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Branding: Just Ask...

What Is A Brand?



Today, another request from the BSI Email Bag. Jon, a marketer from Baltimore, Maryland writes…

“Hi Brad and Derrick, I really enjoy reading Branding Strategy Insider, thanks for the resource. I have a question about the April 6, 2010 post “Brand Positioning And The Consumer Mind“. I understand that the consumer owns the brand. However, I am a bit confused as to what a brand really is. Is a brand just one word in the mind of the consumer? What is your definition of a brand? What brand is a company such as Disney?”

Jon, thanks for your question(s). First to the definition of a brand. A brand is a personification of an organization or its products and services. In this way, a brand can stand for something. It can make promises to its target audiences. It can possess a specific character and a personality and it can create an emotional connection with its customers. Having said that, most people will only associate one or two things with any given brand. So, people will likely associate Clorox with bleach and Bayer with aspirin and Sunkist with citrus fruits and McDonald’s with fast food. The key question of a brand’s manager is, “Does that primary brand association in people’s minds cause people to want to use our products or services?” Put another way, is it unique and purchase motivating? Or is it neutral? Or worse yet, is it negative? The purpose of brand positioning is to get people to primarily associate the one or two things that will most cause them to want to purchase and use your brand over competitive alternatives.

As or more important than making promises, brands should strive to deliver on those promises. They need to do that through their actions and the way they treat their customers.

Regarding the Disney brand, it stands for “fun family entertainment.” Family is a code word for wholesome, something you could feel comfortable doing with your children or your grandparents. Disney is able to deliver this brand promise through movies. theme parks, cruises and other types of products. For Disney to maintain brand coherence, it must make sure that all of its products and services deliver on the promise of “fun family entertainment.”

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1 Comment

George Butler on January 26th, 2011 said

Hi Brad and Derrick,
This is subject that comes up time and time again. Here are some more definitions from branding professionals, which I guess shows how incoherent the notion of a brand is/how quickly the idea of what a brand is developing as a communications tool:


Thanks again.

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