What is Branding? 100 Thoughts From 100 Leaders


Vice President and Group Leader

We all “know” what a brand is. Or do we? Like many words employed regularly throughout the day, do we ever stop and think about their actual meaning?

Or maybe we inherently know these things, but like many great ideas, verbalizing them is the inherent challenge.

So when a student at New York’s School of Visual Arts decided to reach out to 100 industry leaders:  marketers, designers, writers, strategist and creatives, the results were amazing. Sarah Fudin, a SVA Masters in Branding student, reached out this varied group of people through e-mail, phone calls and in-person meetings. What she wound up with is a fascinating and insightful look at the state of branding today.

The Altitude Group’s own Rich Lobel gave his own two cents,

To me, branding is capturing the essence of emotional (and rational) values that products embody — and relating those values to people’s lives. Brands are expressions of ourselves… from toothpaste to cars, there is a reason we reach for specific brands and proudly display them in our garages, medicine cabinets, kitchen cupboards, closets, living rooms, bedrooms, and so on.

Why do I buy Marvis toothpaste over Crest…? The traditional British image yet hip/cool vibe of this brand makes me feel better every am/pm when I brush my teeth. The packaging, the smell, the taste… the image of the brand resonates more with me than going with a mainstream brand. Why do I buy Skippy? Well, Skippy seems, to me, the brand for creative individuals! Go figure.

But Rich isn’t the only industry insider to share great insight. Here are some more of my favorites:

“The visual and conceptual identity of an offering. Both a look and a persona that guides what it does, how it does it and how it talks about it…”

-Will Wiseman, Universal McCann

“Branding is convincing that voice in someone’s head to be on your side.”

– Veronica Parker-Hahn, Oscar

“Branding is a visible representation of our invisible desire to self actualize.”

-Joe Gebbia, Airbnb

“Branding is creating a distinctively authentic recipe that brings people to the table again and again to tie memories with flavor and great conversation.”

– Larry Sombke, specialty food entrepreneur.

“A great brand is compelling and true. Branding is the art and science of building connections through authentic stories, signature innovations, and inspiring experiences both inside and out.”

– Sue Matthews, Lippincott

“A brand is both a tangible mark and, at its best, a powerful emotional connection with the consumer. Brands are owned by consumers – not companies – and are built on both rational and emotional associations that go beyond the initial transaction to create a deep and lasting relationship that engenders advocacy and flat out love.”

-James Speros, Fidelity Investments

“Brand is just another word for ‘personality.'”

-Neal Blumenthal, Warby Parker

“Branding is the promise you make to your audience. Hopefully it’s an honest one.”

– Adam Panetta, barrettSF.

“Branding is the immediate and visceral reaction you have to any product or service, and what you believe it communicates about you as an individual to others. Branding is what drives people to make regrettable wardrobe choices, and spend any amount of money on designer cat food.”

-Jon Gieselman, DirectTV

-Branding is the definition, communication, and management of a compelling truth.”

-Scott Lerman, SVA

“An identity attached to an inanimate object.”

Malcolm Gladwell, New Yorker