What 'brands' truly mean

How can so many "PR pros" be so clueless about branding? It's obvious that many marketers don't know the difference between "branding" a company and "promoting its brand."

How can so many "PR pros" be so clueless about branding? It's obvious that many marketers don't know the difference between "branding" a company and "promoting its brand."

Wikipedia gets it right. Google the word "brand" and you will find this link to wikipedia.org:

"In marketing, a brand is the symbolic embodiment of all the information connected with a product or service. A brand typically includes a name, logo, and visual elements such as images, fonts, color schemes, or symbols. It also encompasses the set of expectations associated with a product or service which typically arise in the minds of people."

A brand isn't a logo, slogan, or marketing message alone. It's not a fad. It's the real, tangible attributes of a company. It's the promise a company makes to customers and how it fulfills them. All companies have a brand. PR's job is to discover it and then promote it.

In today's online world, where millions talk each day, conjured-up brand attributes quickly fall to the real brand experience of those who do business with your company. Your customers will know who you are and what your brand is, despite the most clever new ad or press release.

Take HP. Despite a celebrity CEO and efforts to make it the next Sony, its customers and investors weren't buying. Now Mark Hurd is in charge of bringing HP back to its strengths by focusing on data storage, data-center consolidation, high-end printing, and mobility as business growth engines. He's not just slapping a logo on an iPod. And the stock? Up over 50%.

A PR firm's recent effort to "rebrand" the rat is another case in point of our industry's collective ignorance on brands.

This firm created a Web site and staged stunts to try to change the perception of the sewer rat. That isn't "rebranding" because, at day's end, a rat is still the thing that you don't want around. "Awesome ideas" and "creative" thinking do nothing to change the inherent traits of the rat "brand."

Let AT&T, who is undertaking a huge identity campaign now, tell you what a brand truly is. Here's information directly from its online brand center:

"The AT&T brand isn't simply our logo or name. It's a primary tool for expressing [our] business strategy. It reflects the experiences people have with our products, services, [and] people. Brand perceptions are built each time a customer interacts with AT&T [via] channels such as advertising and sales. Brand perceptions are also built when a customer uses our technology."

It can't be stated any better.

Bruce Rowe
Story Set Free Public Relations
San Diego

Corrections

In PRWeek's Agency Business Report (April 17), Padilla Speer Beardsley was listed as having one office, in Minneapolis. The agency, in fact, has a second office, in New York.
In addition, 2004 revenues for WeissComm Partners were reported as $5,214,983. They should have been $4,118,787 (to exclude pass-through expenses). The firm's percentage increase from 2004 to 2005 should have been reported as 42%. We regret the errors.

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