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What is a brand, and what is all the fuss about?

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​Imagine someone you love dearly. The moment you do that, your brain opens the drawer of the filing cabinet that contains all the information on that person. Your mind is triggered to open this cabinet when you see the face of the person or hear their name. The image of the person serves as their icon, which is a unique identifier. An excellent example of this is Apple. By seeing the Apple icon, you immediately know the name of the brand, which is the same as seeing someone's face. You immediately remember their name. The icon, name, logo and trademarks are known as brand communication or brand identifiers. 

So what is a brand? With regards to the word 'brand', Google explains that the word originated in the mid-17th century. Its background is Germanic and was used to explain the action of using a hot iron to mark cattle with a unique marking, thus identifying the ownership of that cattle. Today, a brand is a unique identifier showing ownership of an item. It is made up of numerous parts that all combine into a perception of a product, service or organisation.

In this drawer within your mind's filing cabinet, you will have lots of stored information. It consists of images of both good and bad times and contains feelings of which the most recent may be more prevalent than those stored at a previous time. If someone made you angry recently, you would most probably experience a sense of anger or irritation when you hear their name, think of them, or see them again. This is what we call brand perception, and it encompasses all the experiences a person had with your brand. It includes shop visits, contacting your customer call centre, interactions on your website or speaking to one of your employees over the weekend.​​

Every brand also has what we call brand assets or a unique identifier of the product. The shape of a Coca-Cola bottle, for instance, is a great example. So, it is something unique that triggers your brain to retrieve the specific drawer bringing everything you know of the object to the forefront. The brand identifier (icon, logo, colours, etc.) along with the brand assets (unique identifier) combine to give you your overall brand identity.

Another essential factor of a brand would be your employees. They too form part of the brand identity because their interactions with and the way they treat customers are what will be added to the drawer of your company. Every experience anyone has with your brand affect their loyalty towards your brand. Good experiences will add to their loyalty, and bad ones will have an opposite effect, possibly costing you valuable clients. The odd thing is that numerous good experiences won't necessarily result in someone shifting to another brand.  This can be explained by using a mother as an example. If an aunt showers a person with love and care, it does not mean that that person would necessarily replace the mother with the aunt. It's not entirely the same with products and services since it is generally easier to switch between brands. It is more challenging to switch between some brands (like buying a new car), while others can be replaced more easily (like cool drink). You can change to some brands instantaneously. Because of phenomenona like these, brand awareness is essential. Brand awareness mostly consists of advertising and promotions. Every radio advertisement, billboard, newspaper and magazine advert, as well as TV advertisements, etc., forms part of this. This particular topic is so vast, consisting of its own set of elements and principles that it would make for a theme for another time.

We can safely say then that a brand consists of all the above. It has a brand identity, brand identifiers, brand awareness and​ brand loyalty.

What's all the fuss about?

How successful your brand is will translate directly to how profitable your company is. A brand is subliminally in the minds of all your customers and potential customers if they have been exposed to it at some point. Your brand then is the making or breaking point of the business.

Your brand identity is and should be applied to everything your company does. Every letter that goes out should have a letterhead that has the logo, name and more information about the company on it. Your shop or premises should have the logo on the front of the building and a distinct look and feel inside the premises. The chairs and countertops might be decorated in your primary colours. All of these contribute to your brand identity.

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