Archive for the 'Brands' Category

The difference between a brand and a label

Monday, September 19th, 2011

What’s the difference between a brand and a label? Here’s a short answer that works for me.

What’s the difference between a brand and a label?

A brand leads, while a label follows you around.



The difference between a brand and a label

Tuesday, June 29th, 2010


In brands we make a very clear distinction between brands and labels. Here’s how I see it:

The difference between a brand and a label is that a brand leads, while a label follows you around.

That’s right: brands lead. Brands create opportunities for customers and lead them toward qualitatively better lives. Brands lead customers toward new shapes of self, and toward new forms of being and doing. And yes, brands lead by example.

Take the T-shirt test

Quick test: check that T-shirt you’re wearing. Is it taking you somewhere you’d never reach without it? Or is it just following you around? If it’s leading you somewhere special, and your feet just skim the ground, you’re wearing a brand. Otherwise, you’re stitched to a label.

And here’s a corollary:

Brands make things happen. Labels tag along.

Brands open doors—big ones. They help us interoperate with the universe. Labels help you sort things in a drawer.

Let’s unpack this distinction a bit.

Brands lead us on a unique journey

A brand, when properly developed, leads us on a unique journey, from high adventure to inner peace, and to a thousand points between. The brand embarks on a venture beyond the status quo. It’s going somewhere interesting, and it asks us to join the crew.

Labels bring up the rear

In contrast, labels bring up the rear. They don’t invent, innovate, incite or inspire. They’re inventory. They have their place (on a shelf), but it’s the brand that connects with customers and flies out the door.

Frankly, labels are stuck: on a garment, on a bottle or on a package. Buy the label and you’re stuck, too.

From label to brand package

Brands elevate the label to the brand package. The brand package wraps the customer, the company and the product in the brand journey. Soaring above and beyond the product, it’s the ticket to ride.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Adios, “branding.” Your day is done.

Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007

For brand builders, it’s time to say goodbye. The age of “branding” is over. No, let me correct that. The age of branding is completely and totally finished. It’s kaput, finito, dead, and gone. Unless we all want to crawl back to the bunkhouse, strap on spurs and reek of burning cowhide, we can permanently retire the “branding” metaphor from the practice of brands.

Brand builders don’t do “branding.” Companies relapse into “branding” when they lack the vision, talent and courage to be a brand.

So, unless your name is Tex, Lefty or Lucky, please erase “branding” from your working vocabulary—now.

“Branding” was always a poor fit

For what we do, the “branding” metaphor was a poor fit from the get-go. It was a term that never accurately denoted or connoted the full nature of brands, the value of brands, what brand builders aim to accomplish, what they create, how they do it, how they work with customers, the brand experience itself (God forbid!), or how customers interact with brands.

“Branding” is skin deep

Some general points:

  1. “Branding” doesn’t add value. Brands do.
  2. “Branding” is skin deep. Brands express what’s inside.
  3. “Branding” is never strategic. Brands are a process of strategic value creation.
  4. “Branding” is imposed doctrine and dogma. Brands free customers to discover what’s new.

“Branding” disrespects customers

There are many problems with using “branding” as a blanket term to describe brand practice. The biggest problem is that “branding” disrespects and diminishes customers. It excludes them from the brand value process. “Branding” frames customers as objects to be used. There’s not much value potential in that. Does a “branding” campaign actually expect to sear attitudes, beliefs and impressions on the brains of customers? Does it assume that customers can be “branded” like cattle, and that once branded can be herded to and fro like dumb beasts?

The high cost of the “branding” mindset

I have worked with colleagues who thought “branding” was first and foremost a means of customer manipulation. Not surprisingly, the “brands” they produced were entirely skin deep. And instead of creating customers, they sent them running into the next county.

The “branding” mindset has probably done more to hold back the practice of brands than any other factor.

“Branding” burns the value out of brands

Brands are an interactive process of value creation, but “branding” burns the value out of brands. It metaphorically assumes the brander has total dominion over the poor wretch about to be seared. While this may be a tonic for sharp stabs of inadequacy affecting those wielding the brand stick, the resulting “brand” never grows beyond its initial mark. More often than not, those who do “branding” sear their own limitations into customers, perhaps permanently.

“Branding” doesn’t connect with customers

Brand value is built with customer connections, and “branding” is not connecting. “Branded” customers are not engaged. (Think about that.) A company that builds brands uses its brands to seed value creation in customers. Its brand-building is a creative, nuanced and highly interactive process that delivers value, nurtures value, and circulates value through a widening brand value net, ultimately returning more value back to the business.

A branding iron cannot compete with that.