You have no idea what branding is.  

I don’t know, either.

I don’t know that anyone does, actually. At least definitively.

I think “brand” is one of the most misunderstood, inconsistently defined words on the planet.

Some people think it’s the logo. Others think it’s the vision statement. Some think it’s advertising and promotion. Others think it’s packaging. Others think it’s the essence, the position, and all those other frilly words . . . . of the company.  

For sake of simplicity, I’ll just say that the brand is the overall impression, and all that implies, of your company/product/service.

Branding is what makes . . . .

  • Target so different than Wal-Mart.
  • Apple so different than Microsoft.
  • Coke so different than Pepsi.
  • Barack so different from Hilary.
  • Kentucky so different from New York.
  • Half-Price Books so different from Barnes & Noble.
  • Dunkin Donuts so different from Starbucks.
  • Baptists so different from Pentecostals.
  • Ozarka water so different from Fuji water.
  • T.D. Jakes’ church so different from Charles Stanley’s church.
  • Me so different from you.

So I guess if you can define all the differences among these groups, you’ll have a pretty good definition of branding.

I’ll stick with it being the overall impression. Or mabye better, branding is the difference.

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16 Responses to “Branding is “the difference””

  1. impactiviti says:

    Brett,

    For what it’s worth, here’s my take on “What is Branding?”

    http://brandimpact.wordpress.com/2006/10/16/words/

    I think we are pretty much in agreement…!

    - Steve Woodruff

  2. bdunc1 says:

    Steve – great breakdown on your article. Thanks for passing it along.

  3. [...] Branding is “the difference” [...]

  4. Spike says:

    You’re dead on. “Brand” is a word we try to stay away from because it means so many different things to so many different people. For us, we use the word “identity” because it allows us to talk about the entire makeup of a company’s personality – the experience. Not just “touchpoints” and “logos” and “collateral.” Your identity is the way to speak, the words you use, the words you stay the hell away from, your clothes, what you drive, where you work, who your friends are, what you do in your spare time, what you look like, what you smell like – yes, the overall impression. That’s your identity.

  5. bdunc1 says:

    Spike – thanks for the comment. By the way, I heard you at the Direct Selling meeting in Washington back in December, and thought you were great! And you’re a Dallas guy, and that’s always a good thing.

  6. You raise a really important point: no two people define “brand” the same way, yet companies spend zillions of dollars on “it” without everyone necessarily agreeing on (or fully understanding) the value of the expenditure. We marketers look at brand in terms of thoughts and feelings, when the rest of the company lives in the real world of actions and reactions; it’s as if we speak two different languages. This difference became clear to me when I read your list of “Branding is what makes…” Doesn’t reality differentiate the businesses, and not the branding constructs? Wal-Mart is about to become not-so-different from Target, based on its new business strategy. Kohl’s is stocking products to chase the same customer, as is Penney. Apple is different from Microsoft not because of its branding, per se, but because it makes machines and software that are fundamentally different from the Wintel makers. Barack isn’t different from Hillary because of how he looks as much as what he says. Isn’t behavior — by businesses, and by consumers — what differentiates one brand from another? Maybe if we marketers were less concerned about the black boxes of human consciousness — or understanding them as tactics, not ultimate goals — and spent more time influencing actual behaviors, internal and external, perhaps the other depts in companies might not only better understand and embrace branding, but pitch in? Just a thought…

  7. bdunc1 says:

    Jonathan – really good points.

    Overall, I think you are right about marketers going overboard with the thoughts and feelings, rather than actions and reactions. The worst case would be worrying more about the pantone colors of your logo than your conversion rate on your website.

    But, I don’t think you can separate thoughts and feelings from the actions and reactions. What I think about Wal-Mart makes me react to it in a certain way. How they act toward me affects my thoughts and feelings, and the cycle begins.

    Ultimately, as a consumer, I’m going to buy something that makes me feel better in some way. It might be logical, it might be material, it might be completely selfish. But ultimately, it makes me feel better in some way.

  8. Hey,
    I love what you’e doing!
    Don’t ever change and best of luck.

    Raymon W.

  9. bdunc1 says:

    Raymon – Thanks!

  10. RandyJones says:

    Looks Like Dallas is in trouble!
    Phoenix might end up blowing them all away.

    PHX vs. Det. Hmmm..Could be interesting?

  11. bdunc1 says:

    Randy – Dallas will be fine.

  12. StephenG says:

    Hey,
    Really nice site you got here.
    I’ll come back more often and check it out.
    Peace!

  13. Kenneth says:

    Just a short note to say I like your blog.

    Good job and keep up the great work!

    Kenneth

  14. [...] if branding is “the difference,” then it’s the strategy that identifies those differences and determines how to act on [...]

  15. [...] Brett’s note: This post is part of a series known as The Vault, which looks back periodically at some of the better moments of MarketingInProgress.com. This post was originally posted on February 17, 2007.  [...]

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