What is brand?

Welcome to our new series of blogs on realising the potential of your brand. In this series we’re going to take you through the minefield of unravelling the challenges of optimising your brand for business success. From uncovering your purpose to developing the right positioning, finessing your identity and tone of voice can help you drive brand awareness in a crowded market.

In this first blog, we’re focusing simply on understanding what we mean by brand.

The word brand originates from the old Norse word ‘brandr’ which literally meant ‘to burn’, and dates back to describing the way wood or cattle were burned with a stamp to signify their ownership. Even in this original use, it’s clear that there’s a necessity to differentiate things that are essentially the same e.g. one cow from the rest of the herd. Sticking with history for a moment, it could be said that the true inventor of brand was not Coca-Cola or Cadbury, but Henry VII, founder of the Tudor dynasty, whose claim to the throne was a little flimsy. To help him assert his reign he underwent a bit of a royal makeover. He adopted the red rose as a royal emblem that can be seen at the launch of the brand of the Tudor rose which is still used today by Visit England. Henry VII used this rose logo to help rally a largely illiterate population and unite his nation.

Tudor Rose

So, taking the lead from history, it’s no surprise that businesses started to harness the ability to use their visual identity to differentiate their products from others. It wasn’t long before some of our favourite products and brands today adopted a brand strategy and asserted their brand power.

Ford, Cadbury and Coca-Cola

So, is brand just about a logo and visual identity? The simple answer is to say no, it’s not. Today, developing and optimising the potential of a business’s brand has become an industry in itself with lots of buzz words, frameworks, tools, and theories. It’s easy for businesses to get lost or worse – give up trying to understand. One of the easiest definitions of brand is from much respected branding guru, Seth Godwin, who says ‘A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

Brand Map

When a business gets their brand right they create an emotional connection with their consumers, encouraging them to overtly choose their products and show loyalty despite other products potentially being cheaper, better quality or more widely available. Great demonstrations of this are the queues that form outside Apple stores with consumers desperate to buy the latest iPhone, or the hordes of fans that demonstrate their love for brands by branding themselves. From Nike to Superdry, there are countless other tags of credibility.

But surely if you’re not trying to be the next global name like Apple or Coca-Cola, does your brand really matter? Especially if you’re a B2B business. Actually, yes! Getting your brand right is essential for every business, it’s your way of telling your potential and existing customers how you want them to feel about your business.

BMW vs Mercedes

It’s your way of demonstrating your personality.


And it’s your way of positioning your pricing and quality.

Coffee cup branding

Getting your branding right for your business is a strategic approach, enabling your marketing to hang off it. You could say branding is aimed at winning hearts and minds while marketing is aimed at winning wallets, or that branding makes people think and feel while marketing makes people act.

So, how do businesses know if their branding is right or approach developing their brand? At Something Big we have helped hundreds of businesses review, evolve and drive the value of their brand. You can find out more about how we help businesses and check out some of our latest work here.

Client Review

If it’s time for you to relook at your brand and you’d like some help, get in touch to book a brand discovery workshop or chat to us about your specific challenges.