11 Jul Q: What is a brand?
It’s a provocative and fundamental question, one that is often neglected while we place our focus and attention on technology, social, content or whatever the latest marketing trend is.
It is easy to confuse a brand with marketing. The 5, 6 or however many “P’s” we have now does not define a brand. To think of a brand as a combination of product, logo, advertising, distribution etc. is to ignore the real power of a brand.
The answer to this question, while beguilingly simple on the face of it, is more existential than what we may like, more elusive and more complex.
A brand is, at its most fundamental, quite simply a memory.
Memories are what define us all, they are the totality of our existence. Memories are how we survive, how we make sense of our surroundings, our culture, society and our relevance to the world. Without memories we are nothing to ourselves and nothing to each other.
If we think of brands as simply memories, then we’re in the business of creating and triggering memories. The most powerful memories are built through an emotional response to an experience. Which can be positive or negative. The stronger the emotional response to an experience, the stronger the memory.
Brand memories are linked to associations built over time. Take a brand that most people have experienced before – Coke. The associations we each have with Coke are personal, but may include, the logo, the bottle shape, the colour red, summer, youth, fun, freedom and beaches. These associations will be stronger or weaker for each individual and there will also be some negative ones like sugar, obesity or sickness.
Memories need to be triggered regularly to stay current. Triggering is a vital part of a brand’s communication. It requires the use of brand iconography and associations to be used consistently in order to efficiently trigger the memory. Ideally, triggering occurs at the moment closest to the point of transaction. Which is why Coke’s beautifully crafted bottles, cans and branded vending machines are such valuable assets.
Advertising is a powerful way to trigger brand memories, whilst owned and earned communication is what really creates and shapes brand memories. This is not to say advertising can’t create powerful memories, but in our volatile media landscape, connecting with an audience through advertising is getting harder and harder.
So be clear on the memories and associations you want for your brand. Focus on the experiences you create, be that through the stories you tell; the user experience at your site; the customer experience in-store; and the response people have to using your product or service. Do this and your brand will be memorable.