What is a Brand, and Branding?
We all know what a 'brand' is... or do we? When asking for a definition to both a 'brand' and 'branding', the results may vary depending on whom you ask. As such, we felt it may be useful to curate a glossary of industry terminology and agreed definitions.
Leading branding experts are constantly tweaking definitions and crafting new phrases to keep up to date. In 2017, Marty Neumeier released a A-Z of brand terms including well over 1000 entries. Whilst undoubtedly useful, we've narrowed down such a list to cut to the core of what we believe to be some of the most relevant entries for clients and designers.
Firstly, let's look at the two leading terms, a Brand, and Branding.
A brand is the physical representation of a company's offerings and values. It can exist subjectively in an person's mind. Think of a brand as the mix of tangible and intangible attributes that are symbolized by a trademark that can be managed to create value for organisations and customers.
The main influence of a brand is a person's comparison of their perception of a brand to the promises made by it. This is formed through experiences and interactions with their organization, product, and/or service.
With the 'Brand' defined, we then look at the art of Branding.
Branding involves creating, selecting, and blending attributes to differentiate a business, product, or service in a meaningful and compelling way.
Effective branding uses consistent themes that will align with the brand promise(s) to build customer faith and loyalty.
In an overcrowded market place, having the best product or service doesn't guarantee success. Strong brands can rise to the top, and generate untouchable momentum. To achieve such brand prowess, there are a wide array of topics to be aware of. Without further ado, here's our A-Z of terminologies to be aware of:
The A-Z of everything else.
It's been said that a brand ambassador is like an extension of the company, living and breathing it. They're responsible for telling people about what your product has to offer while also defending you in any way they can whenever someone attacks or criticises you. This type of individual not only represents your business but embodies the beliefs behind its purpose- which means every word out their mouth should be carefully chosen!
While working with marketers shifts from being all about advertising to focusing on customer experience, ambassadors have become increasingly important because these are often our best representatives as well as advocates for our brands both online and off - meaning we want them looking, and communicating sharp at all times!
Based on Carl Jung's theory that humans use symbolism to be able to understand larger concepts, 12 archetype categories have been defined to group brands that share universally recognizable traits, behaviours and attitudes.
The 12 Jungian archetypes, based on Carl Jung’s theory of symbolism, are used to categorize brands. These categories allow the brand and target audience a deeper connection and understanding through their shared symbolic identification.
The 12 archetypes are known as: The Caregiver, Creator, Everyman, Explorer, Hero, Innocent, Jester, Lover, Magician, Rebel, Ruler, and the Sage.
This term refers to an organisational system that defines how each brand within a company relates and interacts to one another. Typically, it shows the company and brand hierarchy while defining the function of each brand within this structure.
It is useful to have a defined Brand Architecture to provide clarity, while enabling companies to differentiate their brand elements and be intentional about managing brand equity.
These include the colours, resources, fonts, and animations that must harmonise to create a distinctive appearance for the brand. It is the collection of brand assets that creates an identity that is truly cohesive, yet it is worth noting that each individual can often stand by itself to garner recognition of a particular brand—for example the unique font associated with Disney can paint a picture from one typeface alone.
Attributes are the qualities that make a brand recognisable, and unique. They help form the tone of a brand, informing how communications should flow (a foundation for internal culture).
The brand attributes are able to define the personality, and qualities, of a brand within the consumers mind.
This is a thorough inspection of a brand, to help identify any weaknesses and uncover opportunities. Audits focus on performance, positioning, and utilise insights from the target audience(s).
A useful brand audit will allow teams to recalibrate their brand towards clear and concise goals—ensuring the true brand essence flows throughout their output.
Simply put, this is how aware the world is of your brand. Brand awareness can refer to how much of your target market know, understand, and recognise your brand.
Not to be confused with discoverability (how easy it is for a brand to be discovered), this term in-fact refers a process of examining a brand objectively to establish its role within their market. It allows us to gain insight into how consumers may be motivated by brand communications to prompt purchases and loyalty.
It is a useful activity as it can reveal the most valuable offerings from the perspective of the customer, while highlighting strengths and weaknesses.
A brand's equity is the value of its financial and non-financial assets, like how well-known it is. If people know, trust, and feel good about a brand, they will want to buy things from it.
It is often summarised as:
The value of a brand’s financial and non-financial assets measured by its quality of public awareness and influence.
The way a brand is created in the mind of a customer/stakeholder through all experiences and interactions with or involving the brand. Note that two individuals can experience the same touch points yet form different 'brand experiences'.
Some experiences are controlled, like brick and mortar stores, advertising campaigns and materials, products/services, and the brand website(s).
Other experiences are uncontrolled like press coverage and word of mouth. A strong brand arises from consistent experiences that combine to form a clear differentiated overall experience for the brand.
Once brand equity has been established, it can leverage the values of the brand to push into new sectors or markets. It is an intentional act of increasing offerings.
A Marty Neumeier favourite: The 'gap' between a companies creative strategies and their business is their 'brand gap'. To bridge such a gap, there must be a clear, thorough brand identity that brings creativity and strategy together to create more meaningful impact with customers.
Often packaged in a 'Brand Book', the brand guidelines are a comprehensive list of rules and information defining the principles of a brand—and how it should communicate to the world.
The guidelines will help guide team members and external affiliates how to correctly use brand assets and act in accordance with the rules of the brand. It can establish how elements fit together, and how each asset should be used, varied, or applied in various scenarios.
The standing point for such guidelines is usually defining the brand pyramid, a collection of core attributes of the brand.
Quite simply, to harmonise a brand is to ensure that all services, and/or products in a specified brand range are consistent with one another. For example, it may be using similar naming conventions, matching graphic design styles, and also how the services and products are marketed or positioned in the same markets.
Such harmony helps audiences easily recognise related offerings, leveraging on the popularity of other brand products to boost the rest of the range. It also ensures that brand communications can be kept consistent, without any new offerings disobeying previously set guidelines, or confusing audiences.
Often, brands may be housed within other brands. A hierarchy clearly states the architecture of such brands, and defines a system based on public perception, size, financial value, and/or performance. An example would be that Cadbury's is a parent brand with a sub-brand of a 'Crunchie' chocolate bar.
Each chocolate bar brand is housed under Cadbury's, and sometimes those Chocolate bars will have special edition spin-offs that will be housed under their appropriate sub-brand.
The identity is how a brand is seen and heard in the market. It is built upon the distinguishing messaging and key visual elements that appeal to their customers. Usually the core identity is built upon the brand name, logos, slogans, trademarks, typography, and also the brand tone.
A strong identity will cement a brand's position in the market, pushing forward the brand values and messaging clearly. Your identity should clearly differentiate you from competitors in the same space.
A user will usually base your brand image on how well your product or service meets their expectations. Non-users may decide your brand image based on their assumptions, or through word of mouth.
The image is controlled by customers, not the organisation, so it's important to communicate what your brand stands for clearly—as you'll want the customer perception to match this.
Brand management is concerned with all tangible and intangible elements that are involved in representing or aiding the brand experience.
The aim is to maximise the value of the brand. Often this practice will set goals such as increasing brand loyalty, or furthering brand awareness—and use various analytical and executional techniques to enhance the brand over time.
A brand map, or 'perception map', is a visual tool to jot out all elements of a brand to showcase a top-level view of each important cog. It includes offerings, pricing, team member roles, and the brand purpose. It is often useful to include brand maps in onboarding processes or training exercises, as a useful visual tool to articulate key information.
Imagine your brand as a person, by assigning human traits to your brand you can drive customer connection and differentiate a brand from competitors.
The personality traits will manifest through how the brand communicates, how the teams behind the brand behave and act, and how the brand is visually presented (such as on social media, or even product packaging).
This is a key step in the brand pyramid, that lays down the foundations of a brand.
The position of a brand is a strategic space that a brand occupies (or aims to occupy) in a competitive business environment. A good position allows a brand to be identified and favoured over competitors.
To achieve good brand positioning, there must be thoughtful and meaningful strategic marketing powering a brand, to communicate the unique impression with customers and cement it in a desirable space.
A great example of this is Red Bull, an energy drink that has driven so many exciting adrenaline sports sponsorship deals instead of typical events and canvasing. The position of Red Bull has the name synonymous with brilliant f1 engineering and racing, intense space dives, and even league disrupting football teams—it's more than just a caffeinated drink provider.
When a brand is actively chosen over another due to particular reasoning, it becomes the brand of preference. Powerful brands can successfully launch new products or services and gain loyal consumers from the weight of their brand name alone.
Building a brand and showing it to the world is no longer enough. In a crowded market place, especially virtually, brand's need to carefully curate marketing and operations strategies to communicate as planned and create intended reactions from the market. Strategy has long-term vision, and puts purpose behind brand actions.
Coca-Cola's Brand Valuation is over $80 Billion dollars, but what is this based on? It is not just the sales alone, as often a Brand Value will vastly exceed yearly profit figures.
The brand valuation is based on how much the brand would cost to purchase, based on its worth in the market. It is an estimated figure based on all tangible and intangible assets that a brand can bring to a company. As already discussed, some people will trust a product based on the brand name alone, and not only that, they'll happily pay a premium for what they feel is the superior brand (and superior quality).
Not to be confused with the value of the brand, values are promises that guide a brand—their moral compass for decision making.
These internal values establish the brand's 'philosophy', so to speak. They guide decision making and behaviourism within the company. It is key that a brand sticks to their values as consumers are hyperaware of when brands compromise their principles and ultimately become untrustworthy.
Not all agencies are branding experts. A branding agency can specialize in strategic brand management, as well as brand design or redesign. The key focus on strategic positioning of a brand in competitive markets and amongst the minds of the target market differentiates branding specialists from traditional designers.
Branding services can also be known as a 'Corporate Identity', to define how the corporation is (and should be) perceived in the world.
When more than one brand supports a new service, venture, or product, it is defined as Co-branding. This strategically links the strengths and following/positioning from each brand involved to increase brand equity, while combining brand values for the consumers and reaching further markets through collaboration.
There is power in colours. Selecting the best combination of colours to communicate in a desirable way can help a brand evoke certain emotions or subconsciously suggest characteristics about the brand.
For example, using pink as a brand colour can imply fun, light-hearted messaging, compared to deep navy's that are usually associated with trust, security, and sombre messaging.
A brand's colour system contains the primary colour palettes for print and digital usage. It often contains supporting secondary, and even tertiary palettes for more complex applications. Using the colour system allows brand representatives to adhere to brand guidelines and communicate with consistency—with key knowledge about the usability and connected brand hierarchy rules.
This is simply a short statement about a non-descriptive brand name to clearly communicate the service or quality at the core of the brand's offerings. For example, Dr. Martens: Footwear, or Hersey's: Chocolate.
As expected, with regards to branding, this is the act of making a brand unique from competitor brands.
It is achieved through research, by identifying both gaps in the market and unique values of the brand that can be marketed to carve out a niche.
Similar to a sub-brand, an endorsed brand is one that users a parent or 'masterbrand' within its own brand name. This adds instant recognition to the brand yet clearly identifies it as a seperate product or service.
Popular examples of endorsed brand's would be that the 'Kit-Kat' is branded as the 'Nestle Kit-Kat', or 'Polo, by Ralph Lauren' as well as the popular game console 'Wii' having the full title of the 'Nintendo Wii'.
Some endorsed brand's become successful enough to shake off the parent brand and stand alone as a popular entity. For example, the 'Cadbury's Dairy Milk' chocolate bar is almost always known as purely the 'Dairy Milk' bar due to it being long-established and favoured on the market... whereas the 'Apple Watch' could never exist as an unendorsed brand with that name choice for obvious reasons.
EPI (Ethical Positioning Index).
Ethical Positioning Index: An index made from the fundamentals of brand positioning: Identity, Awareness, Communication, Personality, and Image. This is combined with ethical variables including values, beliefs, and customs to determine how ethically a brand is positioned.
This is a business model playing on the combination of 'Free' and 'Premium'. Typically, users are given free access/accounts, with the opportunity to upgrade to, or add, premium features at a cost. It is an extremely popular model in mobile gaming, but also is the core business model for LinkedIn, Dropbox, and Youtube—aside from their advertising revenue.
It is worth noting that many Freemium models—particular in gaming—deceptively try to lure users in with free access, until they've gotten a user hooked on their service, before then slowing down progress and usability to try and force a paid upgrade. There are ethical Freemium models, and generally the 'pay-to-play' style of Freemium causes a large public backlash. Outside of the gaming community, LinkedIn is on the cusp of fairness, with their Premium users able to access much more data and get a headstart on the competition with job opportunities and network growing.
Something typically advisable to avoid. A generic brand lacks brand assets and a recognizable logo, there's little differentiation in how it is positioned. If being used, Generic Brand's are also copycats to market leaders, but at cheaper price points. They have their place in the market to stop monopoly's or unfair high pricing from niche brands with (originally) no competitors.
Useful within brand guidelines, is the definition of a Graphic Style. This is the theme for graphic elements that is kept consistent to assure the brand is visually recognisable. This usually includes directions for images, colours, and typography.
For example, a Brand may use bright images with empty space and splashes of greenery, with a bold yellow colour central to the image—and supporting red text always in a certain font and style.
Icon / Iconography.
Iconography is the strategic direction and decisions made in regards to Icons. Icons are small graphic representations of a particular item, or function. Brand's often create unique icons that match their graphic style and can be instantly associated with their communications—for example the Facebook 'Like' icon can stand alone as a clear representation of the Facebook brand.
Side note: A Favicon is the icon used for a website, displayed next to the current web page that is open in a browser tab. The Favicon is usually the strongest brand representation, usually based around the main company trademark.
Simply, when brand's names are abbreviated—it's similar to an acronym but is unique as the name is pronounced by saying each individual letter rather than creating a word from the abbreviated letters.
NASA is an acronym, it is said out loud as "Naa-Saa".
CNN is an Initialism, each letter is pronounced.
Some elements of a brand cannot be touched, or assigned value to, these are known as 'Intangibles'.
Such assets may include copyrights, patents, design rights, databases or trademarks, and intangible attributes may be styles, shapes, smells, logos and brand names.
Marty Neumeier claims that branding professionals are consistently using the term 'logo' incorrectly. The widely used definition for a logo is an abbreviation of 'logotype', which is applied to all trademarks.
Neumeier argues that Logotypes are distinctive typefaces or lettering styles that used to represent a brand name, simply, a wordmark. However, for clarity, we will be adopting the common definition and including trademarks for this term.
Becoming a 'Market Leader', refers to achieving the dominant position within a brand's field, this may be by their influencing or by their sheer scale.
To become a market leader, the brand (or company) is often the first to promote and market a particular type of service or product, and has been able to protect their niche with a patent. Otherwise, companies can overtake previous market leaders through better marketing and expansion.
Within markets, there may be sub categories with unique leaders that do not challenge the overall leader but instead occupy a key area wherein they specialise. For example, Google is the market leader for search engines, yet Ecosia occupies a leading position for their security and CSR features.
The share of total sales of a particularly category of product, on a defined market.
This may be expressed by cost/value of the units sold, or simply by the volume/amount of units sold.
A Masterbrand sits at the top of all their products and services within a range or business. As a clear example, Alfa-Romeo is a Masterbrand and their range of car brands are the associated sub brands within their range, such as the MiTo.
This is how the brand can communicate with their target audience. Messaging should be strategically crafted to prompt action, such as purchases or engagement with the brand.
Successful brands define success...having a mission written out clearly as a mission statement allows clarity of the formal declaration of brand's goals, purpose and values. It aligns team members and stakeholders with the reason the company exists and keeps everyone on track to how they plan to achieve such goals.
Some define the mission statement as a guiding light or 'North Star' for a company, combining the Who and Why from their brand story into a concise statement.
Popular in fashion brands, a company name may be visualised as an initialism instead of a formal logo. For example Louis Vuitton is commonly expressed as L.V. Monogram's often express a brand in a sophisticated manner, but work initially has to be done to tie the Monogram to the brand clearly—to assure it is instantly recognisable.
Brand Names can be constructed in many different ways, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. Below we'll describe some of the main types of names to be aware of, but note that we also have a full insight available to provide further commentary.
These names describe what the company does. Costa Coffee is a good example, clearly stating they sell coffee, Booking.com also indicates that it is a website for making bookings.
These names are great for SEO and to easily communicate a service or product.
On the contrary to descriptive, evocative names suggest associations with benefits or values. These names tend to evoke imagery, emotions, and a mixture of metaphors and experiences in the mind of the consumer. Typical examples may be 'Apple', which is a symbol of knowledge and teaching, or 'Nike', the Greek God of victory.
Some names may aim to describe a particular experience that their brand will offer the customer. 'Safari' refers to guiding users through the 'wild' world wide web, mimicking the expert tour guides on safaris.
Some brand names are entirely invented words that previously have no linguistic definition. The most successful of these brands can turn their name or offerings into words themselves, which powerfully places them as brand leaders... think of 'Twitter' and their 'Tweets'.
A recurring aim for Brand's is to ensure their perception and communications are 'on-brand', meaning that they are consistent with how the audience expects the company to act, or look. Being on-brand builds loyalty and reliability, allowing customers to trust the long-term development of a company.
A recent example of an Off-Brand PR disaster is when the 'Super League' caused some of the world's biggest football club brands to enter turmoil with their fans, as the clubs were meant to exist for their fans—not for greed and profit alone.
This is a brand placed above various sub-brands, acting as an endorsement for them. For example, Coca-Cola is the well established leader for soft-drinks, and their range of sub-brands gain the credibility of being made, and owned by Coca-Cola, such as Fanta, Dasani or Sprite.
A (customer) persona is a representation of an individual in the target audience.
These can be fictitious characters made from your market research findings, or you can pick real people to use as a persona case study. Established brands will aim for as much real data as possible, to make informed decisions.
Using personas allows stakeholders to have a consistent understanding of their audience and how various brand positioning exercises may affect their communications, perception, and overall goals.
This is a written description to clarify the position a company wishes to achieve. It may relate to the brand, the company, or even individual products or services—as to how their target market will perceive them.
The statement should include a clear explanation as to what differentiates the brand to competitors, with the gains and benefits for customers included.
Some brands use third-parties to manufacture products, these are known as 'Private Label' products. Whilst the third party may make the product, there is an agreement that the brand has control of all packaging, pricing, and marketing—without having to own the production facilities or manage the process.
With software, there is also 'White Labelling', which means software can be rebranded by whichever brand purchases the right to do so—much like Private Labelling.
Interviews, focus groups, and any other forms of observation research. This is used to collect and analyse the feelings, beliefs and motivations of a particular audience group in regards to a brand. It is stemmed from 'Quality', not 'Quantity'.
Conversely, the 'Quantity', not 'Quality', lies with Quantitative Research (but despite how the name is derived, you can still get high quality data from this). It typically uses polls, questionnaires, and surveys, to gather a large audience sample of data—primarily concerned with numerical, definite, observations.
Quantitive research is often used to provide factual, statistically based decisions that can be supported with projections.
This is simply the act of revisiting the current branding to update, revise, and optimise various aspects of the branding. It may be a complete overhaul, or some simple tweaks like a new logo or font. Aside from aesthetics, rebranding could focus more on a new target audience and how the brand can evolve or adapt to better communicate and resonate with this alteration.
A brand may wish to reposition where it, or its products/services currently are. By changing various elements of either the branding, product or store features, or general communications, the brand can begin to occupy a new more advantageous space.
This can be as simple as a brand previously communicating 'The biggest sales team in London' to 'The most ambitious sales team in Europe'. Repositioning can focus on geographical shifts, like the example, or on changes to values, goals, audiences, or other key attributes.
Quite simply, this a brand that centers around performing a service (rather than products), such as airline companies or design agencies.
See: Brand Guidelines
As mentioned previously, Sub-brands lie under Masterbrands or Parent brands. These are associated brands that benefit from the [more powerful] brand name above them.
As we mentioned before, a chocolate bar is a sub brand of the main chocolate brand, and a particular car or motorbike brand is the sub brand of the automobile manufacturer.
A Swot analysis is an acronym based on Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats. It is a classic marketing exercise to analyse where a brand is, where is can improve, and how to protect it from competitors and other threatening factors—with opportunities being both answers to determined weaknesses and threats, but also new gaps and opportunities in the market to explore.
Brand symbols are graphical representations of a brand. They provide instant brand recognition. examples include the golden arches for McDonalds, or the apple shape (with a bite out of it) for Apple.
Great brand symbols make the company/brand instantly recognisable without any need for words.
Also known as slogans, taglines are short phrases used to communicate a brand's energy, offerings, or personality in a succinct and memorable fashion. It is advantageous to incorporate brand positioning into your tagline.
A usual case study for tagline's is Nike's "Just Do It". It's a motivating phrase to prompt consumers to take that first step, go on the jog, try out for the team, live your life—stop putting things off for tomorrow. It's a great summary of their attitude towards action, and activeness.
Tangibles are distinctive elements that make up a brand such as assets and values. These include stores that can visited, packaging, offices, cash, and products themselves.
Whenever an audience can interact with a brand this is known as a touch point. It could be by clicking on an advert, viewing a website, reading a newsletter, filling out a brand survey, visiting a store—and speaking to a staff member, interacting with a product, or even posting about the brand or reviewing it online.
By mapping out all potential touchpoints, ideally in a fairly logical and chronological fashion, we can build customer journeys and strengthen the potential interactions at each stage.
A registered trademark is marked with ®. Unregistered trademarks are accompanied by ™ to show intent of trademarking.
A trademark can be a symbol, design, word, or phrase (or combination of any of these) to uniquely identify a brand.
A collection of typographic standards and fonts to inform consistent and distinct typography for a brand's identity.
UBP (Unique Buying Proposition).
UBPs are a more modern take on the classic 'USP'. Originally pioneered by Edward De Bono, it focuses more on the customer and their thoughts and needs—rather than the brand and how they differentiate their offerings.
Unique Buying propositions are the reasons that customers would choose to buy a product or service from one brand over competitors. They address questions such as "how will this product meet my individual needs", answering with unique features, and emotional benefits.
UBPs are characterised by intentional and distinct brand positioning within the customers' minds. Reinforcing that it is the customer that decides your brand perception, not you.
USP (Unique Selling Proposition).
Having unique selling propositions is a quick way to carve out the product niche, advantages, and differentiating factors to appeal to customers instead of competing brands.
USPs are also intentional strategic marketing assets to influence how a target audience will react to your messaging and offerings.
This is declaration or explanation of what makes your products or services of value to the target market and stakeholders. We wrote about this in depth, and summarised it in simple language as:
"An extremely good and clear explanation of why anyone should pay for your product or service."
A combination of tone of voice, the brand persona, phrases, and other verbal tools to build your brand identity with spoken and written communications.
Defining the vision of your brand, is to declare aims of what your brand wishes to become and your intended roadmap to succeed in such aims. Visions should be long-term and lofty, to inspire continuous growth and purpose.
As a contrast to the verbal identity, the visual identity is concerned with all things graphical, such as logos, typography, packing, iconography, or literature systems.
A brand logo may exist in the form of typography, this is referred to as a wordmark—and can stand alone or be placed next to trademarks/symbols. Examples of famous Wordmarks include Coca-Cola, Google, Sony... and Mäd.
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