Much has been written about the importance of a “brand” in recent years. A range of definitions have been offered as to what a brand exactly is. Many still lack some clarity about the matter. This post offers some simple guidance on understanding what a brand is, and how it can serve an important purpose for your organization.
A “Brand” Defined
The simplest place to begin understanding the concept of a brand might be with cattle. In the wide open range of the American west, ranchers allow their stock to roam freely without fences. Not surprisingly this leads to extensive intermingling of herds. Animals owned by one ranch live side by side with those from others. This situation would prove unworkable without some permanent means of identifying which stock belong to which owner.
As a result, distinct marks have developed over time. After birth, calves are “branded” with a hot iron associated with their owner, marking them permanently, and making them instantly distinguishable from the animals of other ranches. The marks are distinct, each standing out from others. They are also readily recognizable. Over time, the marks have become associated with the business practices, habits, and personnel of each of the ranches. In other words, the marks are not only different in appearance, but they carry an impression as to the quality (or lack thereof) of the ranch behind the mark.
Branding in Marketing
With this simple background it is easy to understand how this concept from the American west has made the jump to our modern lexicon of marketing. Company marks or logos began to emerge perhaps 150 years ago. Over time these logos became instantly associated with the products or services behind them. Early “brand” recognition revolved around the name of a company or its product. Over time it became apparent that the marks held more sway in the public’s mind than initially recognized.
In marketing, especially among nonprofits, the concept of “branding” must be kept in perspective. It’s unlikely that most of us will ever have access to enough resources to burn the color impression of our marks into peoples’ brains the way say, Coca-cola red, conjures up an immediate image. Still, as organizations mature, they do well to maintain their marks (logos) with clarity, ensuring size, dimension, and color remain consistent over time.