Brand Glossary

All the language around brands and branding definitions can be varied and misunderstood. The following definitions are included for that purpose. And as the world of brand-building continues to evolve, you can expect this glossary to as well.

Abstract names

A name of a product, service or company that is not related to the industry in which it functions or in any way describes the offering. The word might be picked because the idea is important to the founder, suggests something about the origin of the organization, is evocative of a bigger metaphor, or borrows from a story or myth that helped inform the idea behind the organization. Some examples of abstract names include Apple, Google and Starbucks. See our guide: HOW TO: Develop A Great Brand Name.

Alphanumeric names

Names that contain both numbers and letters. These names are common when naming versions of a product, because they can signal hierarchy of value, upgrades, or relationships and features that work together across platforms. A couple of examples include BMW X3, X5, X7 and Intel Core i5, i7, i9. See our guide: HOW TO: Develop A Great Brand Name.


Archetypes are universally understood symbols and patterns of behavior consistent across generations and cultures that help people understand concepts and decide which messages to retain. In a brand context, archetypes are proven to help us 1) define a brand’s true-north; 2) pinpoint its genuine story and define an ownable brand voice/tone; 3) create differentiation in a competitive landscape; and 4) connect people more deeply – internally and externally – to an organization. Working with archetypes to guide the strategy, relationships, products and services for a business can help to align brand and culture, enhance trust and relatedness with all stakeholders, and increase its impact and bottom-line. See our guide — HOW TO: Harness The Power Of Your Archetype To Guide Your Brand.


A more traditional view of a brand is the total representation of a company: the sum of its promises and perceptions that exist in the minds of customers, prospects and employees. A more dynamic definition is that of a living business asset that enables customers to do more through engagements between companies and their customers. Said another way, brands are programs that achieve company growth through customer growth.

Brand Agenda

The brand’s plan to empower the customer. It states how, and how far, the brand intends to advance the customer. It shapes everything your brand does, and how it does it.

Brand Architecture

How a company organizes the relationship among its brands to help people understand how they are related to and differentiated from one another, and to help them choose the brand that best meets their needs. There are three primary brand architecture approaches:
• monolithic (also known as “branded house”), where the company brand is used as a driver on all products and services (e.g. Apple, FedEx)
• endorsed, where all sub-brands are linked to the corporate brand by either a verbal or visual endorsement (e.g. Marriott, Ralph Lauren)
• freestanding (also known as “house of brands”), where the company brand operates merely as a holding company, and each product or service is individually branded for its target market (e.g. P&G, Reckitt Benckiser)
There are multiple variations of these primary structures.

Brand Architecture Audit

A brand architecture audit, which should be done annually and from your consumers’ point-of-view, is used to 1) ensure your portfolio practices keep pace with new service and product introductions, M&A’s and any other strategic initiatives; and 2) evaluate, refine and strengthen the portfolio for maximum growth and profitability. See our guide: HOW TO: Conduct A Brand Architecture Audit.

Brand Audit

A comprehensive analysis of a brand to assess its health, uncover its sources of equity and suggest ways to improve and leverage that equity. The brand audit requires the understanding of brand equity sources from the perspective of both the firm and the consumer. The goal is to find where strategic and executional problems or opportunities exist within your brand, then find ways to address them.

Brand Champions

Employees who are equipped to and passionate about promoting the brand throughout their organization through their words and actions. The more employees the organization can turn into brand champions, the better will it be equipped to build and maintain strong brand equity. Harley Davidson, Nike and LEGO are well-known examples of companies which benefit tremendously from their employees being strong and dedicated brand champions.


As a verb, it’s the ongoing process of discovering, communicating and aligning what you want people to think about your organization with what people actually do think about your organization. Like when a child is born and given a name, a brand needs nurturing, support, development and continuous care in order to thrive and grow. See related blog posts: Healthcare Branding — how to shift demand, Healthcare Branding — how to create thriving relationships.

Brand Character

The values and principles that enable a company to stand tall, and to stay that way. Everyone from the CEO down is accountable. Companies with character create brands with character. Brands with character always take the lead.

Brand Culture

Leading brands have one thing in common: they’re backed by strong culture. A strong brand culture is determined by the internal attitudes towards branding, management behavior and practices of an organization. Culture grows when companies find ways to bring life to their core values in every aspect of what they do and throughout the company. Because people are the starting point, the connection between the leadership in marketing and the leadership in HR is pivotal to brand culture success.

Brand Engagement

The process by which the brand moves the customer forward, to a higher place of being and doing. This engagement is more than a brand/customer interaction stemming from symbols, messages and campaigns, where the customer is positioned as a passive audience. A brand engagement advances both the customer and the brand toward shared objectives. Brand engagements are collaborations in context between a company, its customers and the product.

Brand Guidelines

Tools created to educate, motivate and guide all the internal and external teams involved in building and maintaining strong brands. Brand guidelines are crucial to foster a strong and dedicated brand culture and to ensure a brand’s consistent, value-building, marketplace presence. Brand guidelines can also be referred to as brand books — though they are typically written from a more strategic point-of-view to help people understand the key ideas that drive the brand.

Brand Identity

A unique set of functional and mental associations the brand aspires to create or maintain. These associations represent what the brand should ideally stand for in the minds of customers, and imply a potential promise to customers. It is important to keep in mind that the brand identity refers to the strategic goal for a brand while the brand image is what currently resides in the minds of consumers.

Brand Image

The current perception of your brand among your customers, prospects and employees. The combined impression that people have of your company, products and services.

Brand Management

The process of managing an organization’s brand or portfolio of brands in order to maintain and increase long-term brand equity and financial value. Brand management applies to designing brand identities, aligning them for maximum effectiveness, ensuring that they are not compromised by tactical actions and evaluating effectiveness of brand marketing programs among other strategic and tactical tasks.

Brand Mission

A statement or short paragraph expressing a company’s core purpose or reason for being. The brand mission provides direction for the entire organization and guides a company’s decision-making and strategic planning. A mission is different from brand vision or vision statement, because the mission is what is accomplished every day while the vision is an expression of a future state to be pursued. Every mission should be able to be distilled down to: grow the customer, grow the brand, grow the business.

Brand Personality

The brand personality is the brand identity expressed in terms of human characteristics. The brand personality must ideally include distinguishing and identifiable characteristics which offer consistent, enduring and predictable messages and mental perceptions.

Brand Portfolio Management

Outlining and managing the role of each brand relative to others within a portfolio, with the aim of optimizing the value of the whole portfolio. It allows each brand to play a unique role, which can often target different audiences and their needs, while still being complementary to the organization’s other brands.

Brand Positioning

The “market space” a brand wants to occupy in the mind of the target audience. All strong marketing programs need to focus on only a few messages to achieve better impact in an increasingly noisy environment. The brand positioning is the part of the brand identity that management decides to actively communicate to the market.

Brand Repositioning

Repositioning involves updating brand messaging and or image, to redefine a brand’s territory and enhance its relevancy and reputation. Symptomatic of this situation is the ongoing need to explain or clarify what the organization really does and who it serves. See our guide: HOW TO: Determine If It’s Time To Rebrand or Reposition.

Brand Story

The narrative force that drives your brand. It’s the drama of past, present and future value that flows through you, and your products, to the customer. Brand stories are written by customers, in customer terms. A company’s identity and positioning will appear artificial and contrived if they are not supported by the (real) brand story.

Brand Strategy

A company’s brand strategy describes how the brand intends to create customers. Specifically, it sets forth the creative and social steps that the brand will take to create the customers that will drive the business forward. Connecting the customer with his or her potential, using brand programs that leverage both the product and the company, is the end game for brand strategy. See our guide: HOW TO: Align Brand Strategy And Business Strategy.

Brand Tagline

A simple, recognizable and memorable phrase which often accompanies a brand name in its outward-facing marketing communications programs. The brand tagline helps customers to remember the brand and reinforces its unique mental associations. Consistent and well-known examples are Nike “Just do it”, HSBC “The world’s local bank” and “HP “Invent”.

Brand Touchpoints

Brand touchpoints are discrete brand/customer interactions that deliver (or co-create) value that is both unique to the brand, and strategic. They are carefully crafted by brand developers in strategies to create customers beyond the reach of competitors, delivering value (experience) that competitors can’t match.

Brand Values

A set of beliefs or attributes that represent the code by which an organization lives and operates–its strengths and how it positively impacts people, what it stands for, the things it holds dear, the principles that define how it behaves. These attributes guide the actions of the organization and are embodied both in business practices as well as in employees, acting as a benchmark to measure performance and behaviors.

Brand Value Proposition

The functional, emotional, and self-expressive benefits delivered by the brand that combined provide value to the customer. The brand value propositions provide the rationale (tangible and intangible dimensions and associations) for making one brand choice over other available brand choices.

Brand Vision

The ability to see your company’s future through your customer’s eyes. The expression of an organization’s future aspirations and where all the initiatives and work it undertakes will eventually lead it.

Brand Voice

A distinct way of speaking and communicating to make certain a brand is clearly heard, quickly recognized and easily remembered in today’s noisy marketplace. Brand voice is applied across all brand touchpoints, and is closely aligned to a brand’s visual identity. It shapes how a brand tells its story and how it engages in dialogue, from articulating the brand strategy through every point of communication.


Whenever a customer experiences a brand, it must feel familiar and have the desired effect. Consistency doesn’t need to be (shouldn’t be) rigid or limiting in order to feel like one company.

Coined Names

Coined names are names that are completely invented, as they use a word that does not exist in any major language. In some cases, the word is completely different from any existing word or term, in others it may resemble an existing word but is sufficiently changed so that the association to the original word is slight. Common examples used to illustrate a coined name include Xerox, Kodak and Kleenex. See our guide: HOW TO: Develop A Great Brand Name.

Compound Names

These names are created by bringing two words together. In many cases, it’s two complete, real words use to create one, however it’s not uncommon for at least one of the words to be truncated or even misspelled, especially in order to avoid a long name. Composite names are often used when a name needs to communicate a balance of different attributes–they can create a tension or a complement of attributes–and they can help expand a current definition by adding a new attribute. Some examples of a composite name include NetFlix and Instagram, which bring together truncated terms and idioms, or TurboTax, which adds an attribute to a descriptive term, and Facebook. See our guide: HOW TO: Develop A Great Brand Name.

Content Curation

Content curation is the discovery, aggregation and presentation of content surrounding a specific topic. Content curation doesn’t include the creation of new content, but instead focuses on bringing together the best material on a subject from a variety of sources. Content curation can be an effective method for serving audience needs and building a loyal following, especially when combined with content creation.

Content Marketing

Content marketing is the strategic creation and curation of content that is consistent, valuable and relevant to various target audiences. When done well, content marketing attracts, builds and can retain a loyal audience, in order to drive desired customer actions. Content marketing looks beyond advertising (and often creates more value), to deliver on the comprehensive needs and wants of the consumer in a way that is still relevant to the brand’s position.


What consumers see, hear and think about a brand is shaped by the context in which they encounter it, which in turn directly affects what they do and buy. Context is the confluence of both internal and external factors. Changing the backdrop for a brand changes not just how buyers see the brand but their understanding of how the brand sees itself. Context is not just about where a brand is seen, it’s about how it is seen and of course when it is seen.

Content Strategy

The entire experience of discovering, planning, creating, distributing, measuring and managing content. Simply put, content strategy gets the right content to the right people at the right time. A brand’s content strategy must first identify the needs (problems, interests, desires and concerns) of specific users and the channels they live on, as well as the measurement goals necessary to make the strategy relevant and rewarding to both the user and the brand. The ultimate goal of content strategy is to encourage loyalty, engagement and action.

Descriptive Names

Uses the most evident words or terms needed to describe a product, service or brand. Descriptive names often use terms that are widely used in the industry, or call out a specific attribute about the product or service. While descriptive names typically use real words, some can contain coined terms and acronyms that have become standard and are easily understood. Descriptive names are usually difficult to trademark because the terms are so widely used, and so while not legally protected, they also can’t easily be legally challenged. See our guide: HOW TO: Develop A Great Brand Name.


Refers to the point of difference a company achieves relative to its competitors. Branding must actively strive to help a brand “stand out” in a consumers mind and memory, e.g. through its values, symbols, colors, language, styles, distinctive features, that are unique to an organization. This also helps build a sense of familiarity, which creates an emotional reassurance of the brand and helps nudge purchase and re-purchase.

Digital Brand Audit

A digital brand audit is a comprehensive analysis of a brand’s assets across of its digital touchpoints. Some of those touchpoints include the brand’s website (desktop and mobile), search engine optimization, social media platforms, automated marketing, email messaging, CRM, native and web-based applications, and analytics. This thorough process will provide insights that determine the brand’s health, uncover its sources of equity and suggest ways to improve and leverage that equity across the digital landscape. The digital brand audit, too, is aligned strategically with brand equity sources from the perspective of both the firm and the consumer. As with the brand audit, the digital brand audit’s goal is to find where strategic and executional problems or opportunities exist within your brand in the digital domain, and then find the best ways to have them work optimally together.

Digital Marketing Strategy

A digital marketing strategy creates a roadmap of elements including: social media, email marketing, digital advertising, SEO, content marketing, ecommerce, and measurement. Depending on the needs of the brand, a combination of these elements will work together to form a comprehensive approach to digital marketing. A digital marketing strategy should help plan, manage and optimize digital outlets to align with defined targets and key performance indicators (KPIs), and should be part of a larger integrated marketing and communications strategy.

Digital Transformation

Is not only about the technology, but about the transformation of a customer by way of technology. Creating a frictionless experience that moves customers to a higher level of being and doing and makes products and services as easy to buy as possible.


Simply stated, this stands for the order of things–which ones lead and which ones follow. When it comes to branding, this term is applied to brand architecture, product or business portfolios, organizational structures, and to the prioritization of consumer or customer needs.

Internal Brand Building

Successful brands are built from the inside out, as organic expressions of company leadership, culture and capabilities. Employees are conditioned to “live the brand” when company leaders exemplify brand values through their actions. Internally and externally, brands are built by example. Multiple studies reinforce that the strongest brands are built from the inside out.

Key Performance Indicator

A key performance indicator (KPI) is a metric designed to measure the success of a product, program, process or initiative. They are independently measurable factors that define success, and typically vary from one organization to another, depending on what factors matter to each. KPIs can range from traditional business goals, such as revenue, to broader marketing ones, like buzz. They can be measured subjectively or objectively, can be quantitative or qualitative, and work best when the KPIs are a carefully combined set. They can be set for both internal initiatives and market performance.

Marketing As A Service

What consumers really want from brands is to help them do things that really matter in their lives. The things that help them to gain more confidence, overcome obstacles, celebrate personal victories, move them forward in ways beyond competitors. The concept of marketing as a service compels marketers to think about all the things your marketing can do for customers beyond the campaign to make their lives better. It’s marketing that creates, offers and delivers value and genuinely satisfies an unmet need. See related blog post: Hospital marketing — brute force or what really matters.

Micro Influencers

Micro influencers are everyday individuals with small but dedicated followings on social media. With fewer followers than traditional celebrities, or ‘macro influencers’, micro influencers are usually knowledgeable and passionate about a specific subject with an enthusiastic follower base who loves their content. Their followings are usually small enough to enable personal associations, interactions, or at least the feeling of a personal relationship, between them and their audience. For this reason, micro influencers are often viewed as trusted sources of recommendations.

Micro Moments

Regardless of industry segment, your prospective customer’s path to purchase is convoluted. They research, study, compare and query their way to the ideal purchase experience, and there are no shortage of product and service choices. Micro-moments are the small but precious occurrences throughout the shopper journey during which consumers are ready to act. They start when a customer turns to their mobile phone or other smart device. The challenge to marketing teams is to maximize the value of each and every one of them. For a brand to prove it can fulfill a specific customer’s need at a given micro-moment. See related blog post: Wellness marketing and the importance of brand micro-moments.

Naming System

Is the development of organizing principles and processes for naming an entire portfolio of products and services, ensuring the portfolio is easy for consumers and customers to navigate, and therefore choose. A well designed naming system ensures all brands within a portfolio work together, using names to clarify relationships among offerings and create consistency that can aid in cross-selling, solution sets, and together help increase the equity of the company brand.

Organizing Principle

The best brands stand for something — a big idea, a strategic position, a defined set of values, a voice that stands apart. Can shine and rally around. Central belief that drives everything you do, from internal policies to external communications. Can go about its business with confidence that it’s staying true to itself and not To

Qualitative Research

Focuses on subjective data that is not meant to be translated into numbers. It’s a method of gathering information on consumer preferences, beliefs, and emotions, and it does so through interaction and discussion. For brands, it helps investigate perceptions, opinions, imagery, and other more intangible brand characteristics such as personality. It seeks insights into marketing or brand situations that either don’t require or cannot be measured with statistical accuracy.

Quantitative Research

Based on objective data that is collected, can be subjected to statistical analysis, and can be expressed numerically. It is consumer or customer research, often in the form of online surveys, that is conducted with a large enough sample to produce statistically reliable information that can be used to project outcomes. Quantitative methodologies are especially valuable when information is required from large samples that cross many audiences and regions. It can be used to determine areas such as future performance, brand stretch, brand equity, drivers of purchase, and probability of repurchase.


Is appropriate when the organization’s outward facing identity, beginning with its name, is outdated and doesn’t fully reflect its mission and direction of the business. Beyond a repositioning, rebranding is a long-term change management initiative that impacts the entire organization, i.e. strategy, execution, culture. Given the gravity of this initiative, should include input from major stakeholders (decision-makers and influencers) both inside and external to the organization. See our guides: HOW TO: Determine If It’s Time To Rebrand or Reposition and HOW TO: Avoid The Top Rebranding Missteps.

Signals Consistency

The uniformity of all the messages conveyed that speak about a given brand. This includes: logo, taglines, signage, signature systems, press releases, advertising and marketing, and internal communications. Critical is to be consistent and fresh at the same time. To keep on telling your story time and time again — but in new and engaging ways.

Suggestive Names

This refers to names that evoke (or suggest) an association to a larger benefit of a brand, product or service, rather than describing its function. It draws on metaphors or analogies that create positive associations in consumers’ minds, attempting to tell a much broader story. Suggestive names typically utilize real words, or parts of real words, because these can conjure an idea more immediately and effectively than any other type, but a carefully coined term can occasionally do the same. Some examples include Swiffer (suggesting swift sweeping), Jaguar (suggesting speed and grace), and KIND snacks (suggesting its larger mission). See our guide: HOW TO: Develop A Great Brand Name.

Table Stakes

Basic category benefits that do not differentiate or even indicate a specific brand’s presence. To earn people’s attention today, marketers must create experiences that sit at the intersection of what is genuine and unique to a brand, and useful and relevant to the lives of customers.