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BlogWhat’s A Brand?

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What’s A Brand?

In marketing and advertising we talk about brand a lot, most commonly referencing a company’s logo, color palette and tagline. When asked, the majority of us would be able to immediately identify the Nike swoosh or Apple icon. We know that M&Ms “Melt in your mouth, not in your hands,” and “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there.” We associate green with John Deere and red with Coca-Cola. All of these are important brand elements, but your brand is not defined by your name, logo, tagline or color. Your brand is defined by the promise you make to consumers. It’s something that is lived, not simply designed or stated.

So, what’s a brand?

A brand is an unwritten contract of inherent value. Take State Farm, for example. The company’s brand promise, “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” is an unwritten contract with defined value that would be meaningless without action. The company promises their customers that it will be there when they need it. After all, you don’t call your insurance company when things are going well — you call them when things go wrong. If the company doesn’t follow through on its promise, the brand falls flat, regardless of how pretty the logo is or what the tagline says. 

A Brand is a Mark of Trust to Reduce Risk

Marketers, regardless of their auto brand preference, can’t deny that Ford’s branding has established the company as a shining example of reliability and trust. The brand has stood the test of time and the company is known for listening to and acting on its customers’ needs. These attributes have forged a strong connection between the brand and consumers, as shown by its high rankings for stability and dependability.

A Brand Makes an Emotional Brand Connection

Coca-Cola sells happiness. The company unveiled a new tagline in 2016, inviting customers to “Taste the Feeling.” In 2009, it encouraged consumers to “Open Happiness” and in 2006 it showed us the “Coke Side of Life.” Since its inception, Coca-Cola’s promise has been to delight consumers, and it pushes this message consistently in every interaction with customers.

A Brand has a Personality

Target is one of my favorite stores — it’s fun, fashionable, affordable and welcoming. It’s easy to forget that it’s a discount store. With creative ad campaigns and collaborations with high-end designers, Target has built a reputation and personality that’s appealing to consumers. And Target shoppers know they are going to have a good retail experience every time — they’re treated like guests, not just customers, with customer service that is friendly and consistent.

A Brand Lives in Stakeholders’ Memories

One of my fondest memories as a kid was going to the movie theater to see the latest Disney® animated picture. These memories and experiences have created a powerful connection between me and the Disney brand. Whether you’re simply watching its latest motion picture or visiting one of its theme parks, Disney promises a magical experience every time. The consistent delivery on that brand promise is what keeps customers coming again and again, and my childhood memories of these experiences ensure that I will provide these experiences for my children, too.

A Brand is a Relationship with Customers

Starbucks has built a brand on creating connections. When you walk into the coffee shop, customers are offered free Wi-Fi and large tables with room for groups, enabling its customers to interact — bringing people together. Starbucks doesn’t have an official slogan, choosing instead to live its mission “To inspire and nurture the human spirit — one person, one cup and one neighborhood at a time.”

What’s a brand? A brand is a promise, one that should be experienced in every interaction your customer has with your organization. A brand should be predictable and turn customer interactions from transactions into relationships. The sum of all these attributes add up to deep-rooted and sustainable customer loyalty.

Do you need help defining and communicating your brand? We can help. Learn more here.

Written by:

As AMPERAGE vice president of strategy, it is not surprising one of Erin Bishop's strengths in Gallup's StrengthsFinder (now called CliftonStrengths) is "Strategic." Erin leads the account services team, research, brand development, marketing planning and strategy departments at AMPERAGE Marketing and Fundraising.

Erin received her undergraduate degree from Wartburg College in Communication Arts and Public Relations. Prior to joining the AMPERAGE team, Erin worked for Strategic Marketing Services, a research organization on the University of Northern Iowa campus.

Erin actively engages with nearly all AMPERAGE valued clients. Her research and strategy skills have predominantly been utilized in healthcare, including work for Memorial Health System in Florida, Mercy Medical Center in Iowa, Upland Hills Health in Wisconsin and IowaHealth+.

She has presented at numerous conferences, including Wisconsin Healthcare Public Relations & Marketing Society (WHPRMS), Iowa Society for Healthcare Marketing and Public Relations (ISHMPR) and the National Council for Marketing & Public Relations (NCMPR District 5).

As a community leader and volunteer, Erin's passions are primarily in her children's schools (including escorting a group of Cedar Falls Aldrich Elementary 5th graders on a bus trip to the Iowa Capitol). However, Erin has found time to be a board member of Junior Achievement of Eastern Iowa, a Grow Cedar Valley Ambassador and a member of Cedar Valley Women Connect (Cedar Valley branch of Women Lead Change).

If you need to identify your organization's strengths and move the needle, Erin is your strategist.