One of my business clients came to me this week with a vexing problem.
I have been doing some research for a presentation I have to do and it seems that every branding specialist I come across has his or her own definition of, and way of talking about a brand. There are many similarities, but there are also many differences.
How do I get my team to talk about “our brand” in a way that everyone gets it, if we don’t have a the same understanding about what a brand is?
During my career I too have come across a myriad of definitions. Because It can be time consuming, confusing, and frustrating to wade through these definitions and identify the right approach for your company I have refined, in my work as a business consultant and educator, an approach and definition that I use extensively.
A brand is…
First of all, a brand is not a brand name, a logo, an advertising campaign, or even a social media presence. I start with this statement because these aspects of a brand are often considered to be the brand.
A brand has two perspectives—the customer’s and the company’s (I refer to the latter as the managerial perspective.)
The customer perspective
Your brand is what your customers, employees, and other stakeholders currently think and feel about your company and its products and services.
You win with customers when they believe your offering is better and different from competitors, and so provides them with more compelling value.
The managerial perspective
Your brand is what you want your customers, employees, and other stakeholders to think and feel about your company, and its products and services. This should be consistent with value that is meaningful to them.
You’ve been successful when, your customer perspective = your managerial perspective. That is to say, what you want your customers, employees, and stakeholders to think and feel about your company, and its products and services is 100% in sync with how they actually feel.
But, in many companies there is a gap between how leadership teams want customers and other stakeholders to think and feel about their company, and its products and services, and how the customers actually think and feel.
This gap can be caused because:
- The leadership team doesn’t understand the importance of the managerial perspective in building strong brands and businesses
- The leadership team is not aligned on how it wants customers to think and feel about the company, and its products, and services
- The leadership team is aligned but employees are not engaged in this mission—usually because managers are not taking the right actions to make sure that the employees know and buy into the brand
- Both the leadership team and employees are aligned but are not taking the right actions to cause customers to think and feel about the company and its products and services in the intended way.
When talking about your brand it is important to recognize the difference and be clear about what you are referring to: are you referring to what is already in your customers’ minds, or, what you want to be in their minds. Clarifying and executing on the managerial perspective of a brand is crucial if corporations are to win in the marketplace.
Brand Managers—those usually tasked with executing this perspective—aim to create a unique and valuable position in the minds of customers for your company and its products and services that match the desired position.
A definition of a brand that fits both perspectives
My definition of a brand fits and supports both the customer and managerial perspectives of a brand:
A brand is a set of associations in memory linked to a company, product, or service through its name, logo and other elements that provides a compelling promise of value to customers and other stakeholders.
These associations represent:
- The thoughts and feeling in customers’ minds, and
- The thoughts and feelings that a company’s employees aspire to create in the minds of customers.
How then do we talk about brand names, logos, and…
Names, logos and other branding elements–the way we identify brands–act as anchors in our minds for a set of associations linked to a company, or its products or services.
They are absolutely crucial to the success of your brand in the marketplace, but they are not your brand.
Getting clear about the two perspectives of a brand has been invaluable to me in helping many of my clients. I hope that you will find it helpful as well.