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What is a Brand? Really. You Wouldn’t Believe What a Time Marketers and Entrepreneurs Have Trying to Define It

Harley Davidson emblem on an engine representing the definition of a "brand".

Is it just a company’s logo? Oh, dear me, no. That’s just part of its “identity”…just how we identify it, recognize it. But that doesn’t say anything about what we believe about it or, even more important, how we feel about it!

Is it just the company’s tag line or current ad campaign? Oh, golly gosh, no. That’s a contributor to it, but it is so much more than that.

My favorite definition of “a brand” was penned by Seth Godin, to wit: “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships, that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to chose one product or service over another.”

Here’s how I like to illustrate how that definition plays out in the world: 

Everything that a business or company does – at any level , in any way – is either brand-positive, brand-neutral, or brand-negative to those who are “watching”.

When a retail greeter makes you smile, that’s a brand-positive event!

When the phone receiptionist snaps at you for asking what s/he considers a dumb question, that is a brand-negative event!

And when a company does something that does’t count for much with you..it’s a brand-neutral event!

So when you navigate the world making the decisions you make about who you give your business to, you, in effect, subconsciously review all those event that have occured, add up the brand-positive, brand-neutral and brand negative events and wa-la, that’s what that company’s brand says to you. But, even more so, that’s what it means to you.

The CEO of American Airlines once brilliantly observed that, “If our customer boards one of our planes and discovers a smear of jam on his/her chair-back table, it implies that we do crummy engine maintenance.”

And, in the future, that customer will, indeed, vote that conclusion with his or her wallet!

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