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Branding 101: What Is a Brand, Anyway?
By: Mark E. Brown
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I was on a conference call last week with the Chief Marketing Officer of a $500-million-a-year retail company when she made a comment about branding that surprised me. She said that if her boss were to ask her what the definition of a brand is, she would not be able to truthfully answer the question.
She said there is so much confusion about Brand vs. Brand Image vs. Brand Responsiveness vs. Brand Extension and on and on that she even she is really not sure what the definition of "brand" is anymore.
We spent the next 20 minutes of the conversation reviewing some of the basic terminology about branding. I thought it might be helpful to provide a quick primer on the definition of our favorite term “brand.” Now, I know that no one seems to agree on just what a brand is, but we have to start somewhere so I thought I would give it try.
First, let's start with a definition from the trusty American Marketing Association. The AMA defines a 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."
Sounds easy enough, right? Well, how about a definition from the haughty Brand Names Education Foundation (don’t ask me about them, I just happen to be on their email list). The foundation defines brand as “a highly compressed communicator.” According to the BNEF, brands “deliver rich bursts of information that ease, speed, and reduce the costs of transactions, enabling the economy to function more efficiently.” Wow. I hope they are a non-profit foundation.
And then there is the European Brands Association, which states that a “brand is a constant point of reference; a contract, a signpost, a relationship.” Well, okay, I think I kind of get it.
Of course, there are dozens and dozens of other brand definitions. I am a big advocate of "keep it simple," so I tend to always go with the AMA definition; straightforward, easy to understand, and clear.
Next week, I will dive into some of the differences between brand concepts, brand extensions, and brand perceptions.

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About the Author

Mark E. Brown is a personal branding expert, professional speaker, and business growth advisor. He has owned a number of award winning ad agencies and is the founder of Mark Brown Strategies, a communications and marketing agency. You can follow Mark on Twitter and on Linkedin.  

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