Tuesday, July 31, 2007

5 key steps to crisis planning for the brand

Kami Watson Huyse recently wrote a useful article published in Communication World Bulletin (membership required to read the fulltext).

The article is called "Crisis Planning in a Digital Age: Beyond Tylenol" and makes the following point: Modern crisis planning has to happen faster than ever. Johnson & Johnson responded to the Tylenol crisis within a few weeks. Today we are operating on a "30-minute news cycle, driven by the wild card of the Internet." "All it takes is one influential blog to take up the story, followed by accelerated coverage by online and mainstream media."

Huyse offers a number of ideas for communication channels for dealing with a crisis in today's accelerated environment. Most of them make sense to me; here are my top picks (see the full article to read all 10):
  1. Be ready to send email blasts out as needed.
  2. Connect with important online blogs and forums before a crisis ever occurs.
  3. Create an online communication center (like a blog).
  4. Be ready to send out messages by text message or pre-recorded phone call.
  5. Make it easy for your website visitors to use your information in blogs and social media platforms (she doesn't say how but I imagine that it's something like what you do in a social media press release where you give relevant pieces of content).

This article seems important for anyone who needs to be prepared for a crisis in the age of Web 2.0 (and who doesn't?)

Build your brand with ONE image, not many

When you are building a brand, it is critically important that you project one singular image. This may sound very simple and intuitive, but it always amazes me when companies get this wrong—and it also amazes me how powerful it is when they get it right.

An example of a company that gets it very wrong is GEICO, the American insurance company. GEICO is represented by two different advertising campaigns with two completely different messages.

  • One shows a gecko (lizard) featuring the message that a 15 minute phone call can save you 15% on your car insurance. Here the message is “convenient savings.”
  • Another shows a caveman who is insulted when he hears the message that the insurance is so easy to use “even a caveman can do it.” Here the message is “easy.”

It’s a shame because both campaigns have the potential to be enormously effective, but when you put them together, they cancel each other out.

An organization that gets it right is the American cable TV channel TNT, which runs the tagline “We know drama.” Their TV commercials repeat the message over and over again. And every show on TNT that I have seen is, indeed, very dramatic. An effective brand…a single message.

When you build your brand, make sure that you are saying ONE thing and that’s it.

Monday, July 30, 2007

The brand council -- an indispensable tool

The implication of being a brand-driven organization is that the organization becomes driven by the marketing function. This is sure to elicit hoots and howls from Finance, IT, Human Resources, and the other back-office mission support functions, each of which believes that it can and should be primary in the organization. The job of the CEO is to look all those other functions in the face and say NOT that they’re unimportant, but rather the opposite: “Your support is critical if our image is to be presented effectively to the public.”

This is where the concept of the executive brand council (or brand council for short)—a multidisciplinary team of executives from each line of business and support function—comes in. (This is strategic thinking item #4--see previous post.) The CEO cannot lead the brand forward alone—the informed advice of key leaders from across the organization is all-important. As Paula Dumas, a senior-level brand marketer at Kodak, says (quoted in Prophet--see previous post), having a brand council means that “brand stewardship is shared by everybody within the company.” Commitment comes from the top through the brand council, and is disseminated out throughout the whole organization.

Prophet says that the executive brand council tackles issues like acquiring new brands, launching new products (brands), and licensing agreements. However, in my view this doesn’t go far enough. In reality, one needs to address all the issues that affect the brand—from positioning, to portfolio management, to employee culture and more—by bringing them before the brand council regularly. This is the only way to make sure that there is genuine understanding of and buy in for the brand takes place, at all levels of the organization.

What the CEO needs to do to build the brand - good points from Prophet Brand Strategy

Going back to the Prophet Brand Strategy document referenced in the previous post, this is to summarize what the CEO of the brand-enabled organization must do in order to lead it forward effectively. Basically Prophet says that the leader must do two things: strategize and execute. Not a wondrous insight there, but it’s the “how” that matters:
  • By strategize they mean that the leader must bring “world-class strategic brand thinking” to confront “market opportunities and business challenges.”
  • By execute they mean the ability to “deliver,” or “operationalize,” the brand “in the face of limited resources and the need for prioritization and tough choices.”

Strategic thinking, they say, involves four actions (two of them have to do with portfolio management so I’ve combined them under #3):

  1. Knowing the customer
  2. Developing a brand identity and position
  3. Managing the range of brands represented under the major brand and shedding them when necessary
  4. Managing the brand from within the various functions and disciplines of the organization

Execution involves:

  1. Understanding where the brand touches the customer and prioritizing which brand experiences are most important
  2. Making sure that the purchase and post-purchase experience are optimal
  3. Executing the brand’s marketing across multiple channels
  4. Deciding what to measure and how to change the brand implementation accordingly
  5. Making sure that employees understand and deliver on the brand promise

The key question to ask re: execution, they say, is: “Do we want to reinforce the brand and its promise by controlling all our customer touchpoints or do we want the touch points to control us and risk denigrating the brand and its promise?”

Sunday, July 29, 2007

When the CEO dismisses the brand

To brand an organization effectively, you have to start at the top – with executive leadership. The CEO (or equivalent) must be totally committed to the concept of branding and must drive the brand throughout the organization. Otherwise the organization cannot effectively display the right image at all the points at which it reaches its stakeholders.

If you understand the concept and the importance of brand, this much is obvious. But there are still leaders that “don’t get it.” I believe that there are basically two reasons why.

  • The first is that they literally don’t understand branding at all. To them a brand is Coca-Cola or Disney or Starbucks. It’s a marketing or an advertising gimmick. It doesn’t apply to the widgets they produce. It’s flighty and self-promotional and frankly, stupid. It has nothing to do with the organization believing in anything, or communicating a unified image to the outside world. Branding, to them, has to do with creating a TV commercial and maybe buying some ad space in a magazine or two. That’s it.
  • The second is that they refuse, on principle, to operate according to the rules of brand – which is that it is fundamentally your image that creates value for the organization. Even though that image is derived from real actions taken by the company, they don’t want to hear it. They want to focus on actions first, and image later or not at all. They actually believe that they can run the company without paying attention to the image that the company’s actions create. This belief is magnified by the fact that there is little in the way of well-known tangible evidence that “branding” creates real value.

What can you do when your organization’s leader dismisses the brand? That’s a good question…I wish I knew the answer to it. But the first step is to understand what is blocking the CEO in the first place—whether it’s one of these reasons or something else. The road to convincing him or her to implement the brand begins with unblocking the invisible barriers that are lying in the leader’s path.

(See this for more on the importance of the CEO leading the branded organization and for a couple of examples of brand return on investment.)

Saturday, July 28, 2007

When to say that "brand is reputation" and when not to

When I was a brand consultant, we used to tell our clients that brand is the same thing as reputation. Primarily, it was a way to get them comfortable with the idea of assessing where they stood in the eyes of their stakeholders (you can't do a brand analysis without understanding what image people have of the organization). And frequently this strategy worked: After all, who does not want to know what others think of them--what their reputation is? And in fact, brand does share some things in common with reputation, most importantly that both result from the perception of the organization by its stakeholders. In other words, when you ask the question "what do other people think of us?" the answer you get back could either be your brand or your reputation.

However, routinely and unthinkingly equating brand with reputation is a slippery slope. Because reputation has to do with specific characteristics like those that Fortune uses to determine its most admired companies: "innovation, people management, financial soundness, quality of management, use of corporate assets, social responsibility, long-term investment and quality of products/services." On the other hand, there are no specific characteristics that determine a brand--the image that people have of the organization can be anything: happy, swift, responsive, down-home, fashionable, whatever. So theoretically you can have a great reputation (strong on the specific characteristics that compose a great reputation) and a weak brand (no unified image in the minds of your public).

So although you can say that in a way reputation and brand are the same, you have to be careful what questions you ask when you do an assessment...not to confuse reputation with brand. You have to ask different questions to get at what the reputation is and what the brand is.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are specific metrics for assessing brand strength, and those should be included in the survey as well. I like Young & Rubicam's Brand Asset Valuator methodology, which measures the brand along four dimensions: differentiation, relevance, esteem, and knowledge. The more unique the brand, the more relevant it is to the customer, the more highly they think of it, and the better they know it, the stronger the brand. Note that "esteem" is aligned with reputation--so we could say that reputation is one element of the brand, not the brand in totality.

(See this article).

Friday, July 27, 2007

Corporate communication: FIRST LISTEN, then talk (when internal branding has the opposite effect)

Is everybody sick to death of branding and brand messages at work? If so, does internal branding stand a chance?

I’m thinking of the popularity of games like buzzword bingo (or “B.S. bingo”) where people attend meetings and cross out buzzwords as they’re spoken—the fun part is you get to yell out “Bingo” (or scream it silently to yourself) when you get five in a row. And of course there is “The Office” and “Dilbert.”

I wonder if, to employees, brand messages—no matter how well-intentioned or expensive—have the exact opposite effect they’re supposed to. Recently I stumbled on this essay--it gives you the idea:
"When I was working at Pizza Hut, they used to show us promotional videos for the new pizzas they were unveiling. These were not for the customers; no one would ever see them but employees, yet they were still expertly produced with fancy jump cuts, jingles, lighting, sound, everything. I have no doubt that they cost the company thousands of dollars a year. The intent was to get us excited about our work. They were trying to sell us on making pizzas. Rather than give us a raise, however small it might be, they decided to spend the money on an utterly worthless attempt to motivate us about something we already had to do."
Yet if Pizza Hut were to give this employee more money, would he then want to watch the Pizza Hut internal video? Or would he find some other reason to reject it?

I guess my question is, if employees reject internal branding/marketing, what is the alternative? Should organizations simply say nothing to their people? Perhaps that’s exactly right. Maybe it’s time for organizations to listen to what their employees have to say FIRST, and then feed that back in the form of corporate communication. This goes along with the idea that brands are co-created between the producer (employer) and the user (in this case, the employee). If employees have stopped listening, then brands should stop talking until they hear something from the employees. That gives them a place to begin.

What is going on at NASA???

Update 8/9/07: NASA can't find anything to substantiate the allegations about drinking. http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20070809/sc_nm/space_shuttle_nasa_dc

News just broke that astronauts were reportedly drunk before flying and a NASA subcontractor employee sabotaged the shuttle Endeavour. It wasn't that long ago, the report notes, that astronaut Lisa Nowak was accused of attacking her "romantic rival" with pepper spray. And let's not forget the shooting at Johnson Space Center in Houston by an employee who ended up killing himself. They better do something to repair their image, and fast!

Lindsay Lohan vs. Britney Spears: Whose career will survive?

Here is an interesting contrast between two celebrity brands...two female entertainers who are famously troubled, but whose brands are affected in different ways.

First, Lindsay Lohan, who recently denied having done drugs. Honestly, even if she did, I am 99% sure it doesn't affect her brand. Why? Because Lohan has always been an out of control type party girl. That is her brand promise --trouble. I don't foresee any negative impact on her career at all. That doesn't mean that her behavior is OK, but it does mean that in the marketplace, you are judged on how well you align to your brand -- even if your brand is a negative one. Her movies will still get insured--no worries--and her movie "I Know Who Killed Me" is going to be a major hit. (Predictions are that ticket sales will be even higher than projected due to interest in her personal life.)

Now, Britney Spears is another matter. Her career may as well be over. It's not because she keeps doing strange, out of control things--like letting her dog poop on a designer dress at a recent photo shoot, running off with her kids to Vegas in the middle of a custody battle, or, of course, shaving her head--but because her brand is all to do with innocence. We used to trust Britney to be an innocent teen who, although she pushed the boundaries a bit, was fundamentally a good girl. Now she has gone completely over the edge. From that, her brand cannot recover.

Strangely, the press is reporting that Britney recently called Lindsay to empathize over their mutual problems. I wonder if that call was made out of Britney's desperate hope to be a soul sister with someone whose career is on the rise despite having her image trashed in public.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

When obsession is good and bad for the brand

Steve Jobs hates buttons on computers and electronics gadgets, and even his clothes, reports the Wall Street Journal, because they create too much complexity. Read the article to find out the details, but one point stands out: Jobs is obsessed with getting rid of buttons.

My point is, this obsession has been good for the Apple brand in that it has created a point of relevant differentiation -- i.e. it's a different approach to technology and people like it -- but bad in that it's gone too far, especially with the lack of a keypad on the iPhone.

Results? Early iPhone sales are disappointing, although not everyone is concerned that this means the phones are a bust.

Marketing experts are having fun disagreeing on the prospects for the gadget. My prediction: it will be a big flop.

Harley Davidson marketing to women - what a mistake!

Harley-Davidson is ruining its brand. As reported by the New York Times, the company is chasing the female market, which is reportedly the "fastest-growing part of the motorcycle business, buying more than 100,000 of them a year." Harley is changing the motorcycles to be more comfortable for women, selling female-oriented clothing ("bright colors and with rhinestones"), etc. What a mistake! Harley is the quintessential brand for men. They should start a "sister" brand for women, not mess with the original.

Red Lobster - brand operationalization, at least in part

Red Lobster is setting itself back on course, reports the New York Times, with a major brand makeover that's taking it from "frumpy and downscale" to a more upscale operation. What's noteworthy to me is how intelligently they designed the change - first focusing on operational improvement, then on changing the image with the public. See quote from the story below:
"Kim Lopdrup, president of Red Lobster, says that the marketing initiative is part of a three-stage effort to revamp the brand. The first phase involved improving operations so that customers got what they ordered and did not have to wait too long. The second phase is aimed at changing the public image and perception. The third part will be dedicated to increasing sales at existing restaurants and perhaps adding locations."
The only question I have for Red Lobster is, did they revamp operations in a branded way - did they educate employees on the new image and how operational changes would enhance it - or did they just focus on straightforward customer service changes? Because it makes a difference...especially since (aside from the food) the restaurant is only as good as the kind of service provided by its waiters and waitresses.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Repairing the image of the Justice Department

Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez vows to stay at the Justice Department "to try to repair its broken image". In a prepared statement for the Senate Judiciary Committee he said:

"I believe very strongly that there is no place for political considerations in the hiring of our career employees or in the administration of justice," he said. "As such, these allegations have been troubling to hear. From my perspective, there are two options available in light of these allegations. I would walk away or I could devote my time, effort and energy to fix the problems. Since I have never been one to quit, I decided that the best course of action was to remain here and fix the problems."
This is either a very smart move or a very misguided one. I say smart because through his actions he is showing that he feels he is in the right, an assertion that people may ultimately accept. I say misguided because if people believe he is in the wrong then no amount of effort on his part will help the Department, other than to resign. Right now, his major problem is that public perception--rightly or wrongly--is that he is at the heart of the scandal.

If he is going to pursue this strategy my suggestion to Gonzalez is that he start his campaign by convincing employees of his rightness, because they are a critical audience to carry the message forward both internally and externally. First you clean up your house, then the rest of the world.

If Gonzalez does so, let's hope he fares better than former World Bank President Paul Wolfowitz, who, when he apologized to employees for providing professional help to a World Bank employee with whom he was involved (not that Gonzalez is apologizing), got booed and hissed with chants to "Resign. Resign."

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Sprint's copycat ad campaign

Remember Microsoft's ad campaign - Your Potential, Our Passion? Sprint's new ad campaign looks just like it, with people surrounded by neon streaks. Every time I see the Sprint ads I think of Microsoft and wonder, did Sprint copy Microsoft on purpose or are they just clueless? The new campaign doesn't detract from Microsoft; if anything, it reminds the viewer of just how brilliant the Microsoft ads were (to me, anyway). But Sprint is reduced to far less than it could be.

Brand heritage and Ford

Yesterday the Wall Street Journal published an interview with Ford CEO Alan Mulally, who is trying to turn the company around. He said that he has spoken to everybody about what to do:

"You talk to all the stakeholders, starting with the customers. You also look at the macro economics, the economy. You talk to customers, dealers, Ford employees, UAW, your suppliers, your investors, everybody."

I wonder, in all those conversations, did anybody talk about the brand? Because Ford's brand is dying. The "Bold Moves" campaign is a terrible betrayal of its brand heritage--affordable safety. ("Bold moves" are exactly the opposite of what a safety-conscious driver does.) Remember the Ford Taurus? A great car. And now there is talk of Ford selling Volvo, the brand that defines safety. What are they doing over there? Why don't they leverage the brand equity they have built up over time?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Federal agency branding - yes, it's allowed!

Some people may think that branding a federal agency is, quite simply, not allowed. This is because we are strictly prohibited from engaging in propaganda—meaning any activity done simply for "self-aggrandizement" or "puffery" of the agency itself. And isn’t that what brand-building is, simply the act of creating a well-known name?

Actually, no. Brand-building is about creating a very specific kind of relationship between an organization and its stakeholders, a relationship in which the stakeholders understand 1) that the organization exists 2) what an organization is promising to do for them and 3) what they must do in return to obtain goods or services from the organization (pay a fee, comply with specific rules, etc.). Ideally, to have strength, that relationship will be based on an image of the organization that is positive, high-level, and conceptually abstract—representing something more than just what the organization does on a day-to-day basis. For example, the Coast Guard arguably stands for “bravery,” not just “protecting the nation’s waterways.”

In a federal agency context, branding is accomplished through “disseminating information to the citizenry about the agency, its policies, practices, and products,” a role for public affairs that is specifically allowed by the Government Accountability Office. (Branding is also accomplished through the actions of the agency itself, but the public affairs officer has no control over that except to try and explain those actions.)

People who think agencies shouldn’t build a brand don’t understand the distinction between brand-building as a process and a brand as an outcome. The process is about sharing information to help key stakeholders understand what the organization is about and how they should relate to it. The outcome is indeed a well-known name that is associated with certain promises.

(Now, there can be a very fine line between disseminating information about what an agency is and does for the sake of promoting positive compliance with agency rules, and promoting that agency’s existence just for the sake of getting the public to be aware of the name. The difference has to do with intent.)

So far it may sound like agency branding begins and ends with citizen education initiatives. Yet this is far from the case, because the brand is shaped by all the communication that goes on about and around it. We can issue press releases on our website until we are blue in the face, but the fact of the matter is that the public is equally if not more influenced by others who are disseminating communication about us:
  • The press writes about our rules and requirements as well as any other story of interest to the public that concerns our agency;
  • Congress will hold hearings about programs, events, and incidents that affect our agency; and
  • The public will write about our communication and actions themselves, for example, in blogs and other social media vehicles such as Wikipedia.

All of those communications affect our brand because they affect the way the public understands and relates to us. So if we are to maintain a positive relationship with the public, in which the public understands who we are, what we do, and why we do it, we are responsible for engaging with all of these communicators to make sure that our message is clear. When we write op-eds in the press, respond to Congressional invitations to testify, and respond to citizen questions on our website, we are also branding the agency. Again, the end goal is to create and sustain a relationship with the public (not to mention our own employees) that is productive, leading to rules being followed with a sense of pride and enthusiasm for supporting the higher-level purpose of the agency.

If branding makes sense and is allowed, why does it seem to be in such short supply in the federal government? Perhaps this is due to the common, but misguided view that a public affairs officer’s job is limited to simply supplying information about particular incidents, events, and programs without telling a broader story about what the agency is, why it exists, and how those incidents, events, and programs work together. It is important to tell the larger story in order to impress upon the public mind that the agency is a cohesive whole, and not just an assortment of individual sub-departments dealing with isolated incidents. It is possible that many federal public affairs officers shy away from creating that bigger picture because they don’t want to be seen as promoting the agency for its own sake—that they are afraid of being seen as propagandizing.

The reality is, there are very few strong federal agency brands. And those brands that are strong—like the Coast Guard, the Secret Service, the FBI and the CIA—have become well-known not necessarily because of their public affairs offices, but because they have become visible through their extraordinary actions as portrayed in the news, on TV, and in the movies. For example, in the devastating aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, the Coast Guard rose to the rescue, with images of Coast Guard leadership saturating the media. And there have been many memorable portrayals of Secret Service, FBI and CIA agents in the movies and on TV.

Has anyone tried to build a federal agency brand from within a federal agency? No doubt many agencies are engaging in branding to some extent or another. But until we get rid of that dangerous misconception that branding is equivalent to propagandizing, they will likely encounter obstacles that prevent them from being fully successful.

The bottom line: for maximum effectiveness, federal agencies should engage in more than just providing information—they need to brand. Not for the sake of creating a name, but because it’s the way to build the best possible relationship they can with the American people—increasing compliance with agency rules and demonstrating to the taxpayer that their dollars are being invested wisely.

Transparency - key to a good brand

Today's New York Times has an item ("Let the Sun Shine," p. C1) that highlights the importance of transparency in government, and indicates that transparency is currently somewhat lacking. Apparently, a recent study by a private research group at George Washington University found that Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests at some agencies have been stalled for 15 years or more. (The article goes on to say that there are two bills afloat that are aimed at remedying the situation, and to detail their status on Capitol Hill.)

I am not advocating one way or the other for the passage of legislation, but just want to note that from a brand perspective the FOIA problem is troubling. For in order to build a good relationship with the public, the agency must build up a relationship of trust with them. And that trust depends on a free flow of information to the greatest extent that is legally possible. After all, government agencies are entrusted by the taxpayer to fulfill many critical missions. Those missions are the "brand promise." Therefore, taxpayers need to know to what extent those missions are being fulfilled--or not.

Now, being honest about possible shortcomings does not necessarily compromise the brand. An agency can theoretically be failing in its mission yet have strong brand equity with the public. The key question is, does the public trust that the agency is doing everything it possibly can, given the resources it has, to fulfill the mission?

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Informal Influence

A new article in Fortune magazine, "What's Your OQ," (7/23/07) talks about the importance of reaching employees through their informal social networks rather than through the formal chain of command. These networks are seen as key in persuading employees to make needed cultural changes.

An old article from the New York Times, "Brand Blogs Capture the Attention of Some Companies," talks about informal channels of influence that people have on brands (such as Starbucks and Netflix) by starting blogs dedicated to those brands. Other consumers read them and the brand owners themselves sometimes turn to the bloggers for advice.

What both of these articles have in common is the recognition that formal corporatespeak, and formal rules, regulations, and channels of communication, are a turnoff. People want to hear from other people like themselves--that's what motivates them to listen and possibly change their behaviors. As the NYT article says, a Yankelovich marketing survey found that

"a third of all consumers would prefer to receive product information from friends and specialists rather than from advertising."
This is something to keep in mind for branding, whether internally or externally. Employees and consumers alike want to hear from real people, not the PR department. So the marketing has to be doubly sophisticated...recruiting regular people to spread the word virally. Now even as I write this it sounds like old news, don't we all know that already. But how many brand initiatives actually turn to real people to spread the word? For example, how many companies have set up internal and/or external blogs/wikis/communities of practice dedicated solely to letting real people discuss the brand?

You are thinking that the reason they haven't is the fear of nasty words. If we open the floodgates, the fear goes, people will rush in to destroy the kingdom. But that fear is not well founded. As the NYT article mentioned, even in a blogging environment, people are likely to steer the discussion in a balanced direction. And as I heard at the recent Government Communicators Conference, this includes correcting others who seem to be veering off the path. I also recently heard presentations by IBM and STRATCOM (U.S. Strategic Command) to the effect that they have numerous internal blogs and have never had a problem with inappropriate comments.

So let's get to the real fear--the fear of not being good enough. Branders are afraid that they are not executing well on the brand promise and that is why consumers (and/or their own employees) can't be relied upon to act as ambassadors in informal settings. So they turn to marketing collateral like advertising, posters, brochures, newsletters and the like to try and "control" the conversation and the impressions that people get. The truth is, all of that may succeed in getting someone initially interested in the brand. But to keep the brand going, there has to be independent validation of it by the target audience.

A good example of this is the iPhone. Great great ad campaign leading up to its launch. But then people started questioning whether it lives up to the hype. I saw one blog posting talking about the hidden costs behind the contract that AT&T imposes for using the service. Another question arose about how well the internet connection worked. A third issue I heard about was the keyboard--not a great typing experience. So for me the initial impression was great, but subsequent informal feedback made me want it a lot less.

How could Apple do better? How about addressing all these points through public usability testing...set up a news conference or create an ad and let us watch people work through all these issues. For goodness sake, even have the AT&T rep on hand to answer questions. And then if the issues are persistent, redesign the phone or the AT&T contract or the internet connection to work as well as the initial hype suggested.

That's good branding in a nutshell--keep your promises and let the public keep you honest if you aren't.

Going back to the subject of influencing employees--as was recently noted, one thing Apple did right with its employees was to give them each an iPhone for free. This is not only a gesture of goodwill but also of confidence in the product...because if they don't like it or can't use it they won't be able to sell it. Smart--even though it remains to be seen how it pays off.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

What is a brand?

A blog on branding should start by defining what a brand is.

Admittedly there are numerous definitions of brand out there.
  • The classic (or legal) view is that a brand is
    "A name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller's good or service as distinct from those of other sellers. The legal term for brand is trademark. A brand may identify one item, a family of items, or all items of that seller."
  • My view is that a brand is also an image held in the mind. Therefore, I go with this aspect of the definition, from Wikipedia:
    "A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to the product and serves to create associations and expectations around it."
Key takeaway: It is important to develop and protect the name/logo/sound/etc. of one's product or service, but it is more important to develop and protect the associations that people have with that name.

What I am interested in is, how do people--including brand producers, brand consumers, and brand commentators--co-create this image that people hold in their minds?