What Is a Brand?

The term brand refers to a business and marketing concept that helps people identify a particular company, product, or individual. Brands are intangible, which means you can't actually touch or see them. As such, they help shape people's perceptions of companies, their products, or individuals. Brands often use identifying markers to help create brand identities within the marketplace. They provide enormous value to the company or individual, giving them a competitive edge over others in the same industry. As such, many entities often seek legal protection for their brands by obtaining trademarks.

Key Takeaways

  • A brand is an intangible marketing or business concept that helps people identify a company, product, or individual.
  • People often confuse brands with things like logos, slogans, or other recognizable marks, which are marketing tools that help promote goods and services.
  • Brands are considered to be among a company's most important and valuable assets.
  • Companies can protect their brands by registering trademarks.
  • Types of brands include corporate, personal, product, and service brands.
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Brand Equity

Understanding Brands

As mentioned above, a brand is an intangible asset that helps people identify a specific company and its products. This is especially true when companies need to set themselves apart from others who provide similar products on the market, including generic brands. Advil is a common brand of ibuprofen, which the company uses to distinguish itself from generic forms of the drug available in drugstores. This is referred to as brand equity.

People often confuse logos, slogans, or other recognizable marks owned by companies with their brands. While these terms are often used interchangeably, they are distinct. The former are marketing tools that companies often use to promote and market their products and services. When used together, these tools create a brand identity. Successful marketing can help keep a company's brand front and center in people's minds. This can spell the difference between someone choosing your brand over your competitor's.

A brand is considered to be one of the most valuable and important assets for a company. In fact, many companies are often referred to by their brand, which means they are often inseparable, becoming one and the same. Coca-Cola is a great example, where the popular soft drink became synonymous with the company itself. This means it carries a tremendous monetary value, affecting both the bottom line and, for public companies, shareholder value

This is why it's important for companies to protect their brands from a legal standpoint. Trademarks identify exclusive ownership over a brand and/or product, along with any associated marketing tools. Registering trademarks prevent others from using your products or services without obtaining your permission.

Special Considerations

Brands aren't just for corporate use. In fact, they are now also commonly used by individuals, especially in the age of reality television and social media. For instance, the Kardashian family has developed value in its brand after gaining popularity from the popular reality show. The family has, collectively and as individuals, used its name to successfully launch media and modeling careers, spinoff shows, cosmetics, perfumes, and clothing lines.

History of Brands

Brands have long been used to set products apart over the course of history. The idea of branding may go as far back as 2000 B.C., where merchants used it to sell their wares in different markets. At that time, it was commonly used as a technique to denote ownership of a product or a piece of property.

Branding has been used throughout the ages. The oldest known generic brand still used today is an herbal paste from India called Chyawanprash. In the 13th century, Italians began putting watermarks on their paper as a form of branding. The term brand also refers to the unique marks burned into the hides of cattle to distinguish the animals of one owner from those of another.

But one of the most popular uses was in rural America. You've probably heard of the term branding, which was used by cattle ranchers, who used to brand their livestock as a form of identification. Brands started taking off after companies started packaging their goods in the late 1880s to distinguish themselves from other companies.

Types of Brands

The type of brand used depends on the particular entity using it. The following are some of the most common forms of brands:

  • Corporate Brands: Corporate branding is a way for companies to market themselves in order to give themselves an edge against their competition. They make a series of important decisions in order to accomplish this, such as pricing, mission, target market, and values.
  • Personal Brands: As mentioned above, branding isn't just for companies anymore. People use tools like social media to build their own personas, thereby boosting their brands. This includes regular social media posts, sharing images and videos, and conducting meet-and-greets.
  • Product Brands: This type of branding, which is also known as merchandise branding, involves marketing one particular product. Branding a product requires market research and choosing the proper target market.
  • Service Brands: This kind of branding applies to services, which often requires some creativity, as you can't actually show services in a physical way.

Apple, Google, Microsoft, Amazon, and Facebook were the most valuable brands in 2020, according to Forbes.

Creating a Brand

When a company settles on a brand to be its public image, it must first determine its brand identity, or how it wants to be viewed. For instance, a company logo often incorporates a company's message, slogan, or product. The goal is to make the brand memorable and appealing to the consumer.

The company usually consults a design firm, team, or logo design software to come up with ideas for the visual aspects of a brand, such as a logo or a symbol. A successful brand accurately portrays the message or feeling the company wants to get across. This results in brand awareness, or the recognition of the brand's existence and what it offers. On the other hand, an ineffective brand often results from miscommunication.

Once a brand has created positive sentiment among its target audience, the firm is said to have built brand equity. Some examples of firms with brand equity and possessing very recognizable brands of products include Microsoft, Coca-Cola, Ferrari, Apple, and Facebook.

If done right, a brand results in an increase in sales not just for the specific product being sold, but also for other products sold by the same company. A good brand engenders trust in the consumer, and, after having a good experience with one product, the consumer is more likely to try another product related to the same brand. As noted above, this phenomenon is often referred to as brand loyalty.

Benefits of Brands

Creating a brand provides numerous benefits, whether that's to a corporation or an individual. Successful branding leads to a lot of impressions. But what does this mean? A company that can get its message across is able to induce and evoke emotion within its customer base. These consumers develop unique relationships with these companies, allowing the latter to capitalize on their loyalty. Companies also rely on these customers to help draw in other, new consumers.

This helps companies build trust and credibility. After all, people are more apt to purchase goods and services (or brands) from companies they know and trust. This gives companies a competitive edge against their competition. Keeping brands in the minds of consumers means a bigger bottom line.

It also helps corporations introduce newer products and services. Since consumers are going to stay loyal to brands they know and trust—and with whom they already have a relationship—they're more likely to spend when new products are released, even if they're more expensive.

Let's use Apple as an example. The company has built a hugely loyal customer base that is willing to overlook the price tag associated with an iMac, MacBook, iPad, or iPhone because of their loyalty to the brand. Many existing customers are completely willing to replace their existing electronics when the company releases new ones.

Brand FAQs

What Does Brand Mean in Marketing?

A brand is an intangible concept that helps people (notably consumers) recognize and identify a particular company, product, or individual.

What Are 4 Types of Brands?

There are numerous types of brands, but the four most common ones include corporate brands, personal brands, product brands, and service brands.

What Are Brand Examples?

Although brands are generally intangible, we often associate things like products and names with brands. Examples include Apple, Nike, Coca-Cola, Advil, and Tylenol.

What Is the Importance of a Brand?

Brands are important because they create value for corporations and individuals. They also provide a competitive edge in the market against an entity's competition. Successful branding augments a company's customer base, which creates trust and credibility, leading to brand loyalty—all of which give a company a competitive edge in the market and a bigger bottom line.

What Does Brand Equity Mean?

Brand equity is a concept that refers to the value generated from a company's product or service when it is compared to a generic equivalent that is available to consumers on the market. Think of Advil compared to its generic ibuprofen counterparts on drugstore shelves.

The Bottom Line

When we hear the word "brand," most of us think of logos, slogans, and other identifiable marks. But that's just one part of the definition. The term brand is actually an intangible marketing concept that helps people recognize and identify a business or person.

Brands are one of the most important and valuable assets that a company or person owns. They can make or break a company, so it's important that firms do their research before launching a product or service, or before they open their doors for business. Successful branding can help the company attract and retain a customer base, which can lead to brand loyalty while giving it a leg up on the competition.