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What is a Brand?

By: Kae Groshong Wagner

Kae Groshong Wagner is the CEO of North Star Marketing, a brand consultant, author and speaker. She can be reached at or 717-392-6982 x.105 For free articles, case studies and marketing tips visit

What exactly is a brand? It's a question that has confounded the academics for decades and eluded the most erudite of scholars. So, coming from the trenches of the real world of branding, we've defined the term and given it a comprehensive meaning.

What is a Brand? A Definition:

"A brand is a product or service with a unique mark, symbol or logo that has a defined set of attributes and characteristics which create a unique experience for the consumer/user."(c)

Let's break this definition down into pieces that you can use to create and further develop your own brand.

A brand consists of eight basic building blocks:
  • The Name
  • The Logo (brand icon)
  • The Brand's Colors
  • The Slogan and Brand Messaging
  • The Sound of the Brand
  • The Overall Look and Feel = The Brand's Position
  • Packaging the Brand
  • The Brand Experience
Is a product the brand? No.

Is a symbol the brand? No.

Does the brand really exist in the slogan? No.

If I don't remember the Brand, but I remember the color; is that the Brand? No.

Is the brand mostly represented by its packaging? No.

Does every Brand have a unique sound? No.

So, we are left with the real question? What then, is a brand?

"A brand is a product or service with a unique mark, symbol or logo that has a defined set of attributes and characteristics which create a unique experience for the consumer/user."©

A Brand is the greater sum of its parts. It is always more than just the nuts and bolts, the pieces; great brands are always the result of the whole equaling more than the sum of its parts.

Take Nike, for example. As a consumer, I've been a user of their Brand for a long time. As a marketer, I've been an observer for a long time. I've studied long and hard to determine why "Just do it" has worked for consumers for over 20 years. As an academic marketer I couldn't get it. But as a consumer, the visceral message of getting up in the morning, rain or shine, want to or not want to, and going out and running - no matter what - "Just do it" is a slogan that works. I'm not a runner, but I walk every day and just getting out there or on the treadmill and "just doing it" is an important part of my lifestyle.

But would Nike be what it is today without Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods?

Probably not.

And that's where the Brand Experience comes in.

A Brand is beyond the product; it's beyond shoes or clothing or sports equipment - it's all about being a "member of the club." It's about belonging. It's about the coolness factor. Tiger made golf cool. He took it from being an "old white man's sport" to being the coolest, hottest sport any kid could image.

Branding is about making me, the consumer or buyer, more hip, more in the "know," more cool than anybody else. We are a generation and a nation wanting to be special. We want to be richer, more beautiful, better dressed and more effortlessly gorgeous than any other generation that we know. (But then, we are a bit narcissist and would discount any other generation!)

At a time in our economy when everything comes from Wal-Mart, via China, it seems as though the low price wins. But, au contraire. Branding is at an all time high and it's precisely because we don't want to be just low-price buyers. How pedestrian, after all. We want the world to mean more than price. More than money. We want everything to mean more. We want everything to have meaning.

That's why we flock to the reality shows. Why we love "The Apprentice" and "American Idol" and other top realistic shows. We crave authenticity in this age of fabrication and falsehood. We "just want to be real."

We want to be able to trust what we buy and whom we buy from. That's why Coke is still the number one brand in the world. The more we know about a brand, the more we trust it. The more we trust it, the more we buy it and continue to experience it. The more we experience it, the more loyal we become.

Loyalty is the currency that cannot be traded for dollars.

When you have a loyal consumer, you have the world and Branding is the way to conquer the world.

© copyright 2007, Kae Groshong Wagner.

The author assumes full responsibility for the contents of this article and retains all of its property rights. MarcommWise publishes it here with the permission of the author. MarcomWise assumes no responsibility for the article's contents.


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