Brand and Branding Defined

Ed Burghard“Losers make promises they often break.  Winners make commitments they always keep.”

Denis Waitley

I have noticed that there has been a lot of discussion on the definition of brand and branding lately in the LinkedIn Groups I frequent. In part, I am not surprised. The advent of tools to help communicate directly with people has resulted in a revisit of the classic four P’s definition. The tools have shifted the focus from product to consumer. And with that shift comes an important change of perspective. It moves from product performance to consumer experience. To be clear, this is not a new concept. It is more like a pendulum shift in emphasis.

My Working Definition

Over the years, I have shifted my language to defining a brand as a promise. It sets an expectation of an experience. This shift makes it easier to explain the fundamentals to business people not schooled in branding terminology. They readily understand that when you make a promise it is good business practice to keep it, and that breaking promises is a certain path to business disaster.

The response to this definition has been overwhelmingly positive from business managers wanting to better understand how to use branding as a key strategy for accelerated success. It has received a mixed reaction from academics that prefer to stick with the traditional product focused approach discussed in innumerable textbooks used by MBA programs.

How To Define Your Promise

With small and medium businesses I find articulating the brand promise is often a challenge. It typically isn’t something that has had sufficient thought. Most of the focus has been on start-up challenges and branding has been a second priority.

Kevin Keller’s points of parity and points of difference model is a helpful tool to identify the unique value proposition of a product or service. I encourage you to read Kevin’s work. I think he is one of the brightest brand strategists of our time. His model encourages a comparative assessment to determine what he calls points of parity and points of difference. I describe points of parity as the ” ticket to entry” to compete in a category. These are attributes you need to ensure your product or service delivers to a degree similar to the competition. Points of difference are where a competitive advantage exists. My twist on Kevin’s model is that I call out both positive and negative points of difference. My rule of thumb for a point of difference is a statistically significant positive delta between the perceptual score for your product/service versus the scores of a relevant competitive set. Positive points of difference need to be maintained and the advantage expanded. Negative points of difference should be evaluated closely and you should invest in eliminating the competitive disadvantage of the most important. Neutralizing a disadvantage makes it a point of parity.

Market Research Can Help

How do you know what your points of parity and points of difference are? How do you know if you’ve expanded the advantage you have with your positive points of difference and closed the gap on your negative?

The answer is to execute a quantitative market research study that asks respondents two important questions with respect to a list of defined attributes.

The first question is – “How important is this attribute to your capital investment decision (or purchase decision)?”.

The second is – “How well does the location (or product/service) perform on the attribute?”. The second question is asked for your location ( or product/service) and typically a set of 3-4 direct competitors so you can compare relative scores.

The market research firm will then calculate the statistical significance of the scores. Typically, it is calculated based on a 95% confidence interval (only 5% probability of being wrong). I like to have an 80% confidence interval because my experience suggests 95% is too restrictive, and frankly in business better than 50:50 odds is generally a blessing. Using an 80% level will result in more data points meeting the statistical significance test giving you more insight into relative differences.

Listen Hardest To Those With Experience

Armed with the quantitative assessment of the perception of your location (or product/service) relative to the competition you are now in a position to better determine what your promise is. My strong recommendation I to pay the most attention to the perception of respondents already doing business in your location, or who already have. Experience with your product/service. They have the most realistic view of your location’s (or product/service’s) relative strengths and weaknesses. Plus your goal, generally speaking, is to find more capital investors or consumer/customers who match the profile of those that have an experience with your location/product/service. Make the right promise and you should attract people with similar wants, needs and desires.

At a minimum, you know not to try and promise something the data argues is a negative point of difference for your community/product/service versus the competition.

Hopefully the above help up better understand what a brand is and how you can go about identifying a brand promise.

Discussion

Think about the definition of a brand as a promise.  What are the implications on your current approach?  Does it bring up any new thoughts or considerations?  Are you keeping or breaking your promise?  Is your promise relevant, competitive and authentic?  Could your promise be even stronger?  Let me know your thoughts.

Leave a comment with your thoughts.

What You Need To Know About The American Dream

Media Coverage

Fox Business 

Wall Street Journal

FoxNews

American Dream Case Study Series

Cincinnati versus Ohio and Nation

Indiana versus Michigan

Florida versus North Carolina

New York versus New Jersey

California versus Texas

Pennsylvania versus New York

North Carolina versus Texas

Ohio versus Michigan

How Easy Is It To Achieve The American Dream In Your State?

To view the complete set of State rankings based on the ADCI and five explanatory sub-indexes, download the complimentary 2012 American Dream State Ranking Report.

Download American Dream Report

What do you think of this post?
  • Awesome (0)
  • Interesting (0)
  • Useful (0)
  • Boring (0)
  • Sucks (0)

9 Comments  |   Forward this to a friend Forward this to a friend   |   Number of emails sent: 541

Category Place Brand Building, Promotion

Bookmark and Share

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.

9 Comments so far

  1. Miki Ellsworth

    March 30, 2012

    Equate the brand to the product or industry.
    Coke supersedes cola.
    Tylenol trumps acetaminophen.
    A brand seeks to evoke, be associated with, synonymous for,
    or prevail over the generic term for the product.

  2. George Harben

    April 6, 2012

    A brand is the first impression you get when you hear a product or location. Do you smle, cringe or have a blank expression?

  3. Graham Robertson

    April 19, 2012

    The line I use to describe a brand is: “A brand is a promise that’s consistently kept.”

    Sometimes I like to broaden it slightly to just say “a brand is an idea”….because sometimes it’s more than a promise actually. And more and more: yes, facebook is a promise, but it’s now bigger than that…it’s an idea.

    linking brands to products feels old fashioned, because i started mapping out the history of branding moments, and i found so many of the moments in the last 10 years dominated by things like google, facebook, itunes….and wonder if those really are products or services…or if really the are something else….bigger….they are an idea.

  4. Edward

    May 7, 2012

    Graham, in principle I agree. But, one of the big challenges I see is that brand promises are often broken (inauthentic). That’s why I define a brand as a promise and branding as ensuring that promise is kept across all touch points and over time. By the way, I love your work! Please be a frequent commenter, you have valuable insight to share.

  5. […] the WHO step, you define your strategic target and prime prospects groups. But, how do you know if your WHO definition is good […]

  6. […]   […]

  7. […] Brand and Branding Defined […]

  8. […] “The Burghard Group | Strengthening Brand America http://t.co/tEy9iqldHc”  […]

  9. […] helps bring a community’s brand promise to life in a compelling, shorthand way.  But remember, a brand is a promise.  It sets an expectation of an […]

9 Responses to “Brand and Branding Defined”




XHTML: You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

By submitting a comment here you grant Strengthening Brand America a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate comments will be removed at admin's discretion.

SBA Blog