One of the reasons that branding is so confusing is that people use the words ‘brand’ to mean so many different things. Here are four ways the word brand is used and a definition for branding.

Definition of Brand and Branding

‘Brand’ is a substitute word for company, product, or business name

The word brand is sometimes used interchangeably with business or company and can also cover both products and services. When writing or talking about a large variety of companies and types of companies, using the word brand can be easier to say. This is especially true when a parent company has different products underneath.

Five fashion brands released their collections today in Milan. Because some of those fashion lines are stand-alone companies and some are subsidiaries of larger companies, the word brand is a better word.

Your brand should post on its Facebook page. Rather than say your business should post or your product or app should post, writers use the word brand to cover all types of business situations.

Some of the top brands will be attending the Consumer Electronics Show this year. Because some of these may be companies, some may be software products, and some may be physical products, it’s easier to say brand.

‘Brand’ means logo and visual identity

The word brand is often used when discussing the visual styles and identity that represent a business or product.

I need to hire a designer to develop the brand for my new business. This could mean logo design, packaging, or another part of the visual identity.

I love that company’s new brand! Again, this usually refers to a company’s visual brand or product.

‘Brand’ refers to a trademark 

According to the US Patent and Trademark Office, “A trademark can be any word, phrase, symbol, design, or combination that identifies your goods or services.” That sounds a lot like a brand!

Branding is a creative process of finding the best name and designing a unique symbol to represent the goods and services you offer. Securing a trademark for those elements once they are complete gives you legal protection against other people trying to use those same elements in a way that would confuse the marketplace.

Have you talked with a lawyer about registering your brand name? The same creative elements that help you stand out in the marketplace are the things the USPTO can help you protect through a trademark.

‘Brand’ means a promise

You successfully build a brand if it becomes recognized by your customers and in the marketplace. Eventually, just hearing a business name or seeing a logo brings expectations about a product or service.

For example, when someone hears Rolex’s name, they immediately expect luxury. If Rolex were to introduce a car, it would be a fancy car. If Taco Bell were to introduce a car, it would be more economical but fun and fast to drive.

In this way, you can think of a brand as a promise of what’s expected from a business or product. You can also think of it as the company’s reputation or product.

When you see the name Volvo, you immediately think of safety.

Your brand is like your company’s reputation.

‘Branding’ is an active process

Branding is any active pursuit of creatively shaping your brand. Designing a logo or applying your visual style to your website are branding activities.

This includes understanding your ideal customers, researching your competition, and finding your market position. It also means clarifying your value proposition. It also encompasses all of the work that precedes the development of anything visual.

Because the word brand can mean so many different things, it cannot be obvious. Since ‘brand’ can refer to abstract ideas like a Unique Value Proposition and tangible things like a logo, it is even harder to understand. Once you know the value of a strong brand in developing a solid business, you’ll realize why so many people in business talk about brands and branding.