Photo Credit: William Stitt

Redefining The Word “Brand”

When I was younger, Saturday morning cable TV in Saint Lucia shared with us the story of Saint Jude’s Children Hospital and the work it was doing toward helping children fight rare cancers. When I watched these segments, it wasn’t the Saint Jude Children’s Hospital brand that stood out to me. Instead, the individual stories stood out to me; the stories of fighters in the bodies of babies and toddlers.

These children laughed and played despite their suffering. The faith and hope that they displayed when losing limbs and body parts, or when being told that they had to try to fight ONE more time cannot be explained with the limitation of words. Some of them knew that they were dying and were at peace with it, even encouraging those who would stay behind to mourn their lives. Some lived and some died.

I realized that whether they lived or they died, all of these children had enormous personal brands. I realized that whether they lived or died, all these children had these personal brands simply because they existed; simply because they exist.

Now, a trip to the dictionary will probably give you a definition similar to this:

“a distinguishing symbol, mark, logo name, word, sentence or combination of these items that companies or people use to distinguish their product, services and even talents from others in the market.”

for the word brand. But I find this definition to be inadequate towards helping you understand what a brand, and consequently branding is.

My interactions with companies and people have forced me to render this definition outdated and inadequate. I believe that a definition that truly captures the essence of the word “brand” must take into account the factors of purpose and story and I define the word brand, simply and adequately as:

“anything which exists or existed”

Think about it for a moment. If it exists, it is a brand. The question of whether it is a good brand remains to be answered. But if it exists it is a brand.

Your mother is a brand. A couple of days you celebrated that brand by sharing anecdotes of her ability to create 5 course meals from the measly 3 ingredients in your cupboard. You

Your father is a brand in and of himself because there is something about him as a man, father, husband or partner that makes him uniquely him; something which distinguishes him from every other man on the planet. At least mine is.

Wood is a brand. It is hard, durable and elemental to the construction of many things. It is the things that constitute its “brand” that causes us to opt for its use over other materials. We can even go further to see the brands enmeshed in the category of wood. For example we can probably distinguish mahogany from pine due to factors such as color, strength, duration or price.

Your personal brand was created the moment you took your first breath. Were you loud or were you quiet? Did you have to be prompted to cry or did you bawl down the hospital? Were you a fighter or were you just cool and calm? Were you a premie who fought to stay alive?

Your existence accounts for your personal brand because it also accounts for the evolution of you. How did you react to certain situations. What things are responsible for converting you from extroversion to introversion? Why do you run out of a room if it becomes too crowded? How did you develop an “I can do anything” disposition?

When I meet a client for a first consultation, I often find myself trying to explain to them what a brand is. In times past I’ve used terminology common to the profession. I’ve used definitions like the one I shared above but these days I simply say that it is “anything which exists”.

You see when a client comes to me, more often than not, they already have a brand. It already exists. They exist. Their company already exists. Their event is already a concept. My job is then dependent on helping them discover the constitution of that which exists and in other cases helping them shape it. So yes. It can be “a distinguishing mark, symbol or logo…” but it is, simply because it exists.

I look forward to thoughts, opinions and ideas from all branding enthusiasts. How do you define a brand?

This article was Originally Published on my LinkedIn profile.