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What is brand?

What is brand?
Welcome to What is a Brand? The first slide show you in the Secret Power of Brands, week one. It sounds a simple enough question– What is a brand? And here is one definition from the American Marketing Association. A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. A name, term, design or symbol. That’s one way of looking at it. But we think, on this course, that brand goes deeper than that. And that brand actually isn’t your name, or your logo, or your slogan, or those opponents of a brand. But fundamentally, a brand, in simple terms, is what you stand for.
And Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has a way of saying the same thing. “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” In other words, your brand is what you stand for in the minds of millions of people out there in the world. And it’s that that enables you to stand out. Because you stand for something clear, in lots of people’s minds, you stand out in the marketplace. And that very simple equation is, in a way, a summary of what we’re talking about on this course. Brands are powerful, because they are in all our minds. They’re not just in the head of the company’s marketing director.
They’re out there in the world in all our minds. For instance, Disney, for thousands, millions, perhaps billions, of people, stands for family fun. Apple stands for intuitive design. BBC News, particularly, stands for authority, in lots of places in the world. And one of the biggest brands in the world now, Google, stands, in one way or another, for information organised. There’s even a brand that stands for no brand. The Japanese designed brand, Muji, the Japanese word that literally means “no brand.” But, of course, it is a fantastic brand. So brands are powerful, because they’re out there in all our minds. And therefore, here is our formal definition of brand, the one that we’ll use and return to during this course.
A brand is the set of ideas a company or product stands for in people’s minds, and it’s shaped by that company or product’s actions. It’s what the company or the product does that enables us to think of it as family fun, or intuitive design, or information organised. And virtually always, we recognise the brand through a particular visual and verbal style, which includes a name and a logo. So we come back to the American Marketing Association definition of brand. But it’s only one of three components of our three-part definition. And I think what’s really exciting about brands is that they are not just a one-way device.
It’s not just a matter of a brand or a company transmitting something to a consumer. It’s two-way. Consumers– that’s all of us– also interpret brands. And in the end, what a brand stands for is what we consumers interpret it as standing for. So branding is not companies telling us exactly what to think. It’s like the social creation of meaning. It’s a social activity. That’s what we’re going to explore on this course. But just to summarise this slide show. Brand is the set of ideas a product or a company stands for in people’s minds, shaped by that company or product’s actions and recognised through a visual and verbal style.

Robert Jones, teacher at the University of East Anglia, and strategist at Wolff Olins, talks about how he defines brand. Is a brand a name? A logo? A slogan? Or does it go deeper than that?

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The Secret Power of Brands

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