Brand & Branding – our findings

Brand and Branding, what’s the difference? Well, we asked and you told us.

As part of recent talks to Thread Bristol and Hyper Island (London) we discussed our findings from an (admittedly very unscientific) experiment. Here’s what we did, and what you said.

Our approach
Our experiment was very simplistic, but there was some thinking behind the questions we asked:
• we asked ‘what comes to mind’ to minimise people over-thinking, as we wanted very immediate responses to the questions
• we selected Nike as it regularly appears in the top 20 most valuable brands in a variety of brand valuation surveys, and is a commonly-known brand name
• our sample group is somewhat weighted towards people who have pre-existing knowledge and experience of brand, and so this must be borne in mind.

The responses
We asked three questions, and below are a list of the responses (words sent more than once are repeated).

1. what comes to mind when you think of the Nike branding?
Swoosh | Just Do It | Swoosh | Thorough | Swoosh | Product placement | Tick | Impact | Swoosh | Recognisable | Swoosh | Tick

2. what comes to mind when you think of the Nike brand?
Winning | Rebellion | Confidence | Running | Dodgy market traders | Advertising | Monopoly | Casual wear | Advertising | Collaboration | Athletes | Air Jordan | Fitness | Sweatshops | Adverts | Inclusive | Seb Coe | Status | Lance Armstrong | Youth | Design | Innovation | Marketing | Just Do It | Style | Unethical | Customisation | Egalitarian | Nike Town | Reputation | Sweatshops | Global consumerism

3. what comes to mind when you think of the Nike brand 15 years ago (2001)?
Jordan | Jordan | Agassi / Sampras | Sept 11th | Tiger | Basketball | No Logo | Basketball | Just Do It | USA | Jordan | Exploitation | Air | Sweatshop | Action | Cool | Running | Olympics | Jordan | Success | Sweatshop Allegations | Townies | Expensive (I was 7) | Not Aware of it (I was 8) | I wanted a pair

Some conclusions
So what did we take from these responses?

Firstly, it is clear to us that brand and branding have quite distinct response types. The responses on Brand have a quite wide scope, ranging from values and feelings (winning, rebellion, confidence, youth, unethical, inclusive, etc), to related people and events (Seb Coe, dodgy market traders, Lance Armstrong, etc) – some of which are positive and some negative. In comparing the two questions relating to Brand, there are many differences as to what the memories of the brand are from 15 years ago as compared to the Brand today. Our simplified conclusions to this are two-fold:

Brand is Emotional and Evolutionary

What we mean by this is that Brand exists through emotions, such as positive or negative feelings and associations with ideas, things, people and events. A Brand exists as a part of its environment, and is affected as such. Also, these emotional responses and associations are not fixed but evolve through time. A Brand is affected by its own history, as well as its current environment. A Brand functions through reputation and relationships.

Branding is Communicative

When we look at the responses to the Branding question they are very much more about either the identity (swoosh, tick, etc), or the effect of the identity (impact, thorough, recognisable, etc). We draw from this that the Branding is much more about communication [of the Brand]. The key role of the Branding is one of identification and differentiation.

A final conclusion
Although hugely simplified definitions, this distinction could be a help in making sense of  a very complex area of brand and branding.

‘relationships’, ‘values’ and ‘feelings’ that are in perpetual development, through the interaction of people, things and ideas.

the communicative elements that reflect, represent, and reframe a brand in, and for, its current and desired future environments.


The dichotomy of Brand and Branding
In considering Brand and Branding, we can identify them as being polar opposites in one sense, whilst also working to support and reflect each other.

messy, unfinished, open, imperfect, incomplete, shared

tidy, finished, controlled, perfect, complete, owned



Many thanks to everyone who helped in this experiment, you know who you are and your help is much appreciated.

Image © Jaqian



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