“Brand” and “Branding” are “big” words. They can encompass a lot of things, and their definitions can vary depending on who you are talking to. So as a kickoff to the NEXTEN Branding blog, I want to start out by clarifying what I mean by “Brand” and “Branding”. I’m a fan of keeping it simple, and I have simple definitions I use for what a brand and branding are. Simply put:

A brand is how people FEEL about your company, product or service.

Branding is how you CREATE AND MANAGE PERCEPTIONS that cause those feelings.

Before I go any further, I also want to clarify what a brand is not. A brand is not:

  • A company, product or service name
  • A logo
  • A tagline or slogan
  • Marketing copy
  • Features and benefits

These are “Brand Identity Elements” — the things that help create and manage the perceptions and subsequent feelings people have about your brand.

By “brand”, I mean how people — most importantly your customers, but also your company staff and your competitors — feel when they think about your company/product/service. It’s emotional, not rational. And this is very important:

Your brand is what THEY think it is, not what YOU think it is.

The feeling that people have about your brand is obviously not a tangible thing, and because of this some people have difficulty with this definition (I think because they want a brand to be a “thing” you can see, feel, touch, etc.).

But I don’t, because there are many cases of people who love, and are fanatical supporters and customers of certain brands — think Nike, Apple, Porsche, Fender Guitars, the Boston Red Sox, NPR (disclaimer: I’m a fan of all of these brands).

If you think about it, it’s pretty clear that “brand love” is ultimately based on how people feel about the overall brand, not because they like a particular product, or their logo, or their corporate colors or whatever. Those things do play a part, but I believe that a brand is the sum total of the feelings experienced when people come in contact with your brand identity elements (the tangible things that are sometimes described as “the brand”).

It’s also no secret that most buying decisions are emotional. So if you can be in tune with how people feel about your brand, and also create and manage perceptions that cause positive feelings about your brand, well that my friend is what I mean by “branding”.

In later posts on this blog we’ll talk about how you can discover and define what these feelings are (Research), and how to map out a game plan for creating and managing audience perceptions (Strategy), to ultimately shape the world-class brand that your company, product or service deserves.