that restricted circle. In both cases, the brand is under-powered and this will affect its ability to contribute as meaningfully and significantly as it should to profitability and business growth.

Which leads back to where this piece started. I suspect that many senior managers focus on reputation because it impacts directly on how people talk about the organizations they run, so it is something that matters to them professionally. No-one wants to have worked at a tainted organization. But because they do not perceive brands as part of their day to day  responsibilities, brand can be seen as something that is narrowly defined and part of operations.

Marketers need to fundamentally shift the viewpoint of senior colleagues away from the belief that brand is an impression that outsiders have of the organization and towards one where brand is seen as a direct expression of strategy and growth plans. Brand needs to be seen as something all leaders have responsibility for because it is something they drive together. Reputation on the other end needs to be positioned not as “marketing” (how people talk about us) but much more accurately as acknowledgement, in the sense of what the organization is known and respected for.

For that to happen, marketing and corporate communications teams (and their respective agencies) need to spend less time squabbling over mandate and more time integrating their strategies and working to educate senior managers on their joint and collective worth as disciplined teams.

This doesn’t have to be complicated. Because changes in brand and reputation are often highly correlated (60 – 90%), Hill + Knowlton advocate a four-step process:

1.    Identify key attributes for brands

2.    Identify key attributes for reputation

3.    Identify key stakeholders

4.    Survey stakeholders regularly and monitor differences in attribute ratings over time to pinpoint potential threats to brand and reputation

To which I would add a final and crucial step:

5.    Tease out correlations to show how reputation is impacting brand, how brand is enhancing reputation, and the effect of both on growth patterns. “When stakeholders say this … this is how it affects our brands … and as a result this is what happens in the business …”

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Brand Definitions

21Different Types Of Brand

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WWF Brand

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.

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Brand Definitions Derrick Daye

A Brand Is Bigger Than Performance

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Brand Strategy Red Bull

Not long ago, a popular post was published on the Harvard Business Review site by Dan Pallotta. It was headlined "A logo is not a brand." That is a familiar enough declaration, and not far from the phrasing I use myself on the subject of brands. I clicked on the link expecting to find a familiar argument. But what I found was very different.

Dan's smart observation is that "Brand is everything, and everything is brand." By that he means that all the things a business does — not just its logo and visuals, but also its strategy, call to action, customer service, communications with customers, and people — combine to determine what it stands for. Thus he concludes, "Ultimately, brand is about caring about your business at every level and in every detail, from the big things like mission and vision, to your people, your customers and every interaction anyone is ever going to have with you, no matter how small." To Dan, a brand is essentially a performance promise incarnate.

But I would add that there is more to "everything" than this would imply, and it's what determines how much a brand is actually worth. If a brand is shaped by everything its owner does, it is also shaped by everything else associated with the brand in the minds of its customers.

If you think about why brands are important to marketers, the answer is simple: in a competitive context, a brand marks an offering's differentiation from alternatives. It is what drives customers' predisposition to buy an offering and pay a premium for it. To Dan's point, differentiation is most meaningful when it is intrinsic; that is, based on relevant, tangible, and positive performance that can be experienced through the senses. Intrinsic differentiation can come through in the look, feel, sound, smell, or taste of a product. A case in point would be Red Bull, a brand that promises to "give you wings." Whatever the effect of ingredients like taurine, any tired mind or body will receive a boost from the extra sugar and caffeine the brand contains. Similarly, Dyson became a successful global brand because its vacuum technology was demonstrably better than existing brands of vacuum cleaner.

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Brand Definitions Marketers For Charity

The Brand Formula

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What's a brand?

I think it is the product of two things:

[Prediction of what to expect] times [emotional power of that expectation].

If I encounter a brand and I don't know what it means or does, it has zero power. If I have an expectation of what an organization will do for me, but I don't care about that, no power.

Fedex is a powerful brand because you always get what you expect, and the relief you get from their consistency is high.

AT&T is a weak brand because you almost never get what you expect, because they do so many different things and because the value of what they create has little emotional resonance (it sure used to though, when they did one thing, they did it perfectly and they were the only ones who could connect you).

The dangers of brand ubiquity are then obvious. When your brand is lots of things (like AOL became) then the expectations were all over the place and the emotional resonance started to fade. If the predictability of your brand starts to erode its emotional power (a restaurant that becomes boring) then you need to become predictable in your joyous unpredictability!

If you want to grow a valuable brand, my advice is to keep awareness close to zero among the people you're not ready for yet, and build the most predictable, emotional experience you can among those that care about you.

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Brand Definitions Branding Basics

What is a Brand? Our Collected Definitions

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What is a Brand?

Brand Definitions. We’ve all heard a few in our time. For fun we’ve compiled a list from a wide variety of sources…

A Brand is: • Names or symbols that identify the unique source of a product or service • The personification of an organization, product or service • The source of a promise to the customer • A trust mark • A single concept or idea imbedded in the mind of the customer • A set of associations that enhance or detract from the related product or service • The source of customer loyalty • That which allows one to charge a price premium for an otherwise generic product or service • A unique value proposition • The source of emotional connections with customers • The primary source of customer ‘goodwill’ • That which should drive the design of the ‘total customer experience’ • The sum of all experiences a customer has with you

Are we missing your definition? Please share.

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Branding Strategy Insider is a service of The Blake Project: A strategic brand consultancy specializing in Brand Research, Brand Strategy, Brand Licensing and Brand Education

FREE Publications And Resources For Marketers

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