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What is a Brand? An Eye-opening Definition

What is a brand? This is one of those questions in business that has an indirect answer. When you ask a marketing or business expert to define a brand you usually get an answer explaining the importance of branding, brand equity or even giving you examples of great brands.

According to David Ogilvy who is widely regarded as the Father of Advertising, a brand is:

“the intantigble sum of a product’s attributes”

This definition stands out and works for advertising professionals but what does it mean? As someone who has worked in marketing for many years, I have seen how brands are built and emotion is an important part of your brand image.

Here is my definition of a brand: A brand is the human aspect of a product or business

Think about Uber and the #DeleteUber movement, at first, the Uber brand was all about mobility, convenience and innovation which gave people a reason to love it. Then once people got to know the inner workings, the lies, deceit, and harassment, they started to hate it.

When people talk about brand equity they are referring to the process of building something meaningful through great products and services that result in customer loyalty, referrals, and customers willing to pay more for your products and services.

In this article, I will remove all the fluff surrounding a brand and give a real-world definition you can use.

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What is a Brand?

What is a brand

There are several definitions of the word ‘brand’. For the purpose of this article, we will look at the definitions that are related to products, services and the many companies that I’m sure you are building. The Oxford Dictionary defines it in the following ways:

  • A type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name.
    • A brand name.
    • A particular identity or image regarded as an asset.

The American Marketing Association defines it as an overall experience that differentiates an organization and the products or services it offers to customers.

As you can imagine, there are different types of branding strategies, each with its own purpose and outcomes. But more importantly, its importance cannot be underestimated today especially with the hundreds of millions of products that exist in the world.

One incredible thing I have noticed about strong brands is that they stand for something, Apple is all about creativity, innovation and unique design whereas Amazon is all about focusing on being the most customer-centric company.

Even though Apple also focuses on being customer-centric, Amazon chooses to highlight this in the way they behave and the products they produce.

In this article, we will discuss three main things. The first is why branding is important in the first place. Secondly, we will talk about brand names and how to protect them. Then lastly, we will conclude with ideas on how to build your brand.

Importance of Branding

As I mentioned above, a brand is the human aspect of a product, service, or business as a whole. We explained in our previous article on brand personality that major brands use clever branding to appeal to consumers through emotion.

Building a brand is important because it is one of the only ways to create a strong affinity with your customers and differentiate yourself from the competition.

Another reason why branding is so important is that it is an asset. An asset that should be protected and defended. It’s like having a house and making sure that, especially at night, the doors are always locked, and that no one is trying to break into your house.

Installing some kind of security system, in this case, a registered trademark ensures that no one is benefitting from all the work you are putting in to grow and develop your brand.

We will talk more about protecting a brand in the next section. But it is important to know that you can license or rent a brand to someone else who wants to use it.

Without getting into too much of the details, sometimes the only thing of importance in your company may be that brand name that you have worked hard to make recognizable.

Brand Name Importance

Any discussion about branding that does not include intellectual property (IP) protection is not worth having. If you spend several months, years and a lot of money to build a brand without protecting it, you may very well be doing all that work for someone else. I’ll explain more about this in the next paragraph.

If you searched for all the trademarks that the Microsoft Corporation owns, you would see an unending list of marks for different products and services. 

On a basic level, you probably know that if you started a software company called Microsoft, you most likely wouldn’t be able to keep that name for long; especially if you decided to register it in your country’s intellectual property office.

But did you know that in most countries, the process of registering a trademark is as easy as filling out some forms and paying the necessary fees? In the UK, it costs £170 to register a mark in one class; and an additional £50 for more classes. So if you wanted to protect the mark ‘Big Software’ in three classes, in any of the 45 classes of goods and services, you would be paying £270.

One major downside to filling your own trademark application is that if your application is challenged by an existing rights holder, you may then need to get professional help.

To be clear, none of this constitutes legal advice. You’re always better off speaking to a lawyer about IP. The local library in my city even offers free 30-minute advice sessions for anyone to ask IP questions to a lawyer.

These can include questions about copyrights, registered designs and patents. The only advice I will give is to do your homework on what it is you want to protect. That way, you can come prepared with all the best questions and make use of the time. 30 minutes goes by fast!

Examples of Good Brand Names

In my view, the most important reason to register a mark is that it gives you the rights to use that mark in the category(s) that it was registered in.

From my understanding, if you registered the ‘Big Software’ name in the clothing category, no one else can register it without first getting your approval. So assuming no one else has registered it in the education and entertainment category, they can still use it.

The most recent example for a good brand name is in the show Shark Tank. In the episode, the founders registered the name ‘Hill Billy’ in the clothing category.

I’ve never even lived in the US, but this name was strong enough to bring images to my mind. They were planning on creating their own clothing brand with the name.

But the sharks advised them to licence that name to bigger players in the clothing business and beyond; because it was so powerful and distinct, and many in the US already knew the name. So in short, you need to protect your brand name so that no one else can use it without your permission.

Conclusion: What is a brand?

A brand is the human aspect of a product or business. It gives people a reason to love it or hate it. uilding a brand takes years of work. It involves consistently producing stellar products and services that people find valuable. Additionally, a strong brand is one that is protected.

Read about trademarks and register it when you are ready. Otherwise, you might need to change the name that you love. Or worse; end up paying someone to use the name.

I cannot stress enough the importance of doing your research in the area of branding and trademarks. There are countless videos that talk about things like ‘trademark fails’ and other issues to avoid.

I recently found a YouTube channel that compiles all the times the topic of IP was mentioned in Shark Tank. Search “trademark factory shark tank” to see the list. There is even commentary in the video.

Hopefully, by giving you an introduction to this fascinating area, and pointing you towards more resources, you can avoid them. Looking forward to hearing about your brand in the near future 🙂

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