Every so often I review and update my New Brand Glossary, adding terms from recent posts, or filling in apparent gaps between terms. This version is Update 4 to the original glossary, first published in 2006.
Why create a new brand glossary?
Brands are long overdue for a glossary of new concepts, terms and definitions tuned to an age of collaborative, bottom-up brands, where companies use brands to team with customers to innovate and create new forms of customer value.
This brand glossary is different
You’ll note little similarity between the terms and definitions here and those of conventional brand practice. That’s because most conventional brand approaches are campaigns to contain and control customers, rather than create them. In so doing they condemn themselves to run in circles, unable to innovate themselves (and their customers) out of a self-imposed corral.
Specific problems with traditional brand glossaries
Traditional brand glossaries often seem archaic and shallow today because they’re predicated on a narrow vision of brands as top-down, stylized sales stimulants. Traditional brand glossaries are typically written from an ad agency perspective, where “brand” is an emotional tool for persuading customers. Traditional glossaries usually assume a passive customer “audience” for brand messaging campaigns, where the brand aspires to be a “belief system” that serves the company’s interests. In this view, brands aim to be timeless (static) “icons” worshiped by “consumers,” who are positioned as little more than sheep with credit.
Traditional brand glossaries are therefore largely glossaries of control. The brands they describe really don’t do much for customers—except to keep them in place.
A glossary of brand innovation
In contrast to the traditional brand glossary, this is a glossary of value-based brands and of brand innovation. It contains concepts, terms and definitions for a new era of brands designed to foment new business by creating new customer opportunities. The essence of these brands is collaboration, not control. These brands create proactive new customers who leave old brands—and old companies—far behind.
Where I can’t stretch old brand concepts to fit new realities, I invent new concepts and new terms. Many of these concepts and terms are the subjects of full web posts in the Brands Create Customers weblog. (Check out the Key Posts section for examples).
This glossary is very much a work in progress. Your insights and comments are welcome, as is the dialog we can create.
Architecture of Participation
A brand model that favors customer interaction and initiative through the brand, leading to bottom-up innovation and new market growth. It stands in sharp contrast to the top-down, command-and-control architectures of legacy brands. Companies choose an architecture of participation when they desire to team with customers to build new markets.
Brands are tools that enable customers to interoperate with the universe. The genius of brands is that they have no limits. The value of brands is that through them, customers have no limits.
Brands encompass many dimensions. The following definitions touch upon key parameters:
Brand (Core Definition)
Brands are avenues of value innovation in a creative engagement between companies and their customers.
A brand is vertically integrated value.
Your brand is one of your capabilities. It extends your ability to deliver open-ended value to customers. When properly executed, it accelerates customers to a new realm of fulfillment which you create, and which only you can sustain.
Brand is a non-commodity experience. It can grow from a product or service, a company’s character, or from artful wrappers that sharpen customer perceptions. The essence of non-commodity experience is passion. Your brand has to have it.
Strategically, the way you value your customer defines your brand. A brand that treats its customers as commodities (purely to be sold to) wastes much of its potential.
Brands are programs to achieve company growth through customer growth. As programs they invoke two critical perspectives: 1) “the customer inside the product,” and 2) “the customer inside the company.” Weak brands distance the customer. Strong brands open their arms.
Brand API’s are application program interfaces. They provide convenient latch points for customers to grab onto brands and advance themselves through the brand. The best API’s help convert customer initiative into better brand content, context and value.
To see a brand API in action, visit Apple’s App Store.
Functionally, brand character is the spine of a company. It’s evident when a company is accountable to the values that make it stand tall. This means accountability in action, not on paper. Brand character draws a line that moral weakness cannot cross.
Companies with character create brands with character. Brands with character lead.
The brand chain begins where the classic supply chain ends. While the supply chain is made up of value-adding inputs leading to the product, the brand chain begins with product development and heads toward the customer. Through brand platforms and programs it delivers multiple forms of downstream value. The brand chain consists of creative brand interactions between customer and company, customer and product, and between customers themselves.
Brand context is the unique world of opportunity that a brand presents to customers. It’s the real deal of possibilities that the brand incarnates, and enables, across all human dimensions: creative, social, personal, emotional, spiritual and moral.
Brand context is human texture. It’s the opposite of artificial worlds fabricated by hype, spin, and distortion. (These are aspects of propaganda, not brands.)
A brand’s context is only as “relevant” as the customer opportunities it creates.