Is there anything left to “brand”?

News over the weekend that Australia’s “brand” was number two in the world behind Canada got me thinking about the extent to which brand has been extended. Brand country, brand company, brand product, brand service, brand person – is there anything left to brand? 

The answer is probably not much, even animals are not immune with some putting in the hard yards to build their own brands (like Gus – everyone’s favorite hardworking boxer).

For many years I have maintained that every business has a brand – whether they set out to have one or not. And I guess if you take my definition at face value, that “brands are the result of the promises you keep” – that is still true enough.

However, if I look more fully at the landscape around brands there are many hills and valleys to be explored and many questions pop up that continue to drive my fascination with brand.

Is the brand of the corner dry cleaner who doesn’t really think much about it equal to the brand of Virgin who thinks about it constantly and with great deliberation?

Is the value of brand only in the brand valuation or is there a bigger less tangible and more influential return that needs to be assessed?

Can a product or service ever really be a brand or is it just part of the promise of the company?

Do countries have only one brand or given the diversity of populace, culture, geography and economy are they more a “brand collective”?

Does calling a person a brand (as Tom Peters famously did in his seminal Brand You article for Fast Company magazine) somehow undersell what we can and should aspire to be?

I don’t pretend to know the answers to these questions and in reality they are just the tip of a very large iceberg when it comes to brands. But I keep searching and thinking and learning, and probably the best answer I have found so far is that brand is what works for you.

If thinking of yourself as a brand helps you focus and achieve more of your goals then great. If you are doing just fine without that construct then there’s nothing wrong with that.

If you have a product that can make like a i<name> and slip company ties to become known in its own right for its own set of promises – that’s great! If not that doesn’t mean it isn’t a great product.

If your company is working hard to keep it’s promises to customers and employees then you and your brand are more than half way there. Where is there? Well that’s the bit will keep working on!

See you next week.

Michel Hogan is a Brand Advocate. Through her work with Brandology here in Australia and in the United States, she helps organisations recognise who they are and align that with what they do and say, to build more authentic and sustainable brands. She also publishes the Brand thought leadership blog – Brand Alignment.

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