A brand is something that fully inhabits our minds and partially inhabits the world. Let me take some examples. What brand comes to mind when you see this can?
It doesn't really matter what brand you think of. Since the can in itself is brandless the brand is only in your mind. What brand comes to mind when you see these trousers?
Maybe the choice isn't a clear one. Maybe several brands come to mind. Now the third example. What brand comes to mind when you see this device?
Most people say Apple or Iphone. It is not a surprise. Apple is the strongest and highest valued brand in the world according to interbrand.com. It has been that for several years now. More about that later.
There are many attempts to define what a brand is. I give you some examples.
1. A brand is a product + the packaging + added value.
2. A brand is a name, symbol, packaging and service reputation.
3. A brand is every sign that is capable of distinguishing the goods or services of a company and that can have a certain meaning for consumers both in material and immaterial terms
4. A brand is something that has actually created a certain amount of awareness, reputation and prominence in the marketplace.
This quote by Interbrand captures the idea of a brand really well.
Some of the keywords are in italics. A brand makes it possible to differentiate a product or service from other products or services. Consumers develop relationships to their brands and those relationships can be very strong. You don't change a friend for a stranger in a moment.
A brand can create relationships to a large group of people. People in Italy are well aware of the brand Zanussi. It is not some well-known in Sweden. In Germany they are familiar with the brand AEG. It is not so popular in Spain. In Sweden they trust the brand Husqvarna While people in Turkey have never heard about it. All of these brands were developed on a certain market and created relationships with the people living in a specific country. The thing about these brands are that they are all owned, today, by the company Electrolux. Electrolux is a Swedish company and brand. Their dishwashers are manufactured in Germany. The ones that are sold in Italy have the Zanussi logo on them. The ones that are sold in Sweden have the logo Husqvarna or Electrolux. The ones sold in Germany have the AEG logo on the front.
Besides the logo on the front that the different national groups have a special relationship to the dishwashers are identical. Would it be a good idea to sell a Zanussi in Sweden, a Husqvarna in Germany or an AEG in Italy? It wouldn't be impossible but it is so much easier to sell a brand that consumers already trust.
Some brands have created relationships on a global level. Apple and Samsung are good examples. Toyota and BMW are two other examples. Nike and H&M are also typical examples. These six brands are some of the most valued in the world. Can we assume then that they are connected to the largest companies in the world in terms of turnover and profit? Not really. The largest companies in the world are banks and finance institutes. Their brands are not very strong.
Well-known brands are important and personal for a lot of people. After some time we can't live without them. That is also when we have invited the brand into our minds. When we are thirsty we probably think of the strongest brand on beverages. When we need clothes we probably think of the strongest clothing brand in our mind and so on.
Brands exist in our minds to help us sort the good stuff from the bad stuff. That is what they are and that is what they do.