Brand Definition

So don’t try and define a brand – it will just end up hurting your head, and you will probably do a lousy job.

Differing Perspectives

If you’re just after a new definition of a Brand, then this is not the article for you. Google is your best friend as there are dozens if not hundreds of definitions floating around. Or if you’re feeling lazy, just read a few of the more famous ones quoted further down. An interesting side effect of reading a vast swag of brand definitions is that you’ll probably end up more confused than when you started.

Try asking a room full of smart business people one day how they would define a brand and watch the result. Everyone will come up with a different definition. Some will focus on only several elements, others will take a shotgun approach, and the rest will struggle to put forth an explanation at all.

And the reason for this is simple. Our current thinking of what is included and contributes towards a brand (and in particular a great one) is comprehensive. Broader than what can go in one definition without it turning into a rather dull monologue.

The reason that so many people can vary in their definitions is that each tends to come at it from a different perspective, based on their experiences and their profession.

  • Ask a designer and the emphasis will be on the brand’s visual identity.
  • Ask any advertiser, and it will shift to one based on the positioning and communication of a brand.
  • Ask a PR company, and they will focus on the brand’s reputation.
  • Ask an account, and they’ll try and find it on the balance sheet or look at you in a funny way.
  • Ask a different designer, and you will get a different definition again.

A few examples

Here are a few definitions from different sources that highlight the shift in emphasis, which happens (my personal favourite is from David Ogilvy).

Oxford Dictionaries

1 – A type of product manufactured by a particular company under a particular name. Or. 2 – An identifying mark burned on livestock or (especially in former times) criminals or slaves with a branding iron.

Seth Godin

A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another. If the consumer (whether it’s a business, a buyer, a voter or a donor) doesn’t pay a premium, make a selection or spread the word, then no brand value exists for that consumer.

David Ogilvy

A brand is “The intangible sum of a product’s attributes: its name, packaging, and price, its history, its reputation, and the way it’s advertised.”


A brand is a set of marketing and communication methods that help to distinguish a company from competitors and create a lasting impression in the minds of customers.

Phillip Kotler

A brand is a name, term, sign, symbol, or design or a combination of them, intended to identify the goods and services of one seller or group of sellers and to differentiate them from those of the competitor.

The whole is greater than the sum of its parts

So based on these definitions from prominent sources, we can start to see a pattern of what could be included in a brand definition. And this can be roughly broken up into two key areas;

The Intangible Experiences related to the Brand.
  • Including product and service experiences, attitudes, stories, associations and relationships.
The Tangible Elements related to the Brand.
  • Including names, logos, products, wordmarks, slogans, colours, price, advertising style, the tone of voice, financial value.

And all of the above is intertwined, interrelated and combined in a big business/marketing mixing pot. This is an example of the whole being far greater than the sum of the parts – to the point that it is impossible to determine all the parts and how they are exactly related.

The solution to the Brand definition challenge is simple

When working with small business owners who have little interest in any of the above – the following is the solution I use to ensure everyone is on the same page. And it is rather simple.

Stop using the word Brand on its own. Instead, describe the aspect of a brand you are referring to. Ta-da!

For example;

  • Brand associations
  • Brand tone of voice
  • Brand visual identity
  • Brand communications

Immediately it becomes simpler, and it’s far easier to have a meaningful discussion concerning developing and improving a business’s brand.

In Summary

So don’t try and define a brand – it will just end up hurting your head, and you will probably do a lousy job. Instead, try to avoid using the word brand on its own and instead clarify what element of a brand you are referring to.