What’s in a Brand?

September 12, 2019

What’s in a Brand?

September 12, 2019

Group Gordon’s James Seaton breaks down what a brand means and why it matters.

Brand has become a buzzword recently. Everyone is trying to figure out how to build their brand or put out high-quality, branded content. What does it all mean? Below is a short guide to branding and why it matters for your business goals:

What is a brand?

A brand can be summed up in 3 words: appearance, feeling, and association. Appearance includes any name, symbol, design, or visible feature attached to your company or product. For example, people easily identify Mac laptops by the monochrome apple. Feeling refers to the emotion attached to the product or service. When watching a Disney movie, for example, you may expect to feel happy or nostalgic. Association is what comes to mind when you think about the brand. For example, you may think of Robert Downey Jr. (individuals are brands too!) as a witty tech savant because of his role as Iron Man. Combined, these features make up the powerful concept we know as brand.

How to create a strong brand

Creating a strong, recognizable brand has immense upside. Just make sure that the appearance, feeling, and association of your brand will resonate with your market. It is helpful to consider who your target audience is and what they will gravitate towards. Think about the sleek design of a Ford GT that appeals to wealthy adults or the playful, orange splatter of the former Nickelodeon logo that caught kids’ eyes.

Riveting visuals and campaigns like Dream Crazy helped trigger profound feelings in Nike customer audiences. In her book, Resonate, Tech Consultant Alex Wolf notes that “[Phil Knight] made [the Nike Logo] worth billions of dollars by working with a team that devised a feeling of accomplishment and athleticism to be triggered once it’s seen.” You can create well-researched campaigns that create impact too!

Perhaps the hardest part of leveraging your brand is controlling associations, especially in a culture where on and offline comments, reviews, and social media posts frequently create viral moments—for better or for worse. The easiest way to protect your brand is to proactively maintain the quality and consistency of your message. If you want your company brand to represent environmental sustainability, establish eco-friendly processes for assembling your product. This conveys honesty and accountability. See Jaden Smith and the JUST brand whose innovative “Water Box” helped address the Flint water crisis and solidify an association with environmental sustainability and change.

A final note

Brands and their messages can be extremely powerful when effectively managed. Unfortunately, not everything about how a brand will be perceived is totally within your control. The good news is that you can adjust and manage certain factors, especially appearance and feelings, to make sure that your brand lands as intended with your target audiences. By understanding what goes into making a strong brand, you will be better able to position yours in the best way for the digital-first, increasingly volatile, brand-driven economy.