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Branding terminology and jargon explained

By Beth Pearson -

Jargon abounds in the discipline of branding, and the plethora of terms in use coupled with the sometimes nuanced differences between them can have undesirable side effects.  Sometimes the jargon undermines the user, making them seem pretentious or detached from the hard-nosed world of commerce.  And other times conversations will become increasingly confused as terms are used interchangeably or different meanings attached to the same words by different people.

So in the interests of clarity, let’s take a look at some of key branding terminology and what it really means.

Three key phrases concern how the brand is recognised:

  • Brand name: What the company calls itself and its products.  For example, ‘Apple’ is the corporate brand name and ‘iPhone’ is the product brand name
  • Brand architecture: How the different brand names owned by a company are used in relation to each other, e.g. ‘Pratt & Whitney, a United Technologies company’.  We discuss different brand architecture strategies here
  • Brand identity: The physical expression of the brand, primarily the logo, iconography and colour scheme.  This can also be extended to include how the brand ‘talks’, e.g. tone of voice used in communications, key phrases it seeks to own

Much of the remaining terminology relates to what the brand stands for – its meaning.  The central phrase here is a brand’s ‘positioning’ which is usually expressed in a ‘brand positioning statement’.  This short, simple statement defines the space that you want your brand occupy in the target market’s mind relative to other brands – when they think of you, what core associations (‘brand attributes’) do you want to be triggered and how will these set you apart from competitors?

When discussing or creating a brand positioning statement you may come across some further terminology, including:

  • Brand purpose: The role that the brand sees itself playing in the world – its raison d’etre and guiding mission
  • Brand values: Core principles which the brand commits to and, in theory at least, guide its every action when fulfilling its purpose
  • Brand personality: The human traits and behaviours that are associated with a brand, e.g. fun, paternal, aggressive

Here’s the most important phrase of all though.  All of the above, if well executed, creates ‘brand equity’ – the commercial benefits of having a strong brand such as increased sales, loyalty and the ability to charge a premium.  Now that’s the kind of language that even the most ardent brand cynics will understand.

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