The misunderstood B word

What’s a brand?

When people ask me what I do and I answer “Branding”, they don’t always know what I mean by that. Social media, PR, logo design? It’s through no fault of their own. Branding is a fuzzy and broad term.

The first misconception is that a brand is a logo. Don’t get me wrong, a logo is a critical part of your brand. It’s a signifier and if done well it’s a shorthand that people will remember you by (think of the Nike swoosh). We spend a lots of time working on logos with clients, they are critical. A brand is more than a logo though. It is “What clients say about you when you leave the room”, as brand guru Marty Neumeier famously stated. What influences what customers think and say about you?

One way to look at this is to consider Wally Olins’ four vectors of brand tangibility:

  1. Product: what you make and sell (e.g. bread)
  2. Environment: the environment that you operate in (e.g. your store)
  3. Communication: how you tell your audience about yourself (e.g. advertising, packaging)
  4. Behaviour: how people within your business behave (e.g. service standards)

These vectors all matter, but some will be more important than others depending on your industry. In airlines, brand success lies largely within its service standards (‘Behaviour’). In beverages, brands live and die as a result of the ‘ideas’ they represent through advertising and packaging (‘Communication’). In asset management, brands are often created through ‘superstar’ investment personalities (‘Product’ and ‘Behaviour’). What’s the biggest driver in your industry?

The bottom line: think of your brand in a broader context. There are lots of different touch points that make up a brand.

This post is part of our series on brand strategy.