Brand Dictionary

in Branding | by Ethan Lyon

Here’s a handy Brand Dictionary of popular marketing definitions and branding terms:

A: Analytics / Awareness / Architecture / Associations / Attributes / Audit

B: Brand

C: Co-branding / Core Competencies / Consumer Characteristics / Customer Relationship Management

D: Demographics / Differentiation / Digital Branding / Diversion

E: Earnings / Equity / Essence / Extension / Experience

F: Focus Groups / Freestanding Brand

G: Guidelines

I: Identity / Image

L: Launch / Licensing / Loyalty

M: Management / Mapping / Market Share / Mass Marketing / Masterbrand / Mission

N: Niche Market

P: Parent Brand / Personal / Positioning / Positioning Statement / Product Brand

R: Rebrand / Relevance / Repositioning / Revitalization

S: Segmentation / Service Brand / Slogan / Strategy / Sub-brand

T: Tangibles / Target Market / Trendsetter / Tribe

V: Value / Value Proposition / Vision / Visual Identity

W: Word of Mouth


Brand analytics is the quantitative measurement of a brand’s market performance. Brand analysts determine metrics, such as loyalty, word of mouth, awareness and market penetration to evaluate brand performance. The objective of analytics is to determine strengths and weaknesses and maximize efficiency and impact.


Brand awareness is consumers’ ability to recognize a brand in a given category through spontaneous brand recall or prompted awareness. Spontaneous brand recall, also called top of mind awareness, is the ability of a consumer to name a brand within a given category without assistance — such as Coca-Cola and Pepsi. Prompted awareness is consumers’ ability to recognize a brand in a category with the assistance of a list — such as RC Cola. Typically, the higher spontaneous recall rate equates to a larger market share.


Brand architecture is the structure and relationship between brands and sub-brands within an organization’s portfolio. Masterbrands, referred to corporate or family brands, have a unifying identity — such as Virgin Group’s Virgin Records, Virgin Trains, Virgin Air, Virgin Books, etc. A freestanding brand acts independently from others in the brand portfolio — such as The Walt Disney Company’s ABC, Pixar Animation Studios, Marvel, etc.

Associations / Attributes

Brand attributes and associations are the emotional and physical qualities of a brand. For instance, Nike’s emotional attribute would be motivation and drive while Starbucks’ physical attribute is quality — as derived from the product. The sum of these attributes equals the brand’s image.


A brand audit is the evaluation of a brand’s health. This examination typically explores strategy, marketing, communications, internal and external feedback and brand assets and equity. Insights from a brand audit should provide adequate information to improve brand equity, positioning and marketing moving forward. If a brand audit determines poor performance among young people, the brand manager should decide a new strategy to capture this audience or explore a different customer segment.


A brand starts with a name or symbol that identifies and differentiates a product, service or business from market competitors. The full dynamics of a brand are defined by the physical and emotional assets. For instance, the Apple brand is about innovation and quality — both achieved from product development (physical) and marketing efforts (emotional).


Co-branding is the joining of two or more brands for marketing and product synergistic purposes. For instance, Betty Crocker makes brownie mix with Hershey’s chocolate and Haagen Daz has Bailey’s flavored ice cream. Co-branding leverages the established audience base of two or more companies to create a larger impact.

Core Competencies

Core brand competencies are key competitive strengths. Each competency should provide a customer benefit, be differentiated among competition and scalable. For instance, Starbucks’ core brand competency is quality. The international coffee brand has differentiated itself in the market by focusing on its core competency, high-quality.

Consumer Characteristics

Consumer characteristics are the individual attributes used to differentiate customer segments. Characteristics include demographic (e.g. sex, age, income) and psychographics (i.e. lifestyle). Under Armour’s customer characteristics can be described as middle to upper class, athletic people that push their physical limits. The apparel brand does not, however, speak to overweight, older consumers.

Customer Relationship Management

Customer relationship management (CRM) is a tool to enhance customers connection with a brand. CRM analysis and evaluation determines the optimal consumer communication touch points, such as Facebook or direct mail. Target, for instance, engaged its user-base by allowing them to allocate the retailers annual charitable donations on Facebook. The national retailer’s Facebook initiative built a stronger relationship with its core audience.


Demographics are the characteristics of a population as determined by gender, race, age, income, education and location. Demographics are used in marketing to target specific audiences. Tiffany & Co., for instance, targets white, educated,  wealthy, urban women. The luxury jeweler uses its demographic data to inform key messages and communication touch points to best reach its audience.


Brand differentiation is the physical and emotional characteristics that separate a brand from its market competitors. Apple’s differentiators include innovation and quality (geared towards creatives) — as its key competitor, Microsoft, focuses on functionality and performance (geared towards businesses). Apple’s emotional differentiators are derived from its futuristic retail stores and marketing campaigns, whereas its physical differentiators are established through its highly visual user experience.

Digital Branding

Digital branding is the life essence of a brand conveyed through digital media. Social media (e.g. Facebook, Twitter) and the blogosphere are channels through which brands can establish and build a brand image. Effective digital branding aligns brand essence, creativity and strategy to effectively target and capture audiences. For instance, Coca-Cola has customized its Facebook page to enable and empower users to post videos and win contests.


Brand diversion is the unauthorized use of a brand by a third-party member to enhance a product or service. The digital world has challenged many brands through self-publishing tools, such as Twitter, Facebook and WordPress. For instance, referencing GM in blog content creates a diversion from the actual GM brand while enhancing your own product value — as derived from website traffic. Porpotedly, “1 in 7 searches on branded terms is ‘hijacked’ by a scammer, redirecting your customers and prospects to illegitimate or competing sites,” writes


Brand earnings are revenues derived from the brand alone. Nike’s “Just Do It” attitude leverages its brand to appeal to customers and generate revenues. Often, brand earnings come from brand loyal customers. For instance, brand loyal Coca-Cola fans will only buy Coca-Cola although Pepsi wins in taste-tests.


Brand equity is determined by all distinguishing brand characteristics — intangible and tangible. Brand equity can be measured through financial assets (as derived from the brand), brand recognition versus private labels and positive brand associations. For instance, Ford damaged its brand equity by re-naming its widely recognized car models — such as Taurus — with names beginning with “F.” After poor market reception, Ford re-named its vehicles to their former titles to re-build its former brand equity.


Brand essence is the heart and soul of a brand expressed in a clear and concise way. Brand essence and slogan can be one in the same or dissimilar — however, both must convey the same message. For instance, Nike’s brand essence is “authentic athletic performance” while its slogan is “Just do it.” Often, a brand essence is focused on a customer need.


A brand extension leverages existing brand equity to launch a product or service in a new category. Virgin Group, for instance, has products in a range of categories — from music to airlines to beverages to retail. In the 1990s, 81 percent of new products used brand extension to introduce new brands and to create sales, according to Kevin Lane Keller’s book, Strategic Brand Management: Building, Measuring, and Managing Brand Equity.


Brand experience is the customers’ cumulative encounters with a brand. It aligns one or more of the five senses with the brand promise. Apple, for instance, demonstrates its brand promise of innovative and quality through its retail stores, computers and devices.

Focus Groups

Focus groups are a qualitative research method to provide insight to improve products, prioritize development, and elevate communications. Each focus group — around 8-10 in size — must be a representative sample of the larger customer base. A moderator steers the group conversation to analyze specific elements of a given product, service, brand or category. The group dynamic helps the consumers delve deeper into a topic.

Freestanding Brand

A freestanding brand acts independently from others in the brand portfolio. While Yamaha unifies its product portfolio with the Yamaha brand (from jet skis to bass guitars), The Walt Disney Company’s ABC exemplifies a freestanding brand — as it has no brand affiliation with its owner.


Brand guidelines are the standards by which a brand maintains a consistent message. Rules and guildelines are placed to ensure all output is aligned with the brand’s goals. For instance, the American Heart Associations brand guidelines maintain that all output must reinforce brand awareness, heighten the AHA’s mission, enhance credibility, differentiate AHA from competitors and improve fundraising potential.


Brand identity is the personality a brand wishes to convey to its audience. Brand identity includes unique characteristics and attributes that differentiate it from competitors. For instance, Jet Blue has a young, trendy brand identity with its tag “happy jetting” and overall fun user experience (think TVs in every seat).


Brand image is the customer’s impression of a brand’s emotional and physical characteristics. Over time, the brand image is developed through advertising and user experience. For instance, Disney’s brand image to children is magic and wonderment. Marketing and the Disney World experience contribute to this brand image.


Brand launch is the initial marketing phase to introduce consumers to a new brand product. Brand launches are critical as it forms consumers’ first impression. For instance, Apple’s silhouette advertisements introduced the world to the iPod — a campaign that differentiated the MP3 player from its competitors while turning a piece of electronics into a badge of “cool.”


Brand licensing is the lending of brand equity to a third party for promotional purposes. For instance, McDonald’s Happy Meals typically offer a toy from a recent children’s movie. The Toy Story brand is leveraged — or licensed to McDonald’s — to entice children to buy a Happy Meal.


Brand loyalty is a consumers willingness to make purchasing decisions based on brand preference. Coca-Cola and Pepsi, Apple and Microsoft effectively create brand advocates — where only Coca-Cola drinkers drink Coca-Cola and Apple users only use Apple computers. Apple’s Mac V. PC advertisements directly addresses the differences between Mac and PC through a them vs. us attitude.


Brand management is the coordination of external and internal messages that are in-line with core-brand values. Effective brand management enhances brand value (or equity) and ultimately encourages brand loyalty through marketing campaigns and user experience.


Brand mapping illustrates the relationship between key branding elements to determine new opportunities. Customers, brand values, products, delivery systems, demographics / psychographics, messages and customer touchpoints are among the many components of a brand map. Brand mapping can be either brand or category specific. For instance, a national cafe brand map would include Dunkin’ Donuts, Tim Hortons and Starbucks.

Market Share

Market share is the percentage of a brand’s occupied space within a given market. Market share is often determined by revenues, user-base and sales volume. Apple’s smartphone market share was 11 percent in 2008, led by Nokia and RIM.

Mass Marketing

Mass marketing ignores niche customer segments to capture the largest audience. Often times, mass marketing is unified by a single campaign message. While Budweiser’s marketing messages are targeted towards young to middle-aged males, Pepsi must appeal to a larger demographic through mass marketing. Typically, traditional media channels, such as TV, radio and billboards are utilized in mass marketing due to their high audience volume and diversity.


Masterbrand is the overarching brand of one or more sub-brands. Virgin Group is the masterbrand of Virgin Air, Virgin Media, Virgin Books, etc and The Walt Disney Company is the masterbrand of freestanding brands, such as Pixar and ABC.


A brand mission helps internal and external stakeholders understand the purpose of the company. Based on market insights, brand values, strategy, and vision, Under Armour’s brand mission is to “make all athletes better through passion, science and the relentless pursuit of innovation.”

Niche Market

A niche market is the small subset of a larger market, promoted by a passionate user-base. Niche marketing targets this specific audience with highly relevant messages.Gawker is among the most successful digital brand to capitalize on niche market concept, with eight specific blogs covering a range of topics — including sci-fi, media, celebrity and more.

Parent Brand

A parent brand is the most recognizable brand within a brand family. Gawker is the parent brand of Gawker Media — as it is the most recognizable among its other niche sites. While Jezebel, Deadspin and Lifehacker are popular in and of themselves, Gawker is the clear leader among them.


Personal brands are people that embody qualities and characteristics of a brand. Personal brands are often thought of as cultural influencers, such as Angelina Jolie, Barack Obama and Seth Godin. Tiger Woods leverages his brand to sell products for Nike and other athletic retailers. Or, Donald Trump uses his personal brand to sell Trump Steaks.


Brand positioning is the distinct location of a brand within a market. For instance, Apple’s market position is for creatives, while Linux is for tech-savvy users. Brand positioning can be measured through perceptual mapping (visual display of consumers brand perception), surveys, multi-dimensional scaling (a visual analysis technique) and factor (variables evaluation), conjoint (consumers value analysis), and logit (consumer acceptance evaluation) analysis.

Positioning Statement

A positioning statements conveys the blueprint of how the brand will be perceived in its given market niche in a clear and concise manner. It should convey the how brand characteristics are differentiated from market competitors.

Product Brand

Product brand is a brand closely associated with a product. For instance, Kleenex is only associated with its facial tissue. Product brands often find product extensions challenging — as consumers already have such strong associations between brand and product.


Rebranding is the process through which a brand re-aligns itself with a new market strategy. Market research or M&A typically necessitates rebranding. Former sporting goods outfitter, Abercrombie & Fitch, re-branded the company in the 1960s to reflect a “casual luxury” lifestyle — targeted towards teens and young adults (14-22). Through its re-branding and re-positioning efforts, A&F captured a new audience and ultimately saved the failing sports outfitter.


Brand relevance is the measure of a brand’s ability to effectively position itself in the consumer’s mind. Relevancy is determined by a brand’s attributes, identity and personality in relation to customer need-states. For instance, Google search was popularized by non-tech savvy users in the early 2000 due to its simplistic design and advanced functionality. In other words, Google was relevant to non-tech savvy users.


Brand repositioning is the realignment of a brand position to capture a new demographic or alter the attitudes of an existing customer-base. For instance, Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley transitioned from investment banking to explore new market opportunities in the commercial bank sector.


Brand revitalization relies on innovation to reinvigorate mature or stagnating brands. Revitalization combats brand stagnation with the introduction of new and updated products. Coke is a mature brand and often revitalizes its image with updates to its product, such as Coke Zero.


Customer segmentation is the process of grouping individuals with similar characteristics to define target audiences. Segmentation will inform your product offering, communication touch points and selling strategy to maximize your marketing budget. For instance, the newsletter Thrillist, targets the affluent, tech-savvy, urban white male segment, which informs their content, key messages and marketing initiatives.

Service Brand

A service brand offers an intangible product. While Coca-Cola manufactures bottle soft drinks, advertising agencies, such as Ogilvy & Mather, provide intangible products, or services in the form of creativity.


A brand slogan is a concise, memorable phrase that conveys key brand characteristics. For instance, The purpose of HP’s slogan, “invent,” is to associate creativity and innovation with the HP brand.


Brand strategy is a plan or method that leverages a brand’s unique qualities and position to grow market share. For instance, if your target audience is young and tech savvy, your brand strategy might focus on engaging users in alternative social networking sites such as Tumblr.


Sub-brands are considered the children of a parent brand, or underneath an overarching brand. Typically, each sub-brand has a separate image and identity that differentiates it from its parent and “siblings” (i.e. other sub-brands). For instance, Nestle’s sub-brands are PowerBar, Perrier, Nesquik and KitKat.


Tangibles are the physical assets that ladder-up to create a brand image. Service brand tangibles are typically derived from office space (i.e. interior design), while product brand tangibles come from the physical product itself. For instance, Ogilvy & Mather’s brand tangibles are derived from its creative office design while Nike’s tangibles are its shoes and apparel.

Target Market

The target market is the specific audience segment a brand aims its products and services to. The target market is defined by the company’s unique selling point and the unmet needs of a specific audience — as identified by demographic (i.e. age, gender, income) and psychographic (i.e. lifestyle) analysis. Under Armour’s target market is comprised of middle to upper class physically fit individuals.


Trendsetters are considered Innovators on the consumer adoption curve. Trendsetters wear Hush Puppies before Hush Puppies are fashionable or wear skinny jeans before skinny jeans are popular. While targeting trendsetters can enhance the chances of your product or service moving up the adoption curve to Early Adopters, many products and services fail to launch. For instance, although portable augmented reality devices were popular among Innovators several years ago, it has not yet been accepted by Early Adopters.


Brand tribes are groups of passionate, brand-loyal customers that promote the company’s product or service. Apple has a sizable tribe, in which its passionate consumers eagerly anticipate the next product and wait in long lines for product releases. Seth Godin notes that tribes can also take the form of niche communities, such as Twitter Moms — a site that encourages online social connections between moms.


Brand value is the portion of financial performance attributed to the brand itself. Brand value can be measured by the brand’s ability to drive preference, loyalty and pricing power. Apple has significant brand value as it has a passionate, loyal following, compared to its competitors, such as HP or Microsoft.

Value Proposition

Value proposition defines the company’s unique position and offering in the market. To determine a value proposition, you must answer who, what and why. For instance, Under Armour’s value proposition would be: For athletes who seek great performance through passion, science, and the relentless pursuit of innovation.


Brand vision is the philosophy that guides key brand messages. For instance, Zappos’ brand vision is guided by its dedication to customer service philosophy and communicated through brand messages, such as its slogan, “Powered by Service.”

Visual Identity

Visual identity systems express core brand values through logos, symbols and other design elements (such as websites and mobile apps). Effective visual identity systems should be recognizable to consumers and illustrate core brand values. For instance, the Nike Swoosh is highly recognizable among sports fans and professionals and illustrates the “Just Do It” brand attitude (as the logo looks like a check mark).

Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is the informal means of consumers promoting or denouncing a product, service or brand to friends, family, colleagues or others. Word of mouth typically refers to verbal communication but also has come to mean online buzz through e-mail, social networks, blogs and text messaging. When Vincent Ferrarri posted his 21-minute call with AOL‘s customer service on his blog, the internet server crashed because 300,000 people tried to download the audio clip at once. Word of mouth carried the story and landed Ferrarri on the Today Show and features in numerous newspapers, such as the NY Times.

Image by Andrej Sevelin from Stock.Xchng