Brand­ing terms and definitions — How to make sense of branding jargon.

By Phil D

Brand­ing pro­fes­sion­als use a unique set of ter­mi­nol­ogy. In fact, a sim­ple Google search for “brand­ing ter­mi­nol­ogy” yields over 1.6 mil­lion results. If you don’t “brand” for a liv­ing, how can you make sense of it all?

If the thought of speak­ing about brand­ing intim­i­dates you, don’t worry. Whether you’re talk­ing to your mar­ket­ing team, client or ven­dor, here are a hand­ful of terms to help you nav­i­gate your next brand­ing conversation.

Brand – A col­lec­tion of attrib­utes that iden­ti­fies your prod­uct or ser­vice. It’s the over­ar­ch­ing promise about who you are, what you do, and why your audi­ence ben­e­fits. This promise is rein­forced at all con­tact points with our audi­ence, cre­at­ing a phys­i­cal or emo­tional connection.

Brand iden­tity – Often referred to as “cor­po­rate iden­tity”, this term is gen­er­ally used to ref­er­ence the visual make-up of your brand. Ele­ments such as a name, color, type­face, and sym­bol con­tribute to a brand’s visual identity.

Brand equity – The per­ceived or real value that a brand holds with an audi­ence. Whether tan­gi­ble or intan­gi­ble, a brand can be mea­sured by the rep­u­ta­tion, loyalty/retention, and price/demand that it adds to a prod­uct, busi­ness or service.

Brand audit – A com­pre­hen­sive review of a brand’s vehi­cles. This exer­cise can include review­ing mate­ri­als such as web­sites, col­lat­eral, user expe­ri­ence, customer/employee com­mu­ni­ca­tions, and over­all mes­sag­ing. Audits are often an ini­tial step within a larger re-branding process.

Brand posi­tion­ing – Where the brand “lives” in the minds of your audi­ence. This is the space your brand occu­pies, rel­a­tive to com­pet­ing prod­ucts or ser­vices fight­ing for sim­i­lar attention.

Brand trans­fer – The abil­ity to shift value from an exist­ing, known brand to a new, unknown prod­uct, ser­vice, or orga­ni­za­tion. This “trans­fer­abil­ity” could be pos­i­tive, neg­a­tive or neu­tral to your audi­ence. This is often asso­ci­ated with “extend­ing” a brand into a prod­uct launch.

Brand essence – The “per­son­al­ity” of your brand (i.e., how the brand would be described if it were a per­son). For exam­ple, a brand could be viewed as reli­able (Volvo), intel­li­gent (Volk­swa­gen), or pres­ti­gious (Bentley).

Brand hier­ar­chy – How dif­fer­ent prod­ucts are orga­nized within a larger brand fam­ily. For exam­ple, Mar­riott pur­posely dis­tin­guishes the Court­yard, JW Mar­riott, and Fair­field Suites brands.

Rebrand – The process of updat­ing an exist­ing brand to accom­mo­date changes in an employee base, prod­uct set or exter­nal mar­ket­place. Com­pa­nies rebrand for a vari­ety of rea­sons; new lead­er­ship and M&A activ­ity are com­mon cat­a­lysts for an update.

Brand­ing pro­fes­sion­als may speak their own lan­guage, but there’s no rea­son you can’t join the con­ver­sa­tion. A brand can be one of the most sus­tain­able assets in your orga­ni­za­tion. Don’t let jar­gon pre­vent you from dis­cussing issues that affect your prod­uct, audi­ence and bot­tom line.

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