What is a Brand?

Photo of Terrie Ard

Terrie Ard

Chief Operating Officer and President

Let's cut to the chase. Your brand is not your logo, your identity or your product. Your brand is the gut feeling an individual has about your product, service or organization. It’s all the unique qualities that make you different, valuable, memorable and trustworthy. It signifies a promise of value, and reflects how your organization emotionally connects with consumers. Crucially, your brand is not what your company says it is, but what your target market says it is.

So, why is branding such a hot topic these days? Consumers today have an overabundance of choices and a shortage of time. As our world evolves, an increasing number of companies and brands are vying for our attention, money and loyalty. To make things even more difficult, the gap between the features and offerings from products and services is becoming smaller every day.

A search for "digital camera" on a major digital products retailer's website returns over 12,000 results.

Each and every one of us is hardwired with a mental filter to protect our brains from information overload — a filter that’s skilled at not only sifting out the junk and preserving what’s valuable, but also at recognizing what’s different. Even the savviest of consumers do not have the time to shop and compare all the options available to them. So how can you break through your target market’s filters so they choose your service or product? Branding.

The best brands are dynamic and charismatic. There is nothing and no one that can substitute the products or services they provide. They have no equal.

The strongest companies understand that people base most of their buying decisions on trust, so to gain that all-important trust, these brands not only meet their customers’ expectations, they constantly exceed them. They never stop delighting their customers, and they’re never satisfied with the status quo. They aren’t after one-time buyers; they want lifelong relationships with loyal customers — individuals who trust, like and believe in their brand so much they’ll make numerous purchases and convince others to do the same.

Think about some of the products, services or companies you prefer and why, and you’ll better understand the power of brand charisma. Do you prefer a Coke or a Pepsi? Would you rather fly Southwest or Delta? Is the cell phone next to you an Apple iPhone or a Samsung Galaxy? Each of these brands evokes certain emotions, memories, expectations or promises, and that’s what makes them so strong and enduring.

Perhaps one of the world’s most charismatic brands is Apple. Apple devotees are just that — people who know the company and are so incredibly devoted to the brand they’ve become Apple evangelists. They don’t buy iPhones or iPads because they’re the sleekest, most functional and user-friendly devices available, but because they have an emotional connection to what the Apple brand stands for and delivers. They appreciate that the folks at Apple “think different” because they think different. They trust Apple will always make amazing, cutting-edge products, and they’ll stand in line for days just to get their hands on them. Apple has amassed an impressive following by treating every customer as an individual with unique dreams and goals, and then creating products that can actually help individuals achieve those dreams and goals. Their branding efforts are inspiring, and almost every company could learn a thing or two from their example.

Remember, in the immortal words of Apple’s late Steve Jobs: “It’s a complicated and noisy world, and we’re not going to get a chance to get people to remember much about us. No company is. So we have to be really clear about what we want them to know about us.”