2.2 What is a Brand?
There are a lot of diverging descriptions and definitions of what a brand is (Wood 2000, p.664; De Chernatony & Riley 1998, p.417), with de Chernatony & Riley (1998, p.418) identifying twelve categories of definitions, with brands being a
Among those categories of definitions that cannot be sharply separated from each other, three stand out more prominently. First of all, there is the basic understanding of a brand as a signifier of distinction, “[a] name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers” that is now the standard definition of the American Marketing Association (2010) and e.g. also used by Kotler and Keller (2006, p.274). It was already used by the AMA as early as in 1960 (De Chernatony & Riley 1998, p.419) and is closely related to the legal definition of a brand, which deals with the protection of intellectual property. It derives its relevance from the time when companies started to “brand” their products in the strictest and simplest sense through visual identities (Gries 2006, p.15ff; Tropp 2004, p.23ff).
Another very frequently used perspective to define brands is the one of a brand as an image in consumers’ minds. Practitioners and researchers referred brands as being associations in people’s minds as early as 1955 (De Chernatony & Riley 1998, p.421). While there is no consensus among researchers about the conceptualization of brand image (Louro & Cunha 2001, p.863), Keller (1993, p.3) defined brand image as “perceptions about a brand as reflected by the brand associations held in consumer memory”, with the thought being that the value derived from brands is based on associations built upon “the complete experience that customers have with products” (Keller & Lehmann 2006, p.740).
However, the image perspective has come under harsh critique by another perspective, which lays its focus on brand identity (de Chernatony & Riley 1998, p.420). One of the strongest criticisms of the brand image perspective comes from Kapferer & Gibbs (1992, p.11):
Another advocate of the brand identity concept is Aaker who defines brand identity as “a unique set of brand associations that the brand strategist aspires to create or maintain” (Aaker 1995, p.68).
All these definition show a persistent duality in current brand definitions (Tropp 2004, p.55) that also exists in organisational theory (Gioia et al. 2000, p.63). On the one hand there is the brand as an identity and on the other hand there is what is perceived by people. This was already identified as early as 1955 in an often cited article by Gardner & Levy (1999, p.35):
These different definitions of brands and what their function is seen to be is a reflection of the development of diverging brand management paradigms that will be introduced in the following paragraphs.
Aaker, D.A., 1995. Building Strong Brands Nineth Printing., Free Press.
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Gioia, D.A., Schultz, M. & Corley, K.G., 2000. Organizational identity, image, and adaptive instability. Academy of Management Review, 25(1), pp.63–81.
Gries, R., 2006. Produkte & Politik: zur Kultur- und Politikgeschichte der Produktkommunikation, Facultas Verlag.
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Österreichisches Patentamt, 2009. Geschäftsbericht 2009. Österreichisches Patentamt. Available at: http://www.patentamt.at/geschaeftsbericht2009/de/start.html [Accessed July 12, 2011].
Tropp, J., 2004. Markenmanagement: Der Brand Management Navigator. Markenführung im Kommunikationszeitalter, VS Verlag.
Willman, J., 2000. Leaner, Cleaner and Healthier is the Stated Aim. Financial Times. Available at: http://scholar.google.at/scholar?q=Niall+Fitzgerald%2C+co-chairman+of+Unilever%2C+the+Anglo-Dutch+consumer+products+group%2C+epitomized+this+shift+in+perspective+when+he+stated+%22We%27re+not+a+manufacturing+company+any+more%2C+we%27re+a+brand+marketing+group+that+happens+to+make+some+of+its+products&hl=en&btnG=Search&as_sdt=2001&as_sdtp=on [Accessed January 4, 2011].
Wood, L., 2000. Brands and brand equity: definition and management. Management Decision, 38(9), pp.662–669.
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