WTH is brand?


Brand, brand, brand, what the h*** is brand? The benefits of brand are well documented from customer recognition to a competitive edge. We experience well-branded products and even pay a premium for commodities that speak to who we are.

In a quest to wrangle what brand is, I’ve been to a few meetings on the topic. Many conversations spend a lot of time detailing what brand is greater than (i.e., a brand is not just your colors, logo, and fonts, but it’s part of it). It’s just that je ne sais quoi, and as an analytical leaning person, this nebulous view of brand kind of drives me up the wall.

So…WTH is brand?

I blended this definition from emotive brand and market business chronicle which makes the concept more tangible.

A brand is the image and personality of a product or service that a business provides. It results in a person’s perception of a product, service, experience, or organization

In laymen’s terms, it’s the business’s reputation as a result of the consistent actions we take in the business. Our Instagram posts, how we interact with our customers, and yes, even the colors, logos, and font we choose to represent the company all comprise the brand. However, how customers ultimately perceive those actions is what the brand is. So while we can influence our brand, it mostly exists in the perception external from us.

Cool, so how do you form a brand?

The strategies I resonate most with are the ideas in Simon Sinek’s Start with Why and Alex Wolf’s work in micro-cultures. The main idea behind Start with Why is that people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. When the why behind your company is clear, you speak to your customer’s limbic system, which is a less conscious but essential part of decision making. That part of the brain doesn’t have the capacity for language, so you’ll be targeting a customer’s desire for your product in ways that they may not be able to rationalize fully.

Alex Wolf extends on this and makes it more tactical with the idea of serving microcultures. A microculture refers to subgroups, marked with their languages, ethos, and rule expectations that permeate differentiated societies. When you combine starting with why with finding and serving microcultures, companies don’t just let customers know their why but also become the vehicle that enables customers to express themselves.


Examples in the wild

Below are a few real-world examples to make this concept more real.

1.Black Rifle Coffee company

Black rifle coffee sells…coffee, but their imagery and posts show conservative veterans and gun owners that their coffee is a way to express themselves.




2. WILDFANG

On the other side of the spectrum are Wildfang, the self-described home for badass women everywhere and a way for wild feminists to express themselves.




3. Mailchimp

Mailchimp is an email marketing service for businesses. Their brand is quirky and playful and speaks to the authentic small business owner who does things a little differently.



To figure out a micro culture for your own brand, research your existing or ideal customers or followers (Instagram makes this easy). Learn more about what they follow and share. This can give you some vital information on how your brand can sit into the broad narrative of who your customers believe they are. Hope this was helpful. What are your tips for creating a brand? Would love to hear it.

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