Brand: What Is It, and Why Does It Matter?

It’s all advertisers talk about: “Build your brand.” But what is a brand, and why is it so important?

What do you think of when you hear the word “brand”? Coca-Cola. Apple. Those internet celebrities that toss the word out like candy. That’s all well and good, but none of these associations helps anyone to understand what it means.

So what is brand?

Simply put, “brand” is you. It’s company culture: your business’s beliefs, values, and conduct. More importantly, it’s how potential customers perceive your company’s culture. That’s where the advertising industry’s interest comes in.

Let’s look at Google, for example. What do you know about them? They’re successful, innovative, and, if Forbes is to be believed, fun. You don’t know exactly how their management system is structured; neither do most of their consumers. What matters is that they clearly convey their company culture, so everyone that knows the word “Google” knows what it means. That’s brand.

You know what it means. How do you build yours?

Leadership expert Simon Sinek has a theory called “The Golden Circle”; if you’ve got 20 minutes, check out his TED Talk from 2009. If you don’t, it boils down to this: people don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it. So, if you’re not communicating to potential customers the beliefs that define and drive your business, you’re selling yourself short. Start from a place of “why”; if you don’t know the answer, it’s time to go back to the drawing board.