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Branding Basics

The Changing Meaning Of Brand


What is a brand?

Oh the irony. For years, many of us tried to get the people we worked with to broaden their understanding of what a brand was. It’s not just a logo, a product, a TV commercial – that conversation. We were fighting to make the definition of brand bigger. Now I’m wondering whether we have to start going back the other way.

Suddenly, there are no people, countries, groups anymore. Instead, everywhere I look, everything’s a brand. Donald Trump is a brand, Charlie Sheen is a brand, so are Kate and William, the President’s a brand, Greenpeace and just about any professional sports team or association you care to name. America’s a brand, so are the Tea Party, Survivor, Wikileaks, the Beckhams and Lady Gaga. You are a brand.

That suggests to me that the media is in the process of redefining a “brand” as anything that gets or has our attention. In the new parlance, brand now is much more about profile. So I think Paula Lynn is right when she comments on this story in MediaPost that, “The media and its frenzy make brands brands.”

Brand increasingly means buzz, or perhaps something or someone that is buzzed about: something or someone who has got or is getting attention, for good or bad reasons.

Visibility is credibility. Which comes back, in a strange way, to what those of us who were there used to say when people told us a brand was just a name or just a logo: “There’s a lot more to it than that.”

Today, I’m much more afraid there’s often not. Use has subverted meaning.

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