What is a brand?

What is a brand?

Loaded question, I know.

I’m not talking about “what brand are those shoes?” Let’s think about it in the marketing sense of the word. In the “we need a re-brand!” context.

Wikipedia defines it as “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’s not bad, actually. But it’s not quite enough.

When I worked in the agency world, sometimes a prospect would come to us and say, “we need a new brand!” which usually meant “we need a new website!” Often, after a bit of conversation, we’d realize they really needed more than a website. The conversation then becomes more about perception and sentiment—the feeling someone gets when they hear your company or school name.

How would you define a brand? What makes up a brand? If your answer involves messaging, logos, digital properties, and such…you’re wrong.

Well, maybe not completely wrong. You’re right. But you’re also wrong.

All those things make up what we might call “a brand” while we’re gathered around a conference table.

Those elements are part of it. But they’re not really what a brand is. As I’ve worked at companies large and small, I’ve learned that a brand isn’t exactly what you think it is.

So what is it?

Your brand is the kind of people your company culture attracts.

Your brand is time spent building personal connections without trying to sell anything.

Your brand is when you let the strengths of your company shine through, and you don’t try to portray it as something it’s not.

Your brand is what people think when they see someone wearing your company t-shirt.

Your brand is what people say when they learn where you work.

Now that’s a brand. Sure, it’s over-simplified, but don’t we all need to simplify sometimes? (Spoiler: all the time).

It’s far too easy to get stuck in traditional definitions and forget what really makes your company distinct.

When I’ve been involved in seeing companies rise to the top of their fields, it’s because they realized a brand is so much more than logos and websites.

It’s a noisy world, and everyone’s trying to stand out. But most people are trying in all the wrong ways.

So the next time someone says, “we need a new brand,” break the shackles of traditional definitions, and see where it takes you.


Author’s notes: This originally appeared on Anthony Gaenzle’s blog.
The opinions expressed in this blog are my own views and not of Workday.

How to Stop MONSA (Marketing Ops New System Addiction)

The blessed ground troops of marketing operations know this struggle all too well: you have a system, say an email marketing system or a CRM, but it just doesn’t quite meet your needs. So what do you do? You buy a new system that promises to meet those needs, and go through implementation. The word “implementation” comes from the Latin word for “kick me in the head.” So, you “go live” and presto, all your problems are solved. Right? 99% of the time, not so much.


Like Dug from “Up”, marketing ops is often plagued by the “SQUIRREL!” syndrome when the next start-up claims to have created the marketing system to end all systems. I mean, the sales rep said it was “seamlessly integrated” with all my other systems! It will connect your email platform, CMS, and CRM and show your boss how much money all your campaigns are generating! After you present the results at the next big meeting, the board will start chanting “R-O-I, R-O-I!” and carry you out above their heads on a blanket made entirely of 100-dollar bills.

Oh, how we love to try new software, just because it’s new, not because it’s proven. But did we mention it’s new! We could even be the first company to try it! What could possibly go wrong?

6 months later, you’ve spent thousands of dollars and hundreds of hours in implementation, only to log in and realize, “um, this doesn’t really do what it said it would.” I’ve been there. It’s root canal painful. Even if you see red flags along the way, just like the ill-fated cast of Speed 2, it’s too late to turn around. It doesn’t have to be that way. Together, we can stem the tide of Marketing Operations New System Addiction (believe me, I tried to come up with a “T” to make it “MONSTA”).

So, Mr. Sales Guy, Define “Seamlessly Integrated”  

Oversell is also a chronic disease in systems-land. Take a stroll through the aisles of a major conference, let’s just say, hypothetically, one that rhymes with “Beet Furled,” and it all starts to blur together.

With so many companies making similar promises, before you know it, you bought DataMarketOmniGemiAnalytifyLy Version 2.5. You’re not really sure what it does, but boy did they have a sweet display booth.

If you absolutely have to pursue a new system, how do you see through all the acronyms and get to the truth?

Ask the hard questions, and keep asking them beyond the first sales pitch. Get their engineers on the phone, ask your IT crew to join you to ask the “nerd” questions you might not know to ask, and don’t stop until you’re sure.

Ask for examples of successful integrations, and don’t relent until you’ve seen them or talked to people at companies they claim as “success stories.”

Use All Your Cylinders

Your existing systems may be more powerful than you think. You might be driving a Porsche, but think you need a McLaren because the Porsche just isn’t cutting it. Maybe you’re just not using all your cylinders. Take time to build out your current systems, and make sure your using all their functionality to their fullest potential. Talk to your system’s support team, sign up for extra training, see what type of customization they can build for you. Remember, you’re paying them to help, so don’t waste their expertise!

It’s not easy, and it may take time, but by halting the spread of MONSA, you can save yourself a boatload of time, energy, and pain implementing a system you didn’t need in the first place.

What About You? 

Have you or someone you love suffered from MONSA? How have you escaped its icy grasp? It’s okay, you can share, we’re all friends here. It’s just us and the Internet.