What is a brand anyway?

“What is a brand?” is a question I’m often asked. It seems that “brand” is one of those terms that is widely used and often misunderstood.


“Isn’t a brand a logo?”


I hear this a lot. While a logo is a symbolic representation of a brand (and an important part of your business’s visual identity), it is not the brand itself.


How do I define a brand?  


Basically a brand is the personality of a business:

  • It has a name

  • It wears clothes (design)

  • It communicates (positioning)

  • It has beliefs and values (brand promise)

  • It has associates and friends (target market)

  • It’s known (brand awareness)


Just as a person is more than their appearance or name, a brand is more than a logo or title. It’s the collective of these elements that creates a brand—stories, interactions, experiences, perceptions, relationships, memories…


Why do you need a brand?


Whether you’re aware of it or not, your business already has a brand. As said by author Jonah Sachs, “Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touch points”. People are making judgements about who your business is based on their interactions with it. Is your website easy to navigate? Are your staff friendly? Does your return policy live up to its claims? This leaves you with two options:


  1. Keep your head in the sand, pretend your brand doesn’t exist and leave it to chance

  2. Educate yourself, become aware and intentional about the story you’re telling


What can you do to improve your brand?


The first step is to become aware of your brand. Like self-awareness, brand-awareness means taking time to understand who your business is. In today’s world, there are several other businesses all doing the same exact thing as you. Why do you do what you do? How do you do it? What makes you unique? (I highly recommend Simon Sinek’s TED talk as a good place to start)


If you know the reason why you exist, beyond the product or service you offer, customers who share your belief will gravitate to you. They’ll identify with your brand and want to be associated with you.


This is why we’re willing to pay a premium for an Apple computer, hit up Starbucks instead of the local coffee shop, or be decked out from head-to-toe in team colours during playoff season.


These products, services or teams aren’t necessarily better than the competition but we identify with them—they make us feel something.


A strong brand is intentional. It needs to be applied across all platforms and embraced by all stakeholders in the company. This doesn’t happen by accident and often requires outside help to facilitate and guide the process. In my experience, investing in a brand is what takes good companies and makes them great.