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Branding Basics

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Branding is such a fundamental part of marketing that it is worth understanding it completely. In this tutorial on branding, we discuss the basics. In other tutorials we extend these basics to look more in-depth at other important aspects of branding.


The first idea when thinking about brands and branding is to understand what is a "brand concept". In essence, a brand is a set of associations that are linked to a brand, a division, or company. These associations reside in the memory of customers. These associations help customers understand what the brand or company is, why it is potentially relevant to them, how it is different or similar to other products made by the company, and how it is similar or different from competitor’s products.


Within a company there are different levels of brand concepts, and they are all inter-related. To see this, consider the Learning Company and their various product lines in the figure below.

At the highest, company level, are meanings associated with the company (psychologists call this the "super-ordinate meaning"). The products of companies are often structured into product lines, and the Learning Company has two of these basic product lines. Brand names can be associated with these product lines. Finally, meaning can be associated with specific brands.



You might wonder where these associations come from. In fact, they come from various actions of the firm, including (but not limited to) the advertising and general media communications. But they also come from distribution (e.g., shelf location can convey a good product by a big seller), sales promotions (e.g., affordable), and product characteristics (including the name, packaging, and logo). Consumers' usage of these brands, and information about the brands from the press, opinion leaders, and word of mouth also affect the nature of these associations.

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Allen Weiss is the founder and publisher of He can be reached at

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