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What is a Brand?

Oxford and Oxfordshire's top brand consultant explains

This is a really fundamental question, as many people think of a brand as meaning different things:

  • Our brand is our logo/colour/font - a mark of recognition, a stamp that may or may not need protecting. Here it is just a signpost to create awareness.
  • Our brand is our reputation - here a brand can be built on the strong association with a sector or location, such as:
    • Sectors: Think Sofas, Think DFS. Think Back to School, Think WHSmiths 
    • Heritage/Size/Location - Belhaven, Scotland’s oldest working brewery
    • Reputation: Ferrari have won more formula one races than anyone else (note past performance is not always a guarantee of future success!).
  • Our brand is a clear articulation of what we do - a narrative that pulls together the many aspects of our business in a clear way that people can fully understand what we do and why it’s of benefit to them. 
  • Our brand is one of many sales tools - an emotional trigger, an idea that helps drive people’s behaviours. Businesses that are sales and marketing led, need to integrate many aspects: their people, price and channels coherently to convert leads, with the brand being just one aspect. Here the brand can sell new messages as well as reinforcing existing messages.  
  • Our brand is our business - here a brand guides every decision internally; how we operate, who we are. The brand is the voice of the business and promotes its higher purpose.

'What is a brand? is an important question to ask because some organisations simply don’t need to develop their brand as much as others. Or some spend too long developing the wrong things, such as values or mission statements, when they really just needed a more modern looking website, or a better sales narrative. 

This means a lot of companies can waste their time and money, or can even make things worse by putting out too many messages, over designing or not aligning their brand properly to the needs of the market. 

An important thing to know is that a brand is of no value to your business unless executed properly. 

Common mistakes:

  • A brands potential is either over or underestimated because it’s not been thought through.
  • People do not budget properly for implementation, or they underestimate the internal skills required to implement a brand, so a brand’s value can be wasted.
  • Organisations make too bold a claim, unable to deliver on the ground what they claim through their product or service marketing messages. This creates a disconnect between the reality and the promise, meaning the brand quickly becomes irrelevant as a business tool.


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