All a brand is, is: how well the product solves a problem for a customer. That usability and satisfaction burns its mark on the heart of the consumer: brand.
Dave Taylor asks, "Innovation or Branding: Which Comes First?" at his Intuitive Life Business Blog. (A typo in the URL: "ord". If Dave fixes the typo, it will cause link rot, this link will stop working.)
Innovation is branding. You innovate only to better solve a problem for both company and customer. Company problem = make more money. Customer problem = fix a broken, or enhance a feeling, or make something happen, or achieve a result for personal gain and betterment.
Branding is innovative. Because your customer base, product, and interaction with both, will be evolving all the time. Your brand must have a central core, but a fluid means of expression, with changeable applications, implementations, adaptability.
Innovation is improving an existing product or creating a new one. But the innovation is not for abstract experimentation, with no productive purpose. Right innovation is focused on better serving both company and customer, saving money, cutting costs, improving quality, expanding tool suites, enriching customer relations and increasing loyalty.
Branding is the position you want the product to occupy in the public marketspace. Vaspers the Grate is my product. The brand is how well my blog, called Vaspers the Grate, satisfies you, and in what manner this is done.
Vaspers the Grate is a blog that was innovatively based on web usability and other computer topics, with a flair for combative confrontation and futuristic ideals. I speak of pseudo blogs and MSM idiocy, of ethical anarchy and technological superiority. If I do all this in an informative way that gives you practical advice relevant to your needs or interests, I succeed as brand.
But the impression VtG leaves in your brain is what counts. So I have to do what I say I'm going to do. I have to be abrasively analytical, creatively bizarre, and technologically prophetic, at all times.
What image is branded in your mind, about me, is what my "brand" is, to you. Who gives a flying fig about what my hopes are? Either I live up to my promise as Vaspers the Grate, or I don't.
Let's talk now about YOUR product.
Your brand is your method and appearance of solving a problem for your customers.
A brand is not dreamed up in a corporate conference room. A brand is not a superficial design welded or glued as overlay on top of the real picture of your product's ability and ease of meeting customer needs. Brand is down and dirty, right in the bottom of the cesspool of human insufficiencies and frustrations.
Brand is reality that may grow into legend, but remember: legend can be destroyed by one bad act by a CEO, one cheapening of product to cut costs, one insistent telemarketer, one grouchy sales clerk, one pushy old-school sales bully.
How does the product enhance someone's life? How does it gratify a desire? How does it satisfy a need? How does it fit in with a lifestyle? How does it make a user appear to peers? How does it operate as symbol? As tool? As self-expression? As personal extension? As mask or mirror?
Your brand is what your product, and your company, do to people.
Your organization "brands" its burning image, its essence and attitude, into the product, sales force, website, blog. Corporate culture, PR, advertising, R & D, along with the product, combine to "brand" an insignia on the customer discourse about that product type. Your company's brand, the logo burned into the hide of seekers, is what you do, how you treat developers, distributors, re-sellers, investors, suppliers, employees, and end-users.
The product "brands" its burning image into the consciousness of the customer as they use it to accomplish some goal or task.
Brand can then be symbolized by a corporate logo, mascot, fictional character, color scheme, celebrity spokesperson, dress code, social projects, and every other item or event that represents the company.
But a brand cannot be manufactured. It is created in cooperation with the consumer. If your customers agree that the Mac is superior to the PC, then you can say that. If not, say something else to promote the Mac.
It's what happy customers say about a product that is the true origin of a brand. Not some gestalt that is imposed externally by an agency or consultant.
Spontaneous praise from a satisfied new or long time customer: that's your brand. That truth about the benefit of product in use: that's what you can authentically sustain as a "brand".