What is a Brand?

July 24th, 2014


Well, finally we are penning our first 'Brand Brief Blog' article. It will be one of many. Hopefully we will give you some real food for thought, and some good ideas you can implement yourself. Each week we'll take on a 'branding' related topic as we look at some before and after projects, walk you through some of our successful campaigns and delve into some effective marketing strategies to help take your brand farther. So welcome to 'Brand Briefs 001'.

Branding is Everywhere

My daughter has a guessing game on her iPad Mini that has us identify popular 'brands'. I find it amazing that we can identify literally hundreds of brands from partially revealed logos. And my 6-year old son can even get one out of four. He really nails anything Lego or Minecraft.

The swoosh without the word NIKE still says Nike. The running dog without the word still says Greyhound. The blue square, rounded square, or circle with an lower case 'f' still says Facebook. And so it goes with the myriad of ubiquitous 'logos' that confront us hundreds, even thousands of times each day. Some are strong and some, not so much. The fact that they reside in the public mind so thoroughly shows that at they are all effective to some degree. They have carved out some space in our grey matter.

At Fluent we pride ourselves on creating strong branding for companies looking to build and expand their reach. We consider ourselves 'brand partners' - and we help companies develop their brands over time - we don't just knock off stand-alone 'logos' like you can find on web-based discount logo sites and say 'sayonara' (more on that later).

Through the course of everyday business we are often asked "what is branding anyway?" There are a litany of definitions for that question, which really muddies the waters. A brand should provide clarity and resonate the most basic values and elicit some 'feelings' - and not further confuse people.

So how would I define brand?

A brand is the total essence and perception of a company, product or service. Brands are less concrete and more ethereal. They produce in us thoughts and feelings as well as helping us define the relationship between customer and company. Branding tells people what a company is all about - at every level and interaction. We use the term 'EPOC Branding' - Every Point of Contact. From the logomark and color scheme, to the way people are greeted on the telephone, to the online and physical marketing collateral - all these things build a holistic (more all-encompassing) perception in people's minds called 'brand'.


In the migration across Western North America over 200 years ago, it was common practice for ranch owners to heat up metal branding irons in glowing hot coals to identify their livestock with a mark seared into the hide of the cattle. The practice still continues to this day. That's gotta hurt!

Similarly a brand of today usually identifies ownership of a thing, concept or entity - and usually has some unique identifying mark. Often that mark is called a logo. I find many people consider the 'logo' to be synonymous with 'brand' - but that is not really the case.

Though a logo can represent a brand visually, it is only a component of the larger whole. And though we like to imagine what our brand is in our mind's eye - at the end of the day, it is really the feedback we get from our current and potential customers that identifies what it is all about. I have encountered some clients so enamored with what they feel their brand is, that their public perception, and ultimately profitability deteriorates until they are in crisis mode. If 50% of our feedback is "your brand sucks!" you better find a way to change the direction and brand perception.

Perception is Reality

You have likely heard the phrase 'perception is reality'. I find that truism particularly relevant to the whole concept of 'brand'. I personally believe every company has a 'brand' whether intentional or not. Good or bad. Relevant or outdated. A brand is in fact what people perceive it to be. So managing perception is a key piece of the eventual success or demise of a brand.

So what advice would I give for you in your branding efforts? The often quoted branding guru Simon Mainwaring said "Define what your brand stands for, its core values and tone of voice, and then communicate consistently in those terms." That's a great place to start - and continue with. He goes on to say, "Transforming a brand into a socially responsible leader doesn't happen overnight by simply writing new marketing and advertising strategies. It takes effort to identify a vision that your customers will find credible and aligned with their values."

That 'vision' is your story. We all have a story to tell. If we can tell our brand's story well, we will find success. That story will help you discover the direction your marketing efforts should take. So ask yourself - what is my vision and what do my customers need? Then, how do those two things unite?

Thanks for reading. If you'd like to receive these blogs regularly via email, please sign up for our Brand Briefs Newsletter in the footer below. Here's to great branding!