September 2023

What is a Brand? A Guide by Sam Berrin


It’s often the external components we think of such as the things that appear on the company’s website, marketing materials, or product packaging. Even the more legally savvy business owners may think of a brand as owning a trademark in the form of a name or logo.

Without a doubt, these external components are crucial elements, but truly successful brands are developed in a holistic sense. Put another way, a brand is actually comprised of many components that, altogether, express impressions of the company’s essence to potential customers, investors, or employees.

One of my favorite quotes on the topic is from Seth Godin, who offers a nice definition: “A brand is the set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships that, taken together, account for a consumer’s decision to choose one product or service over another.”

As part of this reframing, what if instead of thinking of a brand as external components you first consider expressive words or ideas you’d like to be associated with the business? Words or ideas like: stylish, exclusive, romantic, classy, down-to-earth, sustainable, secure, ethical, fun, reliable, or value. The list goes on and on but the point is the focus should be on the essence of the brand instead of the external brand elements.

These expressive words or ideas are tied back to more concrete aspects of the brand like names, taglines, jingles, images, customer service protocols, and more that should be created and carefully woven together to communicate a general impression of a company’s essence to anyone who may interact with the brand. This holistic brand expression is both outward (e.g., toward prospective customers/clients or potential investors, etc.) and inward (e.g., toward employees, current investors, etc.).

No matter the industry, competition is fierce so branding choices are critical to success of a business. What will your potential customers think and feel when they interact with your brand materials? What words do your brand materials conjure in the minds of customers? Are these materials consistent? How can you develop these materials to tie into your company’s values? These are non-exhaustive questions that should be carefully thought through when creating or developing a brand.

Sideman & Bancroft’s Brand Integrity and Innovation Group is our largest group at our Firm. Our attorneys have developed niche specialties and complementary expertise to support brands from inception to end-of-life and all phases in between. Learn more about how we can help you with brand protection here.