What is a brand and brand identity?

What is a brand?

Although there is no single definition for brand (Adamson, 2009, p. 179; Danesi, 2006 as cited in, Pinto, 2012, p.1; Semprini, 1995, as cited in, Pinto, 2012, p.1) most of the scholars agree that "brand is a promise" (Adamson, 2009, p. 179; Fazarinc, 2001, p. 8; Ghodeswar, 2008, p. 4; Kania, 2001, p. 16; Nelson, 2001, p. 134) between the organization and buyer (Adamson, 2009, p. 179). The promise suggests something beneficial to customers. For example, a promise for using toothpaste which makes teeth white, or it can be something that focuses on the customer's emotions like listening to music with an mp3 player which makes them happy (Adamson, 2009,p. 179). In both ways, a brand's goal is to promise something beneficial to customers. For example, Dove's promise to women is that it will make them beautiful like a superstar (Adamson, 2009, p. 153).

While scholars agree that a "brand is a promise", there is more to a brand than a promise. Wheeler (2012) defines a brand as an emotional bond between customers and manufacturers which forms a unique and permanent relationship (p. 2). Unlike other definitions, this definition focuses on the role of both customer and producer in creating a brand because it defines the brand as a relationship which has two sides. Likewise, Pink (as cited in, Millman, 2012) believes that brand can be defined from two points of view: from the side that sends the brand message - also known as the brand promise; and from the receiver's side which in this case is the customer (p. 228). Duncan (as cited in, Millman, 2012) also defines the brand in a similar way. He believes that when individuals see a brand that they like, they create a strong feeling for it and will interact with the brand in their daily life. He calls this process "the first moment of truth" (p.52).

To summarize, a brand is more than a promise, it is what the customer feels and thinks about a brand. It is the customer's instinct for a product, service, or business (Neumeier, as cited in, Wheeler, 2012, p.2) that settles into the customer's mind (Keller, 1998, as cited in, Pinto, 2012, p.1). As a result, no matter how good a brand promise is, it is the customer that makes or breaks a brand.

What is brand identity?

As mentioned above, scholars define brand differently. However, brand identity is defined in similar ways by researchers. A brand identity is a tangible projection of a brand that is experienced across all human senses. It is a combination of elements that reflect the meaning of the brand (Wheeler, 2012, p. 4). A group of features such as images, symbols and text that brand organizers (companies or manufacturers) develop to portray and invoke a brand's promise into the customer mind and to implement the brand message in their subconscious (Aaker, 2010, p. 68; Ghodeswar, 2008, p. 4). These messages include ideas and pictorial and textual elements which create a uniform and consistent identity throughout the brand (Kania, 2001, p. 8; Wheeler, 2012, p. 4). These brand elements should be unique, outstanding, and suitable for the audience since the brand identity is the first impression that customers receive from the brand (Lerman, 2013, p. 147). For example, when an individual sees the Prada logo, the color palette, and typography they can get the impression that this brand represents luxury and upper-class products.

Developing a good brand identity can help your business be more recognizable and successful.

We work with businesses to develop brand identities that make them easier to recognise in print and online. We can help you. Ask us how.


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Lerman, S. (2013). Building better brands: A comprehensive guide to brand strategy and identity development. Cincinnati, OH: HOW Books.

October 18, 2016