The Difference between a Name and a Brand

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Now that it is starting to be safe to use the word Branding again in Silicon Valley, I have been interviewed twice this past week on the subject. Yes, we know it is an on-going and powerful and maybe even common subject for consumer marketing folks nationwide, but for the rest of the people muddying the water, what exactly is a brand?

First of all. A brand is not a name, despite there being name brand products in every industry. And even though hundreds of graphics agencies nationwide claim to do branding, most of them don’t. They only do brand identity – or in some case, and even worse, advertising.

There are a lot of good books out on the subject, but before you read any of them, read first about the author. If he is from a PR background, they are probably pushing PR as the main brand factor. If from an ad agency background, probably ad campaigns. If from a large corporation, probably a lot of logistics and strategy that has no place in smaller companies. From a design company, then perhaps all about visual design and signage.

But a brand is more than a logo or color scheme. More than a tagline or slogan or marketing campaign. And much more than any advertising campaign or single product or graphics design feature.

Some big branding agencies talk a lot about an emotional connection to the customer, and how a brand resides in the brain of the consumer. All of these are right. And yet none of these are complete.

The best summary I have found that works in most cases is that A Brand is a Promise.

More particularly, A Brand is a Promise of an Experience.

Try this on for your next corporate branding discussion. Realize why your service department, for example, may be such a key part of your brand. See how it permeates almost all parts of your company and how customers and prospects interact with you. Then you will realize why Starbucks is such a strong brand, because of their high (and frequent) client touch interactions, and not because of their very, very small advertising campaigns.

Is your Nordstrom’s experience different to your Macy’s experience? Your Apple different to your Dell? Your Blackberry to your Palm? Yes, little things make a big difference in branding. And if you don’t brand your company your competitors will probably do so for you, and put you in a box of their choosing.

In real estate, we talk about location, location, location. Well in branding we talk about consistency, consistency, consistency. A good set of brand values and positions can be great drivers of internal business decisions that speed up all packaging, marketing, distribution and promotional messages. Your corporate brand manager should be ensuring that all your brand touch points are in line with your brand promise.

And what is the shorthand for your particular brand promise?

Your name, of course!

It is not the brand. It is not the promise. It is simply a unique and protectable brief handle for describing your particular brand promise.

P.S. In a future article we will even talk about your personal brand. Yes, for you yourself.


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