Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind. – Walter Landor

A brand is something intangible. It is simply a unique perception, image or impression that forms in the minds of its internal and external stakeholders when they encounter a particular company or product.

Whatever a brand’s unique perception, image or impression might be, it’s main purpose is to differentiate itself from its competitors.  In order to do so, the differentiating factor must the following fulfill 5 criteria:-

  • Unique – It must be something special that no other competitors are already claiming
  • Easy to understand – It must be simple enough for stakeholders to make sense of without needing much explanation
  • Favourable - It must be something that has positive connotations
  • Convincing - Stakeholders must see value in this differentiating factor
  • Defensible – It must not be easily replicated or copied by competitors

Contrary to popular belief, a logo is not a brand. A logo is simply the visual representation of the brand. A brand is not a brand unless it stands for one distinct image, and one image alone. A company or product that tries to project too many images at the same time cannot claim to be a brand as it is unsure of its identity and confuses its stakeholders.

Branding refers to the development of an effective strategy to project this singular differentiating image in the promotion of a company or product. The purpose of branding is to achieve perceptual differentiation vis-à-vis competitors.

Marketing refers to the process or technique of promoting, selling, and distributing a product or service through the communication of its differentiating image.

The roles of branding and marketing are different but complementary.  Think of them as the 2 essential components in building a successful business; just like what fuel and oxygen are to a burning flame – reduce one and the flame flickers; remove one entirely and the flame is extinguished. Without branding, marketing is aimless; Without marketing, branding is useless. In the long run, a well-thought-out brand strategy coupled with a well-executed marketing strategy, will allow a company or product to establish a clearly differentiated presence in the competitive marketplace.

For a brand to be strong, its unique differentiating factor that must be deeply rooted in the minds of its stakeholders. Hence, the strength of a brand depends on the strength of association that stakeholders hold between the company or product, and this differentiating factor.