What is a brand?

In the first sense of the word, a brand is simply the name for a product or service from a specific source. Coke from those folks in Atlanta. Kleenex facial tissue, sold by the people at Kimberly Clark. Tide laundry detergent from Procter and Gamble. While these are certainly brand names, in contemporary marketing there is a huge difference between a brand name and a brand.

In the latter part of the 20th century, marketers began to grasp that there was more to the perception of distinctive products than simply their names – something that David Ogilvy described as the “intangible sum of a product’s attributes.” Marketers began to appreciate the specific perceptions in customer’s minds concerning the qualities and attributes of each product or service, and began calling these perceptions “the brand.”

The Coke brand is a symbol of friendship and refreshment. Kleenex helps people fulfill their needs for comfort, softness and cleanliness with high-quality and gentle products, and Tide is “America’s favorite laundry detergent.”

So what is our brand? Put simply, the University of Arkansas brand is what our audiences think of when they hear our name. It’s their gut feeling about us. It’s not what WE say it is. It’s what THEY say it is. (Neutron, LLC). It is the sum total of all existing associations made with our university, including the good, bad and ugly.

A brand is:

  1. Unique – we notice what is different about something; not what is the same. At the heart of a strong brand is how it is different from competitors.
    We don’t buy a dress because everyone at work is wearing it.
  2. Experiential – a brand essence captures what the consumer feels during an experience with the brand.
    It’s a consumer’s definition; its not internal jargon.
  3. Relevant – the essence must be relevant to the consumer – a brand’s essence must be desirable and vital.
    It’s what matters to them; not what you say it is.
  4. Consistently delivered – If the core audience doesn’t consistently experience it then practically it isn’t the true essence.
    The character of a brand must be consistently represented across all company operations and marketing mediums.
  5. Authentic – the brand essence must be believable or the brand will be rejected. It’s allowed to be aspirational as long as the consumer believes you can deliver on the promise.
    Consumers expect the truth and the real thing from brand owners.
  6. Durable – the brand essence will stand over time. It doesn’t change. Ever.