The Who, What, How & Why of a Brand

Infamous advertising guru David Ogilvy originally defined a brand as “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.” Ogilvy always had a way with words and found clarity in simplicity. While his definition is clear, logical, and succinct, it only scratches the surface. Brands, like people, aren’t easily defined. Both are complex and just plain messy. It is so complicated that Heidi Cohen pulled together 30 branding definitions to help brand owners. That being said, I have broken this topic into Who, How, What and Why to help explain what is a brand.

The Who — The Product

So much time and thinking must go into designing, building, testing, refining, and producing a product. Decisions must be made on how and where it will be manufactured? What ingredients and basic materials will be used? How, where, and when will it be marketed? Who will be the best customer? How will the product feel? What will it look like? Smell like? What colour is it? All of these physical product attributes must be replicated perfectly each and every time. The logistics and distribution, the support, the partnership, the price, the competition and the consumer must be analysis and selected. Then you need to assemble a team of employees to execute the production schedules, logistics, marketing and sales plans. All of these tasks are daunting.

The last thing you are thinking about is its brand identity, brand personality, brand value, brand purpose, and brand vision. Without a product there isn’t a brand or a who.

The How — Product Attributes

The What — Visual & Audio

The challenge is expressing what people think about your brand. This is ultimately where your brand lives in the consumer’s mind, based on feelings and emotion. Some branding experts describe it as the brand promise or the emotional bond. I like Ze Frank’s definition as an “emotional aftertaste”. A great brand should taste like a wonderful 2000 vintage Bordeaux wine, preferably from the left-bank.

The Why — Action

In essence, a brand is all the positive physical and emotional brand attributes combined into a consistent, memorable experience with a product or service. Please note, that the interactions don’t need to be direct. Advertising and storytelling play a big role. We all love a great story. Great brands tell great stories that inspire a passion for life and illustrate the why and how behind the product.

What is Branding

Branding is actively showing how your brand’s personality is desirable, relevant, unique, and cool. Never underestimate the cool factor. To have any value, your brand must always be relatable, reliable, consistent, but also change with the times and with consumer’s needs. Jeffrey Harmon founder of Harmon Brothers explains that “branding is the experience marketers create to win that attention.” All branding elements must be defined by what the brand represents, including in advertising and social media.

Branding is Big Business

If a brand is cultivated with meaningful existential reference points that the consumer can embrace, the brand can have enormous monetary value. According to Brandz Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brand, the world’s most valuable brand in 2019 was Amazon at $315.5 billion, followed by Apple at $309.5 billion.

Brand is a Concept

Brand Personality

You must decide what characteristic is paramount. Define what the brand will not compromise on such as: quality, safety, transparency, sustainability, trust and/or customer service. You can also define what the brand will not be. These values will drive the brand’s tone of voice. Being witty and funny might not suit certain brands but being caring, empathetic, and lovable might. Once determined, all of the brand’s messaging and marketing must reflect its determined personality traits.

A brand evolves over time as do its customers. An EmotiveBrand blog post on the topic says: “Brands mean different things to different people at different times.” Amy Daggett, owner of Dagget Design, says a brand “is an associative memory in the brain of the consumer, who connects-or associate-the brand with a set of brand attributes, benefits, impressions or emotions. It’s everything the public thinks it knows about your name brand offering-both factual, and emotional.”

Brand Elements

Originally published at on March 16, 2020.

The Startup

Get smarter at building your thing. Join The Startup’s +724K followers.

Medium is an open platform where 170 million readers come to find insightful and dynamic thinking. Here, expert and undiscovered voices alike dive into the heart of any topic and bring new ideas to the surface. Learn more

Follow the writers, publications, and topics that matter to you, and you’ll see them on your homepage and in your inbox. Explore

If you have a story to tell, knowledge to share, or a perspective to offer — welcome home. It’s easy and free to post your thinking on any topic. Write on Medium

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store