What is a brand
There are 4 dimensions to a brand both tangible and intangible that need to be influenced when building a brand and its personality.
The first dimension is very factual and descriptive definition and deals mainly with physical elements of the parameters that create a brand e.g. a ‘name, term, sign, symbol or design, or a combination of them intended to identify goods.
The 2nd parameter is more evolved and recognizes that a brand is much more than physical parameters alone. Brands can have a large (2) experiential aspect, which is based on the accumulation of experiences that consumers and customers have through interaction with the company and its products, services and employees.
This accumulation of experiences contributes to the (3) psychological aspect of a brand, e.g. the position a brand takes within the mind of its customers and is a construct of expectations and knowledge of the individual. This implies that a brand in one person’s mind can be different from the next person.
The added parameter of a brand in today’s social media world is the (4) social/cultural/community aspects of a brand. A brand acts as a means of cutting through the clutter of choice. It has the ability to embody thoughts and ideas that make people want to belong and that support a need for up or down social comparison. The social/cultural/community parameter of a brand also takes into account the fact that consumers and customers actively contribute to brand meaning including the anti-branding phenomena and anti-globalization initiatives where the perceived dominance of some brands can reduce the feeling of choice that customers have.
Trying to explain the concept without using canonical definitions, a brand is the complete expression of an entity (company, product, person, etc) that is being communicated creating an experience in the public, both rational and emotional.
This means that everything that interacts with the public creates the brand, so this includes:
- the visual appearance of the company (name, logo, colors, identity)
- the user experience of any product (interaction design, visual design, industrial design, packaging, …)
- the interaction of any employee with the public, at any level of the hierarchy
- the customer support (speed, cordiality, efficacy, …)
- the discussions generated in the media, both traditional and social
All these “points of contact” (and probably others I forgot) are able to create an experience and a rational and emotional response in the public, both users and non users.
It’s something hard to define, because it’s incredibly wide and without a single, simple thing that could be called “brand” and it generates a lot of consequences as well (awareness, emotions, money, trust, etc).
In the common perception however, the logo is the symbol that synthesises all those factors, while in reality that’s just the top of the whole mountain creating the brand itself.
The best brand has all these elements aligned, cooperating to communicate a value. That happens at all the levels, and that’s why “changing a brand” is really an operation involving the whole public identity (either of the company, person or product), with a really deep operation in change management, and not just a surface change. Still, a surface change could be the trigger to start this kind of change, because don’t forget that the brand is something that influences also everyone working inside, not only the public.
A few points from my point of view:
- A brand isn’t “the gut feeling”. The gut feeling is something that the brand creates, not the brand itself (you can’t “design” a gut feeling).
- There’s usually a smaller definition of brand that includes logo, typeface, and possibly a style guide. That’s only the visual part of the brand, it’s very important but it’s not everything.