The “B” Word. Brand; yay or nay?


I just picked an interesting article off of Twitter, and while I don’t agree entirely with its premise, AdAge’s Austin McGie makes some interesting points about branding or, in his view, “the B word.”

First of all, like so many other words in the marketing vernacular, it’s misused and abused to the point we’re not sure what it means. It’s a noun. It’s a verb. Is it the product or service or just what it’s known as? It seems to have become a “catch-all” word for us marketing types to use to impress or intimidate. Austin says there’s no “line in the sand” between a product or service and its brand. I disagree.

The product or service is the thing or the thing you do that a customer pays for. The brand is the personality of that product or service (for brevity, let’s just refer to those as “the thing”) which that is perceived by its observers. Its look, its vocabulary or “voice,” its attitude, its character or quality, etc. These are the things that initially make us decide whether we like “the thing.” We approach brands much like we approach people, base on those things, before we decide whether we like them (no, not the Facebook “like,” that’s another blog.) So with these criteria, we can agree it’s a noun.

As a verb, if we must make a noun a verb, we can simply call the active form “branding” the process of creating a brand. Regarding “brand” in its regular form, well let’s just leave that to cattle ranchers.

The real verb in Mr. McGie’s article is “position” and how that communicates what you are to the rest of the world. While I agree with that, I’m not sure his “front door” metaphor really hits the mark, it’s close enough. A brand’s position is the one thing that’s going to make a customer interested in the brand. Its position should be the ONE thing it has that the other companies in that category don’t, or at least the thing that’s most attractive or relatable to consumers and makes them want to buy.

And that’s something I think we can all agree on!

Oh, here’s the article (you didn’t really think was gonna let you skip the blog did you?)

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