Brand, Branding and Brand Development – What’s the Difference?

Given the growing importance of brands and brand equity today, it is surprising how poorly many brands have been developed or how often company brands are truthfully ignored.  Maybe this is in some way due to a lack of understanding what Brand, Brand Development and Branding are all about.

After participating in many meetings and discussions both with clients and my agency associates, I’ve realized that people have various intended meanings and uses of the word “brand” (and its permutations: brand development and branding).  However, these are often not well communicated, leading to misunderstanding and confusion.  At the very least it impedes progress.  

So here is an attempt to set some semantic rules, borrowing on leading industry definitions and terms. 


A brand is not a logo, a product, a name or a company. 

  • “A brand is a singular idea or concept that you own inside the mind of the prospect.”
    Al & Laura Ries, The 22 Immutable Laws of Branding
  • “Brand is everything, the stuff you want to communicate to consumers and the stuff you communicate despite yourself.  By definition, “brand” is whatever the consumer thinks of when he or she hears your company name.”
    David D’Alessandro, Brand Warfare
  • “Buying decisions are made on promises that transcend products, and promises are rooted in human emotions.”
    Daryl Travis, Emotional Branding
  • “…what we call “shareholder value” is best defined by how strongly employees and customers feel about your brand.”
    Richard Branson, CEO and Founder of the Virgin Group

A brand is a combination of attributes that comprise the essence of your company.  By transforming your company essence into evidence of distinction, you can avoid becoming generic or a commodity.  This is the foundation for Brand Development.  How you apply your distinction defines your Branding program.

Brand = Evidence of Distinction


Development of a brand involves enacting a set of actions as part of an overall process.  The process can include:

  • Discovery techniques to identify brand attributes
  • Testing attributes among market segment samples
  • Creative development to reflect the brand visually and in words
  • Market validation of creative brand concepts

These may not be the only actions that can be taken, but they are typical.

The overall intent is to “create” the brand and communicate it correctly.  In some cases, a pre-existing brand may need to be refreshed, redefined, or redirected.  A very similar process can be employed to accomplish development of the brand in this case.

In summary, Brand Development is a process of brand refinement and building, the end result of which provides a creative expression of the brand.


After a brand is fully developed, it needs to be communicated and promoted to all of its constituents – customers, prospects, employees, suppliers and the financial investment community.  This is accomplished by implementing Branding programs in an effort to convincingly apply your distinction.  A Branding program encompasses marketing communications strategies and tactics with the end goal of raising awareness of the brand to desired levels, and communicating the desired brand attributes to the brand constituencies.  These may require separate and distinct communications initiatives to each type of brand constituent.

To be effective in the marketplace, a brand needs to have all of the afore-mentioned elements in place:

  1. Brand = The brand’s attributes must be well defined.
  2. Brand Development = The brand must be fully developed – and current – to reflect its evidence of distinction.
  3. Branding = The brand must be communicated effectively and adequately.

I hope this sheds some light on an often confused subject, where terms are misused, misunderstood and brand growth can be stunted.  If we understand the related concepts universally, perhaps we can make significant progress in the world of branding.


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