I think that Walter Landor (renounced advertising man) gives the best definition of what a brand is:
"Simply put, a brand is a promise. By identifying and authenticating a product or service it delivers a pledge of satisfaction and quality".
Just like to add one word to make the definition of 'brand' complete, and that is 'perception'. A brand is, primarily, a promise from the brand-builder's point of view (and if the brand-builder does not keep his / her promise, the brand suffers) but it is, also, a 'perception' from the audience's point of view.
Anyone who is in the business of communicating the presence of (or communicating any information about) a commercial product or service to an audience or potential audience must be interested in the idea of what a brand is (from one degree or another). And, anyone who interacts, directly, with a commercial product's or service's audience (as well as anyone who works with a product or service that might, at a later point, have an impact on the audience's perception of the product or service) must also be interested in the idea of what a brand is (from one degree or another).
That leaves, practically everyone who is employed by a commercial organization! The point I am trying to make is that a brand it is much more than a logo, a visual, a mission statement, and so on. A brand encompasses every possibility where a customer's perception of that brand may be influenced. The brand builder's ultimate goal is to create a brand that has big promises, that the promises are met (and that the brand is communicated to a relevant audience and that the audience react to the brand as the brand-builder has planned) with the ultimate goal that the brand sells itself (1. customers will return to purchase a product or service without being requested to 2. customers will recommend that brand to others 'word of mouth').
David Ogilvy (renamed ad man) wrote:
"Any fool can put on a deal, but it takes a genius .. to create a brand."
Some commercial organizations are not interested in building brands. Fair enough. They do not make promises (and so they do not have any promises to keep). Without doubt, promises can, at first hold companies back. So a company that has not made a promise might well be able to get a lead, early on. But once the company who has made the promise (and keeps to it) begins to get going, then it will only be a question of time before it will surpass the former (and the sky's the limit in terms of where the brand can go ). But the other side of the coin is when companies make promises that they can not keep (or produce a great product / carry out a great service without letting customers know about it).
Most people who work in advertising, marketing, media, business management, and so on, should always be thinking about what makes a brand / brand values. But, also, graduates, and people, in general, looking for jobs in these areas (and, in particular, advertising / marketing). Of course, it is necessary to read about, and think about how other important marketeers interpret, brand values. But it is, also, important to have your own ideas and thoughts. There are general brand values (a brand is about 'perception / promises' etc ..) that, always, remain the same. But there are, also, contemporary (as I look to put it) brand values (sometimes, less important than general brand values) that can, also, affect brand values (changes in audience behavior / developments in new media, and so on) .
I like to think of brands as people. That the job of the brand builder is to give brands personality / a life of their own. You often hear about people in advertising / marketing interested audiences to interact / 'have conversations with their brands', that type of thing. Well, with online social media and interactive digital media in general, this is now possible, in a way that was not before.
People in advertising are now asking whether brands should be advertised (or communicated) to their audiences in a useful way (brand utility) or an entertaining / creative way (fulfilling some kind of emotional need in the audience). I do not think that one should be too black and white about this ((some of the best creative ads in the past have been for utility products such as Heat Electric (Creature Comforts); just as there is no reason why a non- utility product can not be approached in a utility brand way.) The real goal, as I see it, is how advertising people can blend the two approaches so that a brand can be both useful as well as entertaining (from an advertising / brand promotion point -of-view).
But more and more, advertising people are using non-advertising approaches to promote brands ie PR, publicity, sponsorship, events, social networking, and more. The reason for this is that audiences are less willing to allow advertising into their busy lives.
I have been talking about advertising (promotion). This is, as I like to view it, the social / exterior side of the brand or the 'brand promise' part of the brand. The promise still has to be delivered and this is the important part of what a brand is. It is, also, a very big subject. This post is not meant to be a comprehensive or definitive definition of what a brand is. The point of this article is really just to get people to think. And in particular those looking for jobs in advertising and marketing.