What is a Brand? Part 1 – 5 Factors that Define a Brand

The concept of branding is a confusing topic that many seasoned marketers don’t even clearly understand. What is a brand? What is branding? It seems like a simple question, but the answer is anything but simple. If you’re confused by your brand, your customers will be confused, too. The last thing you want to do is waste time and money by developing a weak brand.

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What is a brand?

To help clear up the confusion about branding, AYTM.com is introducing a new 6-part blog post series called What Is a Brand?. Today’s post introduces the 5 factors that define a brand. Upcoming posts will cover each of the 5 factors below in detail so you can apply the tips provided to ensure your brand is going in the right direction.

1. The Brand Promise

At its core, a brand is a promise to consumers. What will consumers get when they purchase a product or service under your brand umbrella? The brand promise incorporates more than just those tangible products and services. It also includes the feelings that consumers get when they use your products and services.

Example: Think about your favorite brand and what that brand promises to you. If you’re a Nike fan, the brand might represent athleticism, performance, strength, good health, and fun. Your brand promises something to consumers. What is it?

2. The Brand Perceptions

Brands are built by consumers, not companies. Ultimately, it’s the way consumers perceive a brand that defines it. It doesn’t matter what you think your brand promises. The only thing that matters is how consumers perceive your brand. You need to work to develop consumer perceptions that accurately reflect your brand, or your brand is doomed to limited growth potential.

Example: What are consumers’ perceptions of Lady Gaga? You can bet everything she does is meant to create specific consumer perceptions.

3. The Brand Expectations

Based on your brand promise, consumers develop expectations for your brand. When they pull their hard-earned money out of their pockets and purchase your products or services, they assume their expectations for your brand will be met. If your brand doesn’t meet consumer expectations in every interaction, consumers will become confused by your brand and turn away from it in search of another brand that does meet their expectations in every interaction.

Example: Imagine Rolls Royce launched a $10,000 car. To say the least, consumers would be extremely confused because such a product doesn’t meet their expectations for a luxury brand.

4. The Brand Persona

Rather than asking, “What is a brand?” a better question might be, “Who is a brand?” Every brand has a persona. Think of your brand as a person. What is that person like? What can you expect when you interact with that person? From appearance to personality and everything in between, your brand persona is one that consumers will evaluate and judge before they do business with you.

Example: Think of it this way. Who would you rather spend time with — Apple or Microsoft? These two brands have very different brand personas. Your brand should have one, too.

5. The Brand Elements

Your brand is represented by the intangible elements described above as well as tangible elements such as your brand logo, messaging, packaging, and so on. All of these elements must work together to consistently communicate your brand promise, shape brand perceptions, meet brand expectations, and define your brand persona. If one element is awry, your entire brand can suffer. Remember what happened with the new Gap logo last year? Don’t make the same mistakes!

Example: There is a reason why that blue Tiffany’s box has been around for so long. It means something to consumers.

Bottom-line, a brand is clear, reliable, and believable to both your consumers and your employees. However, brands aren’t built overnight. Before you can define and live your brand, you need to do some research so you don’t waste time taking your brand in a direction that won’t allow you to reach your goals. You must understand your competitors and audience, so you can develop a brand that promises the right things to the right people. Research should be first, definition, strategy, and execution should follow, and in time, your brand will grow. Read more about branding on the AmEx Open Forum.

Stay tuned to the AYTM.com blog for more posts in the What Is a Brand? series. Up next: Part 2 – Defining the Brand Promise.

Still confused about how to brand your idea?

Create a new market research study right now on our Target Market page to test your concept(s). If you have any questions about how to construct your study, email support@aytm.com or call us at +1 (415) 364-8601 (8am-6pm Pacific Time).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Susan Gunelius

Susan Gunelius, MBA is a 25-year marketing and branding expert and President and CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She is the author of 10 books about marketing, branding and social media, and her marketing-related articles appear on top media websites such as Entrepreneur.com and Forbes.com. She is also the Founder and Editor in Chief of WomenOnBusiness.com, an award-winning blog for business women.

8 Responses to What is a Brand? Part 1 – 5 Factors that Define a Brand

  1. Pingback: How Startups Can Use Market Research To Avoid Fatal Mistakes

  2. Anonymous says:

    People are fickle (and I’m not claiming to be any different). It’s amazing how
    many people are upset by things like logo changes. It really goes to
    show that brand identity is a total package, and that if pieces change
    that are not consistent with the customer base or the rest of the brand,
    consumers don’t like it. Did the Gap logo change alter the clothing?
    No. Did it alter the price? No. Did it move any of the store locations?
    No. But all of the sudden there’s a new sign out front and people don’t
    want to shop there anymore. I’ll say it again: people are fickle.

  3. Bonne Marque says:

    Great post Susan and couldn’t agree more with Melissa.

  4. Ed says:

    It’s reassuring to know that many marketers don’t understand these concepts of what a brand is and what branding is. I’m teaching my 14 year old students about these concepts now and it’s a challenge. But an enjoyable one and what you’ve written is very helpful.

  5. Bonnie David says:

    Hi Susan, I am so glad that I have stumbled upon this in-depth post on branding. Much appreciate it. The information provided here is useful and informative.

  6. Tonz Odz says:

    i love the breakdown. made me think more of my brand. thank you

  7. Cassie Salt says:

    Great article, thanks for helping me better understand the intangible elements. It can be a tough concept to grasp, but as a copywriter, it’s key!

  8. Dyan A. O'Neil says:

    fantastic article. I started the business side then worked my over without a plan. Perhaps not as thorough nonetheless I got it right but not as concise as I would have liked. Still It is all a learning process . Understanding how to make your customers happy on a regular can be a challenge but easier when you love what they love.I think starting off with your legal ducks in a row is much smarter but I learned the hard way that the product might not always agree with what the customer wants or eagerly accepted at first release. Keeping the consumer wants balls in the air is the challenge.

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