Before branding, debunking the brand.

(Excerpt from the doctoral thesis “Visual identity sources for Romania’s country brand”, author Bogdan Brînzaș)

Pragmatically speaking, today’s world has become a huge globalized market, a global hypermarket, where countries are in permanent competition for markets and resources. One of the spearheads in this competition is the country brand – in its simplified meaning by branding practitioners – and its visible part, the visual identity, consisting of signs, symbols, images, letters, and colors. To study in depth the notions and implications of identity and country image, it is necessary to go through and explain the notion of brand.

According to the Explanatory Dictionary of the Romanian Language (2012), identity represents a “set of data by which a person is identified”, and the image a “sensory reflection of an object in the human mind in the form of sensations, perceptions or representations”. We note that these definitions operate with precise, tangible notions – data sets – and with sensory notions – sensations, perceptions or representations – that is, exactly what, in the end, defines the brand. A commonly accepted definition of brand is “the feeling of a product or service”, a definition attributed to Marty Neumeier. More recently, however, Interbrand offers a changed discourse regarding the brand, as follows:
[…] a living business asset designed to enhance the connection between that business and the customer or consumer. A brand is how people understand, navigate and talk about a company’s business strategy, simplifying decision-making in selecting a product or service.

Unlike the first one, this definition mainly talks about the economic utility of brands in the selection of products or services by customers or consumers. Therefore, brands want to be tools that facilitate connections and engage the public in immersive experiences, experiences that are essentially sensations.

From the perspective of companies and professionals, the American Marketing Association offers the following simplified definition, with an emphasis on the visual symbolism associated with a product or service: “a name, notion, sign, symbol, design, or combination thereof intended to identify associated goods and services to a particular seller or group of sellers, to differentiate them from the competition”.
A slightly different definition also incorporates the consumer perspective, which claims that the brand is “a unique combination of characteristics and added values, both functional and non-functional (intangible, our trans.), which have a relevant meaning […] that can be consciously or intuitive”.

According to Wally Olins, “the word brand can refer both to the corporation as a whole and to its products and services […] the tangible manifestation of personality […]”. That “personality” Olins talks about can be attributed, by extension, not just to a product, service, or organization but also to a destination.

David Ogilvy, the “father of advertising,” notes, “Every ad is part of a long-term investment in brand personality.”

And finally, perhaps the shortest, most pragmatic, and comprehensive meaning supports the following: “groups of functional and emotional values that promise a unique experience between the buyer and the seller.”

All management manuals make a difference by showing that the brand is what consumers buy and the product is what companies make. Of course, any of these definitions are worded differently. Still, they essentially have the same primary meaning, that of creating and transmitting intangible, intangible, symbolic, programmatically assigned characteristics (attributes) that are consciously transmitted to the public, with the ultimate goal of determining the selection of a product or service.