What is a Brand, Exactly?

What is a Brand?Pop quiz: what is a “brand,” exactly?

Choose two of the following options:

Is it…

(a) Your company logo
(b) The color palette on your website
(c) The way you dress and present yourself to the world
(d) The promise that you make to your target audience
(e) The way people perceive you, feel about you, and talk about you when you’re not in the room

If you chose (d) and also (e), you’re totally correct!

Visual components, such as your logo, website, business cards, Facebook page and the way you dress are all elements that contribute to the development of your brand in the mind of the consumer, but they are not in and of themselves, your brand.

A brand is a promise you make to your target audience, and ultimately, how your audience perceives you.

Red Bull promises energy.

Apple promises beautiful design.

Mercedes-Benz promises luxury and speed.

SoulCycle promises a sweaty, uplifting 45-minute workout.

Amazon promises ease, efficiency, and reliable two-day delivery.

Oprah promises growth, spirituality, and a pathway to your best life.

Louis C.K. promises dark, edgy, “oh God did he really say that?!” humor.

Ellen DeGeneres promises lighthearted humor that’s family-friendly.

A successful brand is one that delivers on its promise, over and over again.

It is what someone will get and/or how they will feel when they engage with you in some way – go to your website, read your blog, buy your products, hear you speak. In other words, a brand is the real estate you own in someone else’s head – and you have to earn that real estate. Amazon business mogul, Jeff Bezos, once said, “Your brand is what people say about you when you’re not in the room.”

Imagine a group of women chatting about Beyoncé’s latest album over brunch. What kinds of words would the use to describe Beyoncé? Probably words like independent, talented, mother, businesswoman, activist, feminist, goddess. That’s our perception of Beyoncé, so that’s her brand.

BeyonceNow imagine a group of women chatting about Taylor Swift. What words would they use to describe Taylor? Most likely, words like pop, fun, catchy, guilty pleasure, dancy-y, angsty, heartbreak. That’s our perception of Taylor Swift. That’s her brand.

The way people feel about you, perceive you, and talk about you when you’re not in the room…that’s your brand.

The good news is that you actually have quite a lot of control over how people perceive your brand.

You might be thinking, “Well, I really can’t control what people think or how they feel about me or what they say about me, so….now what?”

But actually, that’s not true. You have a great deal of control over the way you’re perceived. More than you might think.

If you want people to perceive you as “bold, striking and surprising,” you might choose to wear bold, bright colors instead of black, and you could surprise your clients with unexpected gifts in the mail. You could host a monthly salon dedicated to bold, striking ideas, create bold, colorful business cards and marketing materials and you could fill your office with strong, bold artwork, and so on.

This is how you affect the real estate with your name on it in the consumer’s head.

Based on what you put forth into the world – your products and services, the language on your website, the way you speak and dress, the experiences you create for your audience, right down to the smallest details, like your Instagram posts and the fonts you choose – you can shape people’s perception of you.

Beyoncé does this masterfully. Do you think it’s an “accident” that we perceive her as an independent, talented feminist, and a living, breathing goddess businesswoman? It’s no accident. Beyoncé is very strategic with everything she puts forth into the world, because she wants to build and sustain a very specific type of brand. From the way she releases her music to the videos she makes to the clothes she wears and the images of she and her family she posts on social media – all are meant to create specific consumer perceptions. We perceive her a certain way, because she wants us to perceive her that way. She controls her brand – and you can do this, too.

The first step is getting clear about the promise you’re making to your audience and how you want to be perceived. Start there, before you worry about your website or business cards.

A strong brand starts with a strong sense of who you are, what you stand for and what you most want to be known for. It’s not about your logo; it’s about your legacy.


  1. Marilys Rogers says

    I love this!! Would you all happen to have an seminars of this nature coming up in the near future? If so, I would love to come!

    • Hi Marilys! I’m so glad you enjoyed this post. My book, “Style & Substance: How to Build a Compelling Brand” is coming out this fall, and we’re definitely planning some cool, useful programs for 2018. Please make sure you’re on our mailing list (you can opt-in on the site if you haven’t already), so you get all the updates! xx

  2. I absolutely loved this! Very direct and informative! I needed to see this ????

  3. I started a nonprofit organization in which I want to do a clothing brand with that will help raise awareness for anti-bullying/self-love. This is my passion and I’m in it for life so anything to help me I’m in!! I also want to not be afraid to ask for donations, help etc.
    Thank u! ♥️

  4. Amazing your post!!! It was like you are directing to me.
    I will definitely add myself to your email list.

  5. I am really excited about your book coming out and I loved this blog. I am going to take action and review my websites, facebook pages, LinkedIn etc ~ I’m going to list the questions such as, what do I promise? who do I serve? what do I stand for? what would a bunch of people say about me at a coffee meet up if my name came up ? and see if the way I am representing myself matches that.
    Yay! Focus is one of my words this year, and I am also thinking about how to balance my two brands, as I have my Cydney Mar Wellness where I offer high-end Vitamins & Supplements with the promise of Natural Health & Beauty, and now I am building my Cydney Mar https://www.cydneymar.com website, it is live but unfinished as so many clients kept coming to me for help to build their product brands… my 36 year experience in fashion ( couture, high end as well as 15 years on QVC world wide ) translated into me repositioning myself as a Product Development Strategist helping people whi have great ideas but do not know where to start ( fashion, jewellry, confectionary etc ) I knew I could not hide my Fashion Career when I created my Wellness Brand, so I incorporated elemnts of my fashion brand into my wellness and felt that if people were going to be attracted to it it would come from the beauty angle. I’m going to review and fine tune! Thank you for the focus!

    • I love how proactive you are, Cydney, and you are smart to incorporate your fashion experience into your new brand – it’s one of your differentiators! Please keep me posted on your progress. xx

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