How do we build  this brand?

This question leads to all sorts of strategies and tactics that are all aimed at engaging consumers in some way, to get them to prefer the brand and sometimes even buy  and recommend to their friends.

Marketers cannot decide what the term ‘brand’ means. I just googled ‘What is a brand’ and got 290 million responses.  This post by Heidi Cohen lists 30 definitions from very reputable sources, several of them with ‘gurus’ status. All are correct,(at least in my mind) in some way, but they are all different.  None of them reflect the reality that a brand is an outcome in peoples minds, not a thing. Fundamental to most of this thinking is that It is assumed that the word ‘Brand’ is a verb: To brand.


A brand is an outcome of a huge range of activities that impact, usually unnoticed by consumers and potential consumers, that together mix up and deliver an outcome for the individual that when all amalgamated result in what we conveniently call a ‘brand’.

If you are setting out to build a brand, have a clear view of the outcome  you want, but then align the activities so they all contribute in some  small way, incrementally, to the achievement, to the  journey towards what a customer will call a brand.

These observations by marketing professor Mark Ritson on the repositioning of Burberry is exactly on the money.  The new branding guru assumes that the Burberry brand is a thing, and asset albeit intangible that is separate to everything around it, and able to be ‘managed’ as you would a piece of machinery.

Wrong again.

Burberry like every other brand is an outcome of a host of activities that impact on the way customers, and non-customers see the brand, and describe it in the terms Clayton Christianson refers to it in the context of  the Job to be done.

Brand building is a strategic exercise, taking resources, wisdom, and the power to make long term decisions that stick. It is not a task to be undertaken by the junior brand manager, their job is to execute tactically and contribute data, ideas, and competitive intelligence, not play games with the biggest asset most companies own.

Harley Davidson is one of the best known, most deeply seated brands around. While there have been some hiccups along the way, Harley has been utterly consistent in its promise to riders since the beginning. The promise and its delivery continues to evolve, but in a way that recognises that its huge value is the primary asset of the business.