This a question I get asked a lot. I like it because my answer changes over time.
My short answer is reputation and here’s why.
It used to be that a brand (before the word become over-used and attributed to minor celebrities) was what you wanted it to be. By that I mean a business decided what goods and services it would want to offer, where they could be purchased and how they wanted customers to perceive them. Simples.
However, that’s a long way from the reality now.
With the advent of the internet came social media, along with 24/7 round the world mass media broadcasting, it’s almost impossible for a brand to go unnoticed. And why would you want to be unnoticed? Well, I can think of a few reasons but lets park that discussion there for the moment.
The cold reality is a reputation can be examined from a myriad of channels by the whole world in an instant. So much so that Twitter has seriously been considered as the most appropriate communications channel come the third world war, brother.
Flip that round and here’s the important bit – it’s possible to publish invaluable messages about your brand back through those same channels. Essentially brain-washing people into knowing things before coming into direct contact with you.
The main thing to understand is that a brand belongs in the hearts and minds of the general public. Like a relationship, it changes depending on how much love it is given. It’s not something you can own, only influence. You don’t even have to be a customer to have an opinion of a brand (I’ve never bought a Robbie Williams CD or been to one of his gigs – and I’m not about to start now).
So for a brand, think reputation.
Then think of how you can shape that reputation not only by the goods and services you offer, but by the content you publish and push through those pipes.