The words brand and branding are thrown around liberally by all sorts of people in different contexts and with different meanings in mind, so it may help to start by asking: what exactly is a brand?
The simplest answer is that a brand is a set of associations that a person (or group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organisation.
These associations may be intentional – that is, they may be actively promoted via marketing and corporate identity, for example – or they may be outside the company’s control. For example, a poor press review for a new product might harm the product manufacturer’s overall brand by placing negative associations in people’s minds.
If a brand is just a set of associations then practically anything could be said to have a brand, even individuals – think Simon Cowell or Gordon Ramsay.
In fact, Ramsay’s own brand is so strong, that in 2007 he leant his weight to a major advertising campaign by Gordon’s Gin. He was chosen not just because of his name, but because his association with a sense of quality and exclusivity mirrors the drinks manufacturer’s own brand values.
Other high-profile examples of recognised brands include Coca Cola, Toyota, British Airways, Tate, Amazon, Save the Children, Burberry, HMRC or even London. From services to cities, products to publications, each carries a strong set of associations in the minds of a large number of people.