How Should a Brand be Defined?

“Brand” as a noun and “branding” as a verb have different meanings to different people.

This series revisits the basics of branding and marketing by answering questions marketers, entrepreneurs and small business owners face when growing their business. I hope this series provides you with knowledge to think smarter and a nudge to make stuff happen.

How Should a Brand be Defined?

Branding is a hazy term. “Brand” as a noun and “branding” as a verb have different meanings to different people in different departments in different companies.

Because every marketer has a different understanding of what a brand is and what a brand does, I learned to simplify my definition of a brand.

A brand is simply a company’s reputation. It’s how someone feels and what someone thinks about a company.

My experience as a marketer working with all departments inside businesses big and small tells me everyone understands the word “reputation” and all the feelings associated with it. People, places, and things with solid reputations are admired, respected, and trusted, while those with tarnished reputations are viewed as lacking integrity and shunning responsibility.

The same goes for brands. Strong brands are associated with upstanding, character-rich words like “genuine,” “reliability,” “virtuous,” and “empathetic.” While, weak brands are linked to disrespectful words such as “insincere,” “forgettable,” and “shallow.”

Just like personal reputations must be earned, brand reputations must be earned every day through business actions and not fabricated through one-off programs.

I truly believe you cannot create a brand before you create a business. The process is simultaneous.

As you build your business, you create your brand. Your brand never makes your business possible. It’s your business that makes your brand possible.

When I talk with businesses wanting to improve their brand reputation, I ask them three questions:

(a) How do you make a profit?
(b) How do you make employees happy?
(c) How do you make customers happy?

I ask these questions because a funny thing happens when a company (a) makes money, (b) makes employees happy, and (c) makes customers happy… it makes a strong brand.

Rarely, if ever, can you sprinkle magical branding dust to create an endearing and enduring brand. Brands with the strongest reputations do not focus not on building a great brand. Instead, they focus on building a business that makes money, makes employees happy, and makes customers happy. The by-product of these every day business actions is the development of a strong, reliable, and emotion-rich brand reputation.