Although it is crucially important, Brand is one of the most confusing and misunderstood words used in business. Much of this confusion and misunderstanding comes from the fact that there are three distinct meanings associated with this word.

There is the widespread use of the word used to refer to a particular product. This is the common use of the word. Then there is the use of the word to refer to certain signs, such as brand names, logos, symbols, colors and sounds that typically ‘belong’ to the business that markets the product. This is the formal use of the word. And then there is the use of the word to refer to the accumulating cluster of concepts around the brand signs. This is the functional use of the word.

We have to be very alert in order to identify which usage of the word is intended whenever the word Brand is used. So we are going to provide a visual device to distinguish the three usages of the word from one another. It is critical that managers who are responsible for building business are able to do so, if only to ensure the most revenues that can be earned with the least business investments.

Let’s use the lower case ‘brand’ for the common use of the word to refer to a particular product, in the sense of “I prefer that brand”, or I use that brand. Let’s use a capitalized first letter with the other letters in lower case, ‘Brand’ to refer to the formal use of the word to refer to brand signs that are owned by the business. And let us use the fully capitalized word ‘BRAND’ to refer to the functional use of the word as an intended cluster of concepts located in the customer’s psyche, which cluster is referred to with the Brand signs.

The common use, namely ‘brand’ while widespread, is not a desirable application of the word. Because it refers to the product, it is often confused with the product, and most people who cannot see the difference between the substance aspect of the product as object, and the referent aspect of the word as a specific and kind of the product offered by a particular producer. The real disadvantage of this application of the word is that it obscures the value of the brand function to those who use it. This use of the word makes it difficult for those responsible for it to make the most of it for the business. It is therefore better to use the word ‘product’ instead of the word ‘brand’ for this meaning.

The formal use, namely ‘Brand’, while also widespread, is also not a desirable application of the word. Because it refers to the the brand signs, such as the brand name and logo, it too obscures the value of the brand function to those who use it. Also, because it refers to the legal or formal relationship between the brand signs and the business that owns or has legal rights to using it, it would be better to use the words ‘brand signs’ instead of ‘Brand’ for this meaning.

This leaves the functional use, namely ‘BRAND’. The word is rarely used in this sense, if only because most people cannot conceive of conceptual or abstract objects located in people’s minds. However, for those who are keen to put the word to work as hard as possible for their business, this is the best application for the word, if only because it focuses their attention and efforts to maximizing the potential power of this tremendous asset.

People, whether prospects or customers are always being exposed to new and different experiences and messages. Hence the conceptual configuration of their psyche is always being adjusted anew, and this means that conceptual formations in it, like BRAND, are always in danger of eroding, or gradually dissolving into nothing. By taking pains to identify the cluster of emotionally charged concepts that are most likely to maximize their desire for the businesses’ product/s, and to build preference for it over those of competitors, and by managing its formation through specifically those communications and experiences that are most likely to , it is possible to make the most of this tremendous asset.

As BRAND is the cluster of meanings that are given to a brand name and or logo, which cluster resides in customers’ psyches, it is extent to which this cluster relates to existing emotionally charged aspirations or desires, fears or aversions, that determines the extent to which the customer is likely to like the product that is represented by the Brand, and to prefer it over those branded by competitors. And it is the extent to which the BRAND is located and anchored in the psyche, and the extent to which it means the most it can mean, that can establish sustainable share growth.

This means that the BRAND should be designed to bond with specific aspirations, desires, fears or aversions that are already present in the psyche of customers. This means that managers who fail to establish BRANDs that fail to connect with the most powerful conceptual and emotional dynamics in the customers’ psyche – are literally throwing away much of the business-building potential of their business building investments.

It’s high time that managers everywhere, especially those who are responsible for maximizing revenues on a sustainable basis, abandon the earlier, looser, and less useful meanings of the word BRAND, and focus instead on the one with the greatest potential to support their efforts to build their business, and make sure they are doing everything they can do to maximize its business-building power.