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What is a Brand?

Posted by on January 20th, 2011
Posted in Blog, Nonprofit Branding, Nonprofit Fundraising, Nonprofit Training    Tags: , , , , , ,

Your logo is not your brand. Your mission statement is not your brand.

When discussing brand, we often use logos as a shorthand for brand, but your logo is not your brand. A good logo embodies a strong brand and can trigger an association with that brand in the mind of the viewer, but it’s only a symbol of the brand.

Your brand is the heart of who you are; the soul of your organization. Scott Bedbury, a marketing master who has worked for Nike and Starbucks, among others, says it best: Your brand is everything. Your brand…

…is defined by the award-winning [work] and the god-awful [work] that somehow slipped through the cracks…. It is defined by the accomplishments of your best employee—the shining star in the [organization] who can do no wrong—as well as by the mishaps of the worst hire you ever made. It is also defined by your receptionist and the music your [constituents] are subjected to when placed on hold. For every grand and finely worded public statement by the [executive director], the brand is also defined by derisory comments overheard in the hallway or in a chat room on the Internet.

Brand is what separates Nike from adidas, McDonald’s from Burger King, or Coke from Pepsi.* While there are slight differences in taste and style between these companies’ warring products, what really separates them is brand. Nike appeals to our heroic nature, while adidas appeals to our sense of style.

McDonald’s stresses family, fun, and value, but Burger King is where an adult can “have it your way.” Coke taps into our sense of American tradition; Pepsi uses a lighter touch. In each case, the products are nearly identical; it’s BRAND that differentiates them.

It’s important when thinking about branding to understand the difference between the features and benefits of a given product or organization. Features are the basic facts: in a computer for example, we might talk about the speed of the processor or the amount of RAM it has. Benefits are what your audience can DO with those features.

If the computer we were just talking about is an Apple Macintosh, its benefits are the creativity and innovation that it unleashes in its users (or so Steve Jobs would have us believe). When branding is done right, it focuses on benefits rather features in order to create an emotional connection with key audiences.

Want to know more? Sign up for The BrandEquation on January 27 in San Francisco.


Zach Hochstadt is a Mission Minded Founding Partner and runs Mission Minded’s Denver office, leading the company’s creative teams in the areas of message development, writing, graphic design, and web design and development.

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