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Brand Definition

Brand Chalkboard

What Is a Brand?

A brand is a marketing term that refers to the intangible identity of a company or product. Essentially, a brand is what people think of when they hear or see a brand name. It is a marketing concept that relates to the feelings and beliefs about a product or company.

Key Takeaways

  • A brand is a marketing term that refers to the overall impression or feeling the public holds about a company or product.
  • A brand is not to be confused with a brand name, which is the non-generic name of a product or company.
  • Brands distinguish one company's products or services from another, which makes them an important marketing investment for businesses.
  • There are many types of brands. Not only do they distinguish products and companies, but also services and people.

Understanding Brands

The term “brand" is difficult to define, even for some marketing professionals. Famous businessman David Ogilvy might have said it best with his branding definition. He said that a brand is “the intangible sum of a product's attributes." In other words, a brand is not just a trademark or a logo.

Trademarks and logos are part of what makes up a brand. But a brand is much more than just a name or a visual identity. A brand is an intangible asset that you cannot see or touch.

To understand brands, you should think of the overall impression or feeling potential consumers have when they think of a product or company. The logo and brand name are part of the brand. But effective branding also creates a positive reputation along with the company's name.

Some companies spend significant portions of their marketing budget on creating successful brands. So, a brand is often a valuable asset for a company and an important part of its marketing strategy. Anything that a company does to improve its reputation or recognizability is branding strategy.

The Evolution of Brands

People have been using brands in a variety of ways for thousands of years. People in ancient Egypt used livestock branding practices to mark their cattle. By using a hot branding iron, they seared identifying marks into their animals. Mesopotamian and Chinese products exist from thousands of years ago that bear special seals. These seals labeled and distinguished products, making them an early form of branding. In 13th century Italy, people identified their papers with watermarks.

Centuries later, in the late 1880s, companies started mass producing and packaging goods. They needed brands more than ever. Without brands or distinctive packaging, it would have been nearly impossible for consumers to tell the difference between products.

As branding evolved, the term has taken on a broader meaning. It now means more than just a company's logo or name. It covers many aspects of a company's reputation, a product's identity, and customer perceptions.

Types of Branding

  • Corporate branding: With corporate branding, businesses try to give consumers a positive mental picture about their overall company.
  • Service branding: Service branding is like product branding except it refers to services. When branding services, companies must emphasize quality, trust, and customer service.
  • Product branding: This type of brand covers a specific product, not the company it comes from.
  • Personal branding: This is a type of branding that people use to build their reputation. Well-known people use this type of branding to become more famous or to seem more trustworthy. They also use personal branding to distinguish themselves from others.

Successful branding occurs when consumers' perceptions about a company match up with what the company is trying to convey. Take, for example, Apple computers. For most people, the brand Apple conjures up thoughts of innovation, quality, uniqueness and more. This is highly valuable to Apple. Their target audience already has a built-in favorable impression of their company based on their perception of the brand.

For companies like Apple, a positive brand reputation can in turn yield loyal customers and more sales.

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