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What is a Brand: A Stream of Conscious Explanation

By Chris Johnson – Senior Director

What is a brand? That question is answered in a multitude of ways as it can be a very personal and subjective matter. One answer I’ve heard, and generally agree with, is “a brand is the sum of your experience with a product, service or thing – all your interactions that evoke emotions or feelings.” For purposes of this dissertation, let’s assume that’s accurate.

In thinking about that definition, it triggers a number of thoughts and ideas. One is that all of us, every human being is a brand. It makes sense as I process that thought. If I think about myself and my actions, everyone around me experiences me in some fashion, whether they like it or not. Impressions are made on others and those impressions can be good, bad or indifferent. The interactions and experiences others have with me are the same as I have, or anyone else has with a particular brand.

Humor me on this as I find it an interesting thought process. It’s not like I’ve developed some sort of formal brand strategy and development plan for myself – could you imagine having an ego like that? Trust me; I do not take myself that seriously. However, on a daily basis, I evoke a wide array of emotions and feelings among all the people I interact with, just as a brand like Apple does when someone sees a TV spot, outdoor advertising, goes into an Apple store and so on.

What is my brand? I have no idea. While I do believe at 41 years old I have a decent level of self-awareness, it’s still hard to truly pinpoint what “kind” of brand I am. I will not go into that type of thinking right now as it would probably lead me to a padded, white room. With that said, I do think about my actions, behavior and attitudes which ultimately make up much of the “sum of the experiences that people have with me.”

For starters, how I dress, what kind of car I drive, where I live, where I eat are components of my brand – all of these are selected based on what motivates me; what I like. However, there are other outside factors that influence these choices – my friends, media, family, etc. Another component of “my brand” is that I’m a Father – I have two young boys and that is a major factor that defines me and I am very proud of that. I live in Nyack, NY. I work in New York City. I’m originally from San Francisco. I love to read, paint, exercise, and be with my friends. I’m a very calm and patient person. I am also reserved at first before I open up. I am not an extrovert, but I’m also not an introvert – you figure it out. I have an older brother and sister. I’m a son. I like to be outside and around the natural beauty of this planet. I like to think about all sorts of stuff. I like sports – I love baseball. I like the 49ers and I really do NOT like the Giants. My point with this list is that all of it makes up who I am – my brand. This brand obviously triggers emotions and feelings among all those who interact with me. Over time, the more people get to know me, the more my brand evolves in their mind. Those who ultimately become my friends see something that is appealing. Those who don’t or those who I just don’t click with obviously don’t have as much affinity.

In any case, a stream of conscious about the question “what is a brand”? In my opinion, we all are brands. Give it some thought, it’s fun.

Chris Johnson is a Senior Director at The Delve Group. His core area of expertise is in branding, brand development and strategic planning for consumer and B2B brands.

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