Why Your Brand Isn’t What You Think It Is

My 7th grade English teacher sent me to the principal’s office for insubordination. I had a different interpretation of the poem we were reading  than she put forth. She told me my interpretation was wrong. I told her it wasn’t, that there is no such thing a “right” interpretation of any work of art or literature. Each person brings their own meaning to it based on their own experiences.

This is also how branding works. As Marty Neumeier explains:

A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or company…in the end the brand is defined by individuals, not by companies, markets or the so-called general public. Each person creates his or her own version of it.

In short —

Your brand is not what you say it is. It is what they say it is.

Your brand is not your logo or your products or what you want to believe people think about your business. It is what they feel in their gut. Everything, from the first impression and the functionality of your website, to your LinkedIn page, your Tweets, your business card, the experience people have with your sales and customer service reps, team riders or dealers — any place people come into contact with a representation of your company they are building their gut feelings about your brand.

The question is, are the “they” thinking what you think they are thinking? Or do you have blinders on like my 7th grade teacher, thinking there is only one interpretation — yours.

Here are some examples of the “real” branding of some familiar businesses. How many of these do you find the parody is spot on?