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What is a brand and how do you brand a company?

What is a brand and how do you brand a company?

This is a really important question, especially when it comes to deciding how to invest in your own brand, as many people think of a brand as meaning different things.

Originally the word “brand” was derived from the Old Norse word brandr, meaning “to burn by fire.” - to brand. In 1876, after the UK passed the Trade Mark Registration Act, Bass Ale became the first trademarked brand in the world. Seth Godin's explanation of a brand however, explains the complexity that has taken place since 1876:

“I believe that “brand” is a stand-in, a euphemism, a shortcut for a whole bunch of expectations, worldview connections, experiences, and promises that a product or service makes, and these allow us to work our way through a world that has thirty thousand brands that we have to make decisions about every day.”  (Seth Godin)

So I thought it helpful to break down a brand into a series of statements, starting with the most basic and therefore the lowest cost, to the highest and the most involved.  

For some organisations they 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. 

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, so 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 coherently, including their people, price and channels, to convert leads, with the brand being just one aspect. Here the brand can sell new messages as well as reinforce 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.

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