What is a “Brand”?

Brand is a name. Brand is a shape. Brand is a design. Brand is a logo. Brand is a color. — All of these aspects of a brand are trademarked and are fiercely protected.

Think of the generic attributes of a product:

  • Search
  • Experience
  • Credence

“Brand” is a shorthand for all of them and provides a notion of the characteristics of the product. Of these generic attributes, brand tells us the most about the experience and credence attributes. The importance of the brand with respect to each of the attributes depends somewhat on the product. For Coke, brand tells us about experience. For Apple, it tells about experience and maybe credence.

A few years ago, Microsoft had a glitch in a new version of Windows whereby the calculator which didn’t always give the correct answer to simple arithmetic. Microsoft tried to assure its users that the glitch didn’t occur often. However, people were up in arms! The Microsoft brand is largely about credence. So, a rare problem with the reliability of the calculator function destroyed some of the credence in the Microsoft brand name; consumers couldn’t be 100% sure that the calculator issue was really as rare as Microsoft said it was. In addition, perhaps there were other things wrong with Windows that hadn’t been discovered…

Since brand is an asset, it can appreciate over time if it is invested in. And it can depreciate over time if investment in it is neglected. Brand value is usually built over a long period of time and is a unique resource that creates value as long as it either exists or is perceived to exist. This perception is very important because a brand can continue to convey a desired message about a product that is no longer really up to standards whereas marketing communication (such as advertising) is only a way of communicating what the characteristics of a product actually are. The same idea holds true for differences between products. Whereas marketing efforts cannot describe a product as being different from another if there really isn’t any difference, the brand name can be a powerful differentiator for a very long time after the differences goes away.

An example is of this is Coke. In a variety of blind taste tests, consumers don’t really prefer Coke over other cola soft drinks. But, when the labels are visibile during taste tests, people usually prefer Coke. That means that the Coke brand is valuable and that there’s brand equity.

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