When looking up the term brand in the dictionary, the definition is quite simple: “A type of product manufactured by a company under a particular name” 

If it were that simple, surely there wouldn’t be so many agencies, experts and gurus who specialise in making brands more than just a product with a name.

At Columinate, we’ve done our fair share of branding research among consumers and employees and often we see that branding is much more than a name. It also means different things to different people. In employee surveys, we often see human resource related issues creep in; and this has a great effect on how the brand is perceived. With consumers it’s often about the feeling associated with the product or service.

In a recent survey we asked consumers on our panel to define, in their own words, what a brand is. The iconic brands like Nike and Coca-Cola helped those who didn’t quite have the vocabulary to articulate what they thought, while others provided better definitions than most branding gurus. What stood out most were the elements related to the corporate identity; the name, logo and slogan. Consumers often referred to “being able to recognise” the brand without any words being present.

Brand was also often referred to as the “idea” of what the company stands for – very much being consumer language for what marketers like to call mind share or brand equity. Reputation or whether you have a positive or negative feeling toward the company was another popular response.

What is clear is that brand is a post-modern child, it takes many meanings and is often difficult to express in words alone. The implication for measurement is obvious; make sure you define what you mean with the term brand, especially if you want to avoid employees referring to their direct manager instead of the company brand.

Whether constructs like reputation can stand alone also begs a question to be answered – is reputation a product of brand? Or is brand a product of reputation?

The world cloud illustrates the responses from almost 4000 consumers from our panel – looking at it qualitatively, there are a few gems:

“A popular product that has a good reputation and its name and logos are recognised instantly!”

“A well-recognised institution / company which really helps with the sales of the company. For example if people see the brand name Woolworths they make sure that they go and get what is inside- since it is one of the biggest brands- and it has never let them down.” 

“An identifiable mark/logo that represents certain values, lifestyles, products, services or popularity, while it also evokes certain emotions (positive or negative) and holds persuasive powers. E.g. Coke, Nike, Discovery, Kulula.com”

“Brand awareness is something emotional that people react to rather than just a logo or a uniform.  Branding something needs to get the emotional connection with human beings in order for it to be properly recognised. I personally think branding has to create that warm feeling inside to be successful”

“Branding is a company logo that is used and advertised in such a way that even if there are no words written or spoken with the logo it is so well known that you know exactly what it is and what it is worth and what you can use it for. For instance the NIKE brand or Coke”

“It is the image and feeling that you get when you look at the product. You will have a positive or negative feeling the moment you see the name. This ‘feeling’ that you get has everything to do with branding.”