Business ≠ Brand; Brand = Business
Over the past few years, the terms ‘Brand’ and ‘Branding’ have been conflated. They have been used with abandon in discussions and debates about business, and have become interchangeable in the celebration and criticism of newly designed logo marks (also referred to as identities).
Similarly, the terms ‘Brand’ and ‘Business’ have also been conflated. There are many reasons for this. Partly due to the increased success and awareness of big brands in mainstream culture, and partly due to the ambitions of businesses who aspire to achieve similar success, people have adopted the term ‘brand’ as a replacement for the word ‘business.’ Why? The likelihood is that ‘brand’ simply conveys a sense of prestige and greater value. And brands are big business.
However, just because a business has a logo, a website, perhaps a bricks-and-mortar presence and some customers, this does not automatically make that business a brand. It takes time and effort to build a brand; to earn trust; to become familiar and accepted within a wide or niche community; to become loved and known for something specific; to establish a tangible difference from competitors and to consistently deliver on the promise it makes to customers. It takes time and effort to articulate and execute a value proposition in real terms. It takes context—and it takes influence—to command the term ‘brand’.
All this is hard-earned, requiring investment and commitment to maintain and evolve. And it rarely happens at the inception of a business.
It’s no surprise that businesses want to equate themselves with being a brand because of the status this conveys. But simply adopting the term ‘brand’ for these reasons shows a deep lack of understanding for what it means—and for what it takes to achieve. Setting an objective of becoming a brand is justifiable but, in many ways, it is actually customers and the community who decide which businesses are brands, and which businesses are not. And they will base their judgement on the level, status and quality of the value provided to them over the long term.
For a deeper overview of Brands and Branding see Branding Principles here.