The elusive meaning of Brand and Branding

Every month in the UK alone, ‘Brand’ as a term has an average of over 20k searches. The three most popular results are:

  • Brand – Wikipedia
  • Defining Brand: Why Is It So Hard To Find A Perfect Definition?
  • BRAND | meaning in the Cambridge English Dictionary

(Source: Moz)

Another interesting statistic is that the term ‘Branding’ – which has been around since for the past 2 centuries, when it was used predominantly to mark the property of animals by burning or “branding” a mark into your cattle to make sure that they couldn’t be rustled– has seen a steep increase over the past 20 years.

(source: google)

This seem to indicate that as individuals, as well as businesses, we are interested in branding, but we are not quite sure of what a brand truly is, let alone what branding means.

While it might seem surprising, in actual fact this is not a new finding. Even amongst brand experts there are discrepancies in what these terms mean, as we assessed a few years ago when writing the piece: Brand is everything… or is it?

The reason is that brand and branding are quite elusive concepts: are we talking about a logo, a promise, a perception…? And the list could go on.

And yet, this elusive concept of brand carries a real financial value, if you think that Apple –  the world most powerful brand, according to Forbes – has a brand value of $205.5 Billions!

Even in my daily work I’m often asked what I ‘actually’ do for living. What does a brand strategist do? Is it marketing? Is it communication? HR? Or maybe Business strategy?

My reply is… I do branding, which encompass a little of all the above. But before HR professionals and business coaches (understandably) jump at me, let me rewind a little.

When I founded KnowThyBrand 5 years ago I was determined to change the way the world perceived branding, from a branch of marketing to an entity in its own rights. My vision hasn’t changed, but the focus has: it is not a question of separating branding from marketing, it is about understanding that businesses (as well as individuals) need to be unique in order to stand out and be noticed, and they need to optimise the experience their target audience (internal and external) has with them in order to be chosen. In a nutshell:

Brand is the unique identifying essence of your business

It encompasses your Unique Value Proposition, your positioning, your mission, your values, your purpose, what you offer to your target audience that is so unique that they would choose you over your competitors.

Branding is the process of optimising the associations, feeling and impressions that your intended target audience experiences as a result of interacting with your brand.

This is a complex process because it encompasses customer experience, employer branding, internal and external brand alignment, communication, decisions about suppliers and partnerships, recruitment, and marketing, of course.

This is also a critical process, because it is ultimately positive outcomes that will bring the success to your business.

Not convinced yet? Here is an infographic that I created a few years ago, with all stats now updated, that explains the importance of branding. And if even professionals with the calibre of Neil Patel agree that this is something worthy of notice (check the bottom of the article where part of the infographic is displayed), it is critical that your business doesn’t underestimate it: