What is a brand?

What is a brand? The elements that make a successful brand

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What is a brand?

You will no doubt be aware that building up good brand awareness is vital for any business to succeed. It really isn't rocket science to develop a great brand identity but it does need a lot of hard work and dedication.

But what is a Brand?


A brand promise - never break it!

There are many elements that go into a brand. There are the obvious physical products and services that a business provides, then there are the more intangible elements. e.g.

How does the customer feel when they engage with your service/product? 

What do you want them to think when they see your brand?

At its very centre of any brand though is the brand promise, which is saying - This is what you will get when you buy or use our service.

A brand promise is nothing if it’s not followed through with action on your part, and it is important not to have a promise which tries to be everything to everyone. Focus on one thing that encapsulates your service or product and you must be sure that you can meet this promise each and every time. As soon as you break it, your brand is in jeopardy.

Some examples of brand promises:

  • Apple: “Think different.”
  • BMW: “The Ultimate Driving Machine”
  • Nike: “To bring inspiration and innovation to every athlete in the world.”

Building up your brand

Have you heard the phrase 'guns don't kill people, people do'?

Well, 'companies don't build brands, people do'.

A brands perception is built by its customers, not by the brand itself. Through talking to friends about your brand, leaving reviews on websites and using their purchasing power, consumers influence your brand and how it is perceived by the wider world. You need to make sure that everything you do, moulds these perceptions to reflect your brands promise.

I'm going to use Apple as an example here again.

Apple have managed to build a following so strong, that it has almost become a religion to some. They set themselves apart from being 'just another computer company' and into a fashion statement and a way of life. They made their products the must have piece of tech for those that wanted usability and style.

This was pretty much all down to one man's drive and insistence on sticking to the brand promise 'think different', that man was Steve Jobs. At the forefront of his mind on every decision was the end user and how a piece of technology could help them achieve something in as simple a way as possible - user experience and interaction.

Through rigidly sticking to his principles and brand ethos he has built up a global community of people who won't by any piece of technology unless it is Apple branded.

Customer expectation - Meet and exceed it

When you come up with your brand promise, you better deliver. If you are promising the best, the fastest, the most reliable then your customers expect to get just that. If you don't meet, or even exceed the expectations of the customer EVERY SINGLE TIME you can rest assured they will move onto someone else in order to see if they will deliver on their promise.

You will often only get one chance to deliver, so you need to make sure that everyone involved in your brand, from management to the delivery guy is fully aware of the core values and promises that need to be closely followed.

An example of blowing a brand promise would be when Volkswagen were using software to trick emissions tests to make their cars look as though they were giving off lower emission than they actually were.

This has had a massive impact on their brand image and created trust issues with a largely loyal buyer audience. In fact, it has had a massive knock-on effect for a number of car brands. One small cog in a mammoth chain has completely removed trust from a long-standing global brand.

Volkswagen emissions cartoon

Your brand purpose

Another important element to a brand is its purpose.

Every brand has its tangible branding elements such as the logo, the website, the adverts, the flyers and so on. These are great for raising your brands awareness but it isn't what triggers people to buy from you, that comes down to building a brand persona that can speak to the buyer. That can relate, empathise and meet them on their level.

Many times your product will be of a similar quality and price to a competitor, so with that being said what makes the customer buy from you and not your competitor? The answer to that is that they can relate to your brand, they buy into what you are doing. They buy into your WHY!

Now, I could go on and give a lengthy explanation of the WHY, but why do that when there is already someone out there that has said it better than anyone ever could, Simon Sinek. You REALLY have to watch his TED talk on what makes a successful brand through figuring out what your WHY is.

The full presentation is 18 minutes long, however, I know that a lot of you have very busy schedules so at the very least, you should watch the 5 minute edit of of his Start With Why presentation.

The building blocks of the brand

All of the things that we have talked about in this article need to work cohesively as a whole in order for your brand to succeed. Each element of your brand, the tangible and the intangible has to be supportive of one another or it all comes tumbling down.

You must always be working on your brand to keep its stability. be a custodian of the brand promise and its persona so that it can change if needs be to organically grow as your brand grows. This is most important for very young and new brands.

It can take years to get a solid footing and a concrete message out there so you should expect to have to shift things around as your interaction with the public impacts on your brand.

I have only touched the tip of the iceberg on the points above and will go into each point in more detail in future blog posts.

For now though, the information presented here will hopefully give you a better insight into the inner workings of the brand and what you should look to be doing with your own brand.

If you have any feedback or questions I'd be really happy to answer them in the comments section below.