What is a Brand?

What is a brand?

Loaded question, I know.

I’m not talking about “what brand are those shoes?” Let’s think about it in the marketing sense of the word. In the “we need a re-brand!” context.

Wikipedia defines brand as “a name, term, design, symbol or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.” That’s not bad, actually. But it’s not quite enough.

When I worked in the agency world, sometimes a prospect would come to us and say, “we need a new brand!” which usually meant “we need a new website!” Often, after a bit of conversation, we’d realize they really needed more than a website. The conversation then becomes more about perception and sentiment—the feeling someone gets when they hear your company or school name.

How would you define a brand? What makes up a brand? If your answer involves messaging, logos, digital properties, and such…you’re wrong.

Well, maybe not completely wrong. You’re right. But you’re also wrong.

All those things make up what we might call “a brand” while we’re gathered around a conference table.

Those elements are part of it. But they’re not really what a brand is. As I’ve worked at companies large and small, I’ve learned that a brand isn’t exactly what you think it is.

So what is it?

Your brand is the kind of people your company culture attracts.

Your brand is time spent building personal connections without trying to sell anything.

Your brand is when you let the strengths of your company shine through, and you don’t try to portray it as something it’s not.

Your brand is what people think when they see someone wearing your company t-shirt.

Your brand is what people say when they learn where you work.

Now that’s a brand. Sure, it’s over-simplified, but don’t we all need to simplify sometimes? (Spoiler: all the time).

It’s far too easy to get stuck in traditional definitions and forget what really makes your company distinct.

When I’ve been involved in seeing companies rise to the top of their fields, it’s because they realized a brand is so much more than logos and websites.

It’s a noisy world, and everyone’s trying to stand out. But most people are trying in all the wrong ways.

So the next time someone says, “we need a new brand,” break the shackles of traditional definitions, and see where it takes you.

Author’s Note: The opinions expressed in this blog are my own views and not of Workday.

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Jeremiah Barba
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