What’s in a brand? Five quotes that sum it up

Colourful brand

Before I started working in communications, if you’d have asked me what a ‘brand’ was, I’d probably have said a logo. I could tell you who I thought did branding well but I would not have been able to tell you why. I also didn’t really appreciate the value of a brand – it was just a pretty logo and some colours, right? You need one of those to do business.

I quickly found out this was not the case when I worked on a rebranding project early in my career. I learnt from the awesome branding company we were working with that a brand is so much more than just a logo. When done well, it’s numerous different elements that work together harmoniously to tell the world who you are. It speaks to your ideal customer and shows them you’re right for them. It can even attract the right employees to come work for you (and, importantly, repel the wrong ones – we’ve all been there).

But what are these mysterious elements of which I speak? To answer this question, I thought I’d share some of my favourite branding quotes from some very clever people that sum up brand far more succinctly than I ever could. Why re-invent the wheel right? I wouldn’t want to disappoint though, so I have added in a bit of a summary as to why I’ve included each quote and what we can learn from it. If you’re in the mood for a shorter read you can skip to the bottom for the key takeaways.

1. “Your brand is a story unfolding across all customer touch points.” – Jonah Sachs

I’ve put this quote in first as it immediately busts the myth that a brand is just a logo. A brand is the story of your business – what you do, why you do it, how you operate etc. Once you’ve defined this you can rollout this story across everything you do – including your logo, which should be a visual representation of this story. Think about Apple – one of the most successful brands on the planet. At the heart of their story is the desire to ‘bring the best user experience to its customers’. This idea permeates through everything they do – their products are easy to use, their website is slick and simple and their customer service is (usually) exceptional. Their brand is so much more than an apple with the chunk bitten out of it.

2. “Branding is not just about being seen as better than the competition. It’s about being seen as the only solution to your audience’s problem.” – John Morgan

I really like this quote as it puts the customer where they should be, centre stage. Great brands focus on the customer first – and it’s where you should start if you’re creating or building your own brand. I also really like the idea of not focusing too much on the competition. It’s important to keep an eye on what’s going on in your sector but understanding the needs of your customer is much more valuable than stalking your competitors Instagram account.

3. "People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek

I know I sound like a stuck record, but your brand really should focus on your audience above all else – and customers don’t want to know what you’re selling, they want to know how it can help them. Take adidas. As I write this, the first thing you see on their website is ‘Your best year yet. Get back to fitness with new adidas performance outfits for your sport’. At this stage, we don’t know what these outfits are (if we’re honest, we don’t really care) – we like the idea they’ll help us to get fit and have a great year. I’m sold! Imagine if it said ‘Sports t-shirts in various colours’ – less appealing and certainly not right for adidas, whose brand is based on promoting a sporting lifestyle. Focusing on your ‘why’ and carefully choosing your messages to reinforce this is a key component of any good brand.

4. “If people believe they share values with a company they will stay loyal to the brand.” – Howard Schultz

More and more, customers are buying from companies whose values match their own – which is why setting out your company values is key to success. Imagine you’re looking for a pair of slippers online. You do a Google search and find a number of similar looking slippers at the same price. How do you decide which slippers to buy? This is where your brand values will work for you. This happened to me with Gousto, a subscription food delivery service. I wanted to cook healthy food and waste less and thought a meal delivery service would help. There were loads of options out there to choose from but it was when I saw that Gousto have pledged to reduce plastic packaging that I decided they were the company for me. It was great marketing that first led me to them, but it was their brand values that made me a loyal customer. 

5. “Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room.” – Jeff Bezos

Perhaps the most famous branding quote of all time, this acts as a stark reminder to us all that, ultimately, brand is something that doesn’t belong to us. It belongs to your customer – the person who experiences you or your company. You have to work really hard for their experience to be positive and this needs to be consistent across every touchpoint they come into contact with. Unfortunately, a pretty logo alone won’t do the trick!

Key takeaways

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