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What’s in a Brand?

The Interbrand rankings will be out soon and Coke, IBM, and Apple are likely to be among the front runners. It begs the questions, “Is there a secret to good branding? Can the formula for branding be written down like the rules of your SEO strategy or is it a more ethereal science?

As a marketer, I’ve become attuned to assessing whether new campaigns are ‘on brand'.  For IBM,  the argument goes something like this:…Is the message fact-based and authentic? Do the pictures exude quality and tell a compelling story? What is the shared belief I am building with my clients? Does my campaign give voice to that belief?

So brand is not merely a color, a font, a style; it’s essentially the voice of the company.   For IBM, the brand promise is centered on driving innovation for our clients.  For Apple, the promise is to deliver consumable, innovative technology. For Coke, happiness. For Nike, high performance. There is a spirit—a feel—that embodies these brands. When done right, the idea is to embody that vibe with every interaction.

The essence of branding then is about finding a set of core values that embody your company (that are lived by your employees) and that are believable, authentic and in demand. Every marketing campaign should support the overall brand value proposition and reinforce your equity in this belief.

So, what does your brand represent?  What do you inspire?


24 Responses

  1. kathi P says:

    Tami, I love the brand you picked but why not MTV? ha! keep on blogging!

  2. Collern says:

    Love the blog and can’t wait for your next post!

  3. Mark says:

    Great post Tami, and love the new blog.

    At Sullivan Tire and Auto Service our brand represents Trust. People need to know that when they bring their vehicle in for service they will trust us to give an honest opinion and give them options. Trust is very important in any business, but particularly important in the auto service business.


    • Mark – Thank you for your comment & support. Trust is a powerful brand attribute and one that I’m sure will serve your business well and also instill your employees with a sense of pride in their work. Thanks for sharing!

  4. Carol H. says:

    Tami – love the new blog! Looking forward to what comes next!

  5. Blair Reeves says:

    Great insight. What’s the link between a well-recognized (and thus valuable) brand vs. a very compelling one, though? A lot of people would say that, for example, many luxury goods (Hermes, Gucci, etc.) have more “powerful” brands in that they communicate a purer message of sheer quality, versus a Coke or Google, that only embody a sort of nebulous feeling of fun.

  6. I find Coke to have a very sophisticated branding strategy. They have succeeded in connecting their product with a visceral feeling of happiness – pretty powerful. Coke has been particularly innovative in rolling out campaigns in support of their branding strategy – one of my favorite executions:

  7. Ted Rubin says:

    Absolutely on point about how to project your brand identity and put your best foot forward to lead and guide consumers. But keep in mind that today Brand goes beyond what you “the Brand” thinks it is… to how you’re viewed by the consumer. We no longer OWN our brands, and if we are not listening, we lose.

    The increasing integration of social media into our consumers’ lives has shifted brand ownership away from marketers and into the hands of the consumer. Our consumers now have “the channel of me.” Consumers’ opinions now create the “reality” of the brand — if enough consumers say negative things about your brand, your brand loses its credibility, and (thankfully) vice versa.

    Brand ownership has shifted, but if you are willing to tune into your consumers’ “channel of me,” you can make this the best news yet for the relevance of your brand. It’s time to change the channel.

    • Great insight Ted. I agree with you. I like to think of the social aspect as a component of the co-creation ie. In today’s world brands are co-creating the meaning and embodiment of their brands with employees, customers and partners. Thank you for sharing!

      • Ted Rubin says:

        Yes… and including employees is so very important. I know you not only know that, but preach it regularly. Not only for their view of the brand, but for their ability to be the brand's strongest and most vocal advocates. 

  8. Susan Newman says:

    I agree totally with what you’re saying. Brands need to walk the walk everyday. They need to fully embody what they stand for by embracing the public, especially across social media, re-enforcing the trust they want back.

  9. Marc Dietz says:

    Great post, Tami, I agree. I also agree w/ the extension Ted added and will extend the point one step further. One definition I’ve often used is “the brand is really your aggregate reputation based on all experiences a customer has, both positive and negative.” So brand is not only the voice of the company it’s the body too. Doesn’t matter what the voice says if the hand slaps you in the face, right? So while that means everyone is responsible for the brand, the marketer’s job (new role of the CMO as brand steward) is to evangelize that holistic view and try to maximize the positive (“on-brand”) experiences and minimize the negative (“off-brand”) ones.

  10. Hi Tami, Thoughtful blog. At MasterCard, we talk about what is priceless – it’s not about the things you buy, it’s about the experiences you can have with your loved ones. I think we inspire people to seek out those special moments and treasure them.
    And, I agree with the comments here – today’s brands become more powerful when consumers extend it, e.g., by telling us what their priceless moments are.

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