Ask Mary ~
Question: What does the term “brand” actually mean?
I love this question! For three reasons: First, because leaders need to understand this concept. Second, I appreciate people asking fundamental questions. Third, there’s a lot of misuse and misunderstanding of this now ubiquitous term, hence my reader’s puzzlement. Here’s my take on the subject. Guess what? It’s a new term for a timeless concept. As long as there have been organized commercial efforts to sell goods and services, “brands” have been part of that process. Fundamentally, it is the effort to distinguish your products from others. It used to be called “image” or “identity.” Before that it was called “reputation.” What has changed is our highly escalated state of media saturation. We now have print, electronic, cell phone, video, special events, viral campaigns, and more. There are so many ways to be seen, heard, and known, especially visually. We are in a new landscape of intense competition and extreme exposure. The term “branding” evolved to capture the gestalt of it all.
Note to Leaders ~
It is crucial that you personally understand branding. You cannot “leave it to the marketing people.” You cannot delegate the strategic management of your company’s identity. The term has become an essential concept in our management and marketing lexicon. I invite you to join me in clarifying its use and meaning. For a good primer, start with this excellent wikipedia overview.
Branding is a big iceberg, and this is just the proverbial tip.
As always, I invite your feedback and comments.