Brand is the value essence of an entity - person, organization. It represents the intrinsic value - both positive and negative - represented and/or provided by that entity. Brand is usually associated with a visual image, sign, symbol or logo. However, brand is an intangible, non-visual synthesis or sum of the qualities of an entity - when one thinks of that entity - a positive or negative value comes to mind. This value can be associated with an image so when one sees that image that value is evoked. Brand is about feelings which can be converted into interaction and tangible benefits for the owner of the brand. Brands sustain i.e. once that feeling is associated with an entity it remains for a long time till something such as a bad experience, for example, changes it. Brand is a promise of value delivery that propels others to interact with that brand. This interaction can be both attraction and detraction i.e. others are compelled to interact with the brand or avoid it. Typical interactions are customers buying that brand and vendors selling to it.

Business Dictionary defines Brand as "Unique design, sign, symbol, words, or a combination of these, employed in creating an image that identifies a product and differentiates it from its competitors." Over time, this image becomes associated with a level of credibility, quality, and satisfaction in the consumer's mind. Thus brands help harried consumers in crowded and complex marketplace, by standing for certain benefits and value. Legal name for a brand is trademark and, when it identifies or represents a firm, it is called a brand name.[1]

A brand is seen as one of its company's most valuable assets. It represents the face of the company, the recognizable logo, slogan, or mark that the public associates with the company. In fact, the company is often referred to by its brand, and they become one and the same. A company's brand carries with it a monetary value in the stock market (if the company is public), which affects stockholder value as it rises and falls. For these reasons, it's important to uphold the integrity of the brand. When a company decides to settle on a brand to be its public image, it must first determine its brand identity, or how it wants to be viewed. For example, a company logo often incorporates the message, slogan or product that the company offers. The goal is to make the brand memorable and appealing to the consumer. The company usually consults a design firm or design team to come up with ideas for the visual aspects of a brand, such as the logo or symbol. A successful brand accurately portrays the message or feeling the company is trying to get across and results in brand awareness, or the recognition of the brand's existence and what it offers. On the other hand, an ineffective brand often results from miscommunication.[2]

Understanding Brand[3]
Brands are different from products in a way that brands are “what the consumers buy”, while products are “what concern/companies make”. Brand is an accumulation of emotional and functional associations. Brand is a promise that the product will perform as per customer’s expectations. It shapes customer’s expectations about the product. Brands usually have a trademark which protects them from use by others. A brand gives particular information about the organization, good or service, differentiating it from others in marketplace. Brand carries an assurance about the characteristics that make the product or service unique. A strong brand is a means of making people aware of what the company represents and what are it’s offerings.

  • To a consumer, brand means and signifies:
    • Source of product
    • Delegating responsibility to the manufacturer of product
    • Lower risk
    • Less search cost
    • Quality symbol
    • Deal or pact with the product manufacturer
    • Symbolic device

Brands simplify consumers purchase decision. Over a period of time, consumers discover the brands which satisfy their need. If the consumers recognize a particular brand and have knowledge about it, they make quick purchase decision and save lot of time. Also, they save search costs for product. Consumers remain committed and loyal to a brand as long as they believe and have an implicit understanding that the brand will continue meeting their expectations and perform in the desired manner consistently. As long as the consumers get benefits and satisfaction from consumption of the product, they will more likely continue to buy that brand. Brands also play a crucial role in signifying certain product features to consumers.

  • To a seller, brand means and signifies:
    • Basis of competitive advantage
    • Way of bestowing products with unique associations
    • Way of identification to easy handling
    • Way of legal protection of products’ unique traits/features
    • Sign of quality to satisfied customer
    • Means of financial returns

A brand, in short, can be defined as a seller’s promise to provide consistently a unique set of characteristics, advantages, and services to the buyers/consumers. It is a name, term, sign, symbol or a combination of all these planned to differentiate the goods/services of one seller or group of sellers from those of competitors. Some examples of well known brands are Mc Donald’s’, Mercedes-Benz, Sony, Coca Cola, Kingfisher, etc. A brand connects the four crucial elements of an enterprise- customers, employees, management and shareholders. Brand is nothing but an assortment of memories in customers mind. Brand represents values, ideas and even personality. It is a set of functional, emotional and rational associations and benefits which have occupied target market’s mind. Associations are nothing but the images and symbols associated with the brand or brand benefits, such as, The Nike Swoosh, The Nokia sound, etc. Benefits are the basis for purchase decision.

Factors That Define Brand[4]

  • 1. The Brand Promise: At its core, a brand is a promise to consumers. What will consumers get when they purchase a product or service under your brand umbrella? The brand promise incorporates more than just those tangible products and services. It also includes the feelings that consumers get when they use your products and services.

Example: Think about your favorite brand and what that brand promises to you. If you’re a Nike fan, the brand might represent athleticism, performance, strength, good health, and fun. Your brand promises something to consumers. What is it?

  • 2. The Brand Perceptions: Brands are built by consumers, not companies. Ultimately, it’s the way consumers perceive a brand that defines it. It doesn’t matter what you think your brand promises. The only thing that matters is how consumers perceive your brand. You need to work to develop consumer perceptions that accurately reflect your brand, or your brand is doomed to limited growth potential.

Example: What are consumers’ perceptions of Lady Gaga? You can bet everything she does is meant to create specific consumer perceptions.

  • 3. The Brand Expectations: Based on your brand promise, consumers develop expectations for your brand. When they pull their hard-earned money out of their pockets and purchase your products or services, they assume their expectations for your brand will be met. If your brand doesn’t meet consumer expectations in every interaction, consumers will become confused by your brand and turn away from it in search of another brand that does meet their expectations in every interaction.

Example: Imagine Rolls Royce launched a $10,000 car. To say the least, consumers would be extremely confused because such a product doesn’t meet their expectations for a luxury brand.

  • 4. The Brand Persona: Rather than asking, “What is a brand?” a better question might be, “Who is a brand?” Every brand has a persona. Think of your brand as a person. What is that person like? What can you expect when you interact with that person? From appearance to personality and everything in between, your brand persona is one that consumers will evaluate and judge before they do business with you.

Example: Think of it this way. Who would you rather spend time with — Apple or Microsoft? These two brands have very different brand personas. Your brand should have one, too.

  • 5. The Brand Elements: Your brand is represented by the intangible elements described above as well as tangible elements such as your brand logo, messaging, packaging, and so on. All of these elements must work together to consistently communicate your brand promise, shape brand perceptions, meet brand expectations, and define your brand persona. If one element is awry, your entire brand can suffer. Remember what happened with the new Gap logo last year? Don’t make the same mistakes!

Example: There is a reason why that blue Tiffany’s box has been around for so long. It means something to consumers.

Bottom-line, a brand is clear, reliable, and believable to both your consumers and your employees. However, brands aren’t built overnight. Before you can define and live your brand, you need to do some research so you don’t waste time taking your brand in a direction that won’t allow you to reach your goals. You must understand your competitors and audience, so you can develop a brand that promises the right things to the right people. Research should be first, definition, strategy, and execution should follow, and in time, your brand will grow. Read more about branding on the AmEx Open Forum.

Building A Brand[5]
Professor David Jobber identifies seven main factors in building successful brands, as given next:

  • 1. Quality: Quality is a vital ingredient of a good brand. Remember the “core benefits” – the things consumers expect. These must be delivered well and consistently. The branded washing machine that leaks, or the training shoe that often falls apart when wet, or a watch which needs frequent adjustments will never develop brand equity. Research confirms that, statistically, higher quality brands achieve a higher market share and higher profitability than that of their inferior competitors.
  • 2. Positioning: Positioning is about the position a brand occupies in a market in the minds of consumers. Strong brands have a clear, often unique position in the target market. Positioning can be achieved through several means, including brand name, image, service standards, product guarantees, packaging and the way in which it is delivered. In fact, successful positioning usually requires a combination of these things.
  • 3. Repositioning: Repositioning occurs when a brand tries to change its market position to reflect a change in consumer’s tastes. This is often required when a brand has become tired, perhaps because its original market has matured or has gone into decline.
  • 4. Communications: Communications also play a key role in building a successful brand. We suggested that brand positioning is essentially about customer perceptions – with the objective to build a clearly defined position in the minds of the target audience. All elements of the promotional mix need to be used to develop and sustain customer perceptions. Initially, the challenge is to build awareness, then to develop the brand personality and reinforce the perception.
  • 5. First-mover advantage: Business strategists often talk about first- mover advantage. In terms of brand development, by “first-mover” they mean that it is possible for the first successful brand in a market to create a clear positioning in the minds of target customers before the competition enters the market. There is plenty of evidence to support this.
  • 6. Long-term perspective: The need to invest in the brand over the long- term is utmost essential. Building customer awareness, communicating the brand’s message and creating customer loyalty takes time. This means that management must “invest” in a brand, perhaps at the expense of short-term profitability.
  • 7. Internal Marketing: Finally, management should ensure that the brand is marketed “internally” as well as externally. By this we mean that the whole business should understand the brand values and positioning. This is particularly important in service businesses where a critical part of the brand value is the type and quality of service that a customer receives.Think of the brands that you value in the restaurant, hotel and retail sectors. It is likely that your favorite brands invest heavily in staff training so that the face-to-face contact that you have with the brand helps secure your loyalty.

Types of Brand[6]

  • Product: The most common brand is that associated with a tangible product, such as a car or drink. This can be very specific or may indicate a range of products. In any case, there is always a unifying element that is the 'brand' being referred to in the given case.
  • Individual Product: Product brands can be very specific, indicating a single product, such as classic Coca-Cola. It can also include particular physical forms, such as Coca-cola in a traditional bottle or a can.
  • Product Range: Product brands can also be associated with a range, such as the Mercedes S-class cars or all varieties of Colgate toothpaste.
  • Service: As companies move from manufacturing products to delivering complete solutions and intangible services, the brand is about the 'service'. Service brands are about what is done, when it is done, who does it, etc. It is much more variable than products brands, where variation can be eliminated on the production line. Even in companies such as McDonald's where the service has been standardized down to the eye contact and smile, variation still occurs. Consistency can be a problem in service: we expect some variation, and the same smile every time can turn into an annoyance as we feel we are being manipulated. Service brands need a lot more understanding than product brands.
  • Organization: Organizations are brands, whether it is a company that delivers products and services or some other group. Thus Greenpeace, Mercedes and the US Senate are all defined organizations and each have qualities associated with them that constitute the brand. In once sense, the brand of the organization is created as the sum of its products and services. After all, this is all we can see and experience of the organization. Looking at it another way, the flow also goes the other way: the intent of the managers of the organization permeates downwards into the products and the services which project a common element of that intent. Organizations can also be linked closely with the brand of an individual, for example Virgin is closely linked with Richard Branson.
  • Person: The person brand is focused on one or a few individuals, where the branding is associated with personality.
  • Individual: A pure individual brand is based on one person, such as celebrity actor or singer. The brand can be their natural person or a carefully crafted projection. Politicians work had to project a brand that is attractive to their electorate (and also work hard to keep their skeletons firmly in the cupboard). In a similar way, rock stars who want to appear cool also are playing to a stereotype.
  • Group: Not much higher in detail than an individual is the brand of a group. In particular when this is a small group and the individuals are known, the group brand and the individual brand overlap, for example in the way that the brand of a pop group and the brand of its known members are strongly connected.
  • Event: Events have brands too, whether they are rock concerts, the Olympics, a space-rocket launch or a town-hall dance. Event brands are strongly connected with the experience of the people attending, for example with musical pleasure or amazement at human feats. Product, service and other brands realize the power of event brands and seek to have their brands associated with the event brands. Thus sponsorship of events is now big business as one brand tries to get leverage from the essence of the event, such as excitement and danger of car racing.
  • Geography: Areas of the world also have essential qualities that are seen as characterizations, and hence also have brand. These areas can range from countries to state to cities to streets and buildings. Those who govern or represent these geographies will work hard to develop the brand. Cities, for example, may have de-facto brands of being dangerous or safe, cultural or bland, which will be used by potential tourists in their decisions to visit and by companies in their decisions on where to set up places of employment.

See Also

Brand Ambassador
Brand Asset Valuator
Brand Identity Prism
Brand Loyalty
Brand Management
Brand Personality
Brand Recognition
Brand Strategy


  1. Definition - What is the meaning of Brand? Business Dictionary
  2. What is Brand? Investopedia
  3. Understanding Brand - What is Brand? Management Study Guide
  4. Five Factors that Define Brand AYTM
  5. Building A Brand Chao Onlamai
  6. Types of Brand Changing Minds

Further Reading

  • What is a Brand Anyway? forbes
  • Six Scholarly Insights on Branding AMA
  • What is a brand? A Perspective on Brand Meaning [ - European Journalof Business and Management ]
  • Building and Managing Your Brand Cornell University
  • The Strategic Importance of Brand Positioning in the Place Brand Concept: Elements, Structure and Application Capabilities Poznan University of Economics