Think you know what a brand is? Do this quick test to find out!

If you can confidently complete the next sentence in 10 seconds, you don’t need to read this blog. 

A brand is _______________________ .

Not so easy is it? 

But you know you need a good brand, right?

Everyone talks about brands. But what are they actually talking about?

Hold those thoughts for a moment, while I ask you another question. Imagine I sent you a bank transfer for $50,000, and you had to use it to buy a new car.  Which brand of car would you buy? 

I bet answering that question was easier, right? 

Now, the reason it was easier to answer that question comes back to what a brand actually is. 

Brands are what people think they are.

Defining what a brand is 

Walter Landor, the founder of one of the world’s largest and oldest brand consulting firms (where I cut my teeth on brand strategy) expressed it this way: 

“Products are made in the factory, but brands are created in the mind.” 

What did he mean by this? Well, when you think about your personal answer to whether you would use that $50,000 to buy an Audi, BMW, or Mercedes, or whether you prefer Starbucks to Costa, or Apple to Microsoft, you’re basing your decisions on associations, feelings and beliefs you have in your mind about these brands. 

They have built up a reputation in your mind over time, and you’re making your choices based on this. 

And these things – perceptions, expectations, associations, reputation, feelings – this is what brands are all about.  

All brands really are, are associations in people’s minds.  And the stronger and more connected these associations are, the more likely a person is to choose and buy your brand.

And we don’t just know this because it’s common sense.  In research based in neuroscience and behavioural psychology with over 1300 consumers, IPSOS showed that the more the associations in consumers minds are connected, the denser their mental network for that brand will be, which leads to better recall and larger market share.

How to build a stronger brand

So what does this mean for you, as you try and build a stronger brand? 

It means your job is to build connected associations in your customers’ minds.  But you can only do that if you figure out what you are connecting everything to.

So Job 1 is not doing logos, or colour palettes, or fonts, or designing your website, or writing your 'About' page, or doing your packaging, or posting on social media.  Thinking that these things are Job 1 in brand-building is one of the most time-consuming and costly mistakes you can make.  

Job 1 is figuring out what you connect all of this stuff to.  Deciding what associations you WANT to build.  Job 1 is writing your brand strategy. 

"People build brands as birds build nests, from scraps and straws we chance upon."   Jeremy Bullmore

The associations we have about brands are picked up from the clues laid out by others.  Your job, as a brand-builder, is to make sure the clues and cues all connect, all strengthen each other, all build a dense, connected set of associations in your customers minds – because that leads you to the money.

So give yourself the best head start.  Get your brand strategy sorted first. 

I teach everything I know (and I mean EVERYTHING: all my practical tools, helpsheets, workshop plans, research guides…) in Brand Strategy Academy. Find out more here.   


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