Defining “Brand”

My experience has been that many smart, innovative entrepreneurs have no idea what a brand is, much less having a clue as to how onewould help their enterprise. (That’s why I founded Signature Strategies some 12 years ago.).

Stanley Moss of the London-based branding consultancy, DiGanZi, shares some definitions of “brand” he has collected from global sources in his yearly Brand Trends Letter.

 Stanley’s branding web site at where several of his articles reside, though not his 2007 Brand Trends letter as yet. I suspect you could request a copy of that 5-page pdf by emailing him at

Here are thirteen definitions he has collected. The first group from his 2007 Brand Trends letter, the second from the 2006 letter.

“A brand is a ‘once upon a time’.” –Pierre d’Huy
Pierre is a respected Paris-based brand consultant, and a Director of The Medinge Group.

“A brand is the most powerful business tool.” – Thomas Gad
Thomas is Chairman of The Medinge Group, and recognized international branding authority.

“A brand is social capital.” – Ava Hakim
Ava works in large-scale global business development for IBM.

“A brand is a shorthand for all the reasons people choose the products and services they
want in their lives.” – Simon Paterson
Simon is a world-class London-based brand professional.

“A brand is the good name of a product or organization.” – Malcolm Allan
Malcolm is an expert in place branding, leadership and strategy.

“A brand is the emotional response or preference for a product or service.”– Tom Atchison
Tom is a venture capitalist with an interest in the commercialization of space.

“A brand is what you elect to live and breathe.” – Patrick Harris
Patrick is a London-based brand and strategy guru, and a Director of The Medinge Group.

And from his 2006 Trends Letter, come these definitions
“A brand is a promise.” –Ian Ryder

“A brand is a conversation.” – Stephen Rappaport

“A brand is a set of expectations.” – Nicholas Ind

“A brand is the symbolic glue [that holds people together.]” –Colin Morley

 “A brand is the means through which an organization symbolizes, differentiates and communicates itself to all its audiences.” – Jack Yan

And here’s one of his own:

“Recently I have thought about brand as an understanding which delivers a personal sense of identity or purpose.”

Now this is more than an exercise in intellectual jargon. It points to a very real problem for the neophyte: “What are you talking about?” There are no standards, no accepted principals or definitions. The concept “brand” can mean anything to anyone, pro and tyro alike.

It gets more complicated when people apply labels to certain associated activities and “systems” like “brand audit”, “brand asset”, “brand platform”, “brand positioning”, “brand architecture”, “brand hierarchies”,  “brand extensions” and so forth. Now I’m not lobbying for a standards committee for the branding community. But I believe we can at least define and then explain our individual definitions so that branding neophytes will not find the subject so intimidating.

As practitioners, branding consultants and authors, we should not give the impression that branding is “black magic” of some sort. No, we should each in our own way make branding understandable and implemental at even the start-up stage of entrepreneurship.

I’ve admonished start-ups to “brand smart from the start”, and even put together a series of articles under that title in a previous blog. Because Stanley’s definitions collection got me thinking about this all over again, I’ll be revisiting and revising those articles for future posts. Stay tuned.



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