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.