If we type “what is a brand” in a search engine right now, we will probably be bombarded with a number of definitions. Moreover, we won’t learn anything we didn’t already know. Brands are the essence of marketing; they are how we distinguish various products and services across many industries.
But is there just one type of brand? How can we use the same definition to describe different types of brands when they are essentially too different?
The simple truth is that we cannot place a brand in a mould and judge it according to the said mould. Brands come in all sorts of various shapes and sizes, not to mention with various qualities, advantages and disadvantages. In fact, in our opinion, there are at least 21 different types of brands out there, and each one of them has something different to offer.
In order to fully understand how industries work or what brands can offer us, we need to ensure that we understand all the types of brands there are. Therefore, to help you differentiate them, in the following lines, we’ll talk about 21 types of brands we can encounter on the market today.
1. Personal Brand
Personal brands are those individual brands people build around them. However, most experts don’t believe these should be called brands at all, as more often than not, they’re not related to a specific business model. Nevertheless, a personal brand is how we market ourselves via media, social networks and other means so as to improve our image and possibly gain more career opportunities.
2. Product Brand
In order to sell goods and commodities, businesses have to work on their product brands. These are brands that consist of emotions and ideas that can be associated with a product. Thus, the associations exceed the functional capability of the product and rely more on the public impression of it. FMCG, or fast-moving consumer goods brands, are an example of product brands.
3. Service Brand
Service brands are quite similar to the previously mentioned product brands. The main difference is that they focus on service rather than products themselves, which means they are harder to develop. Services are less tangible than products, so most of the time, these brands have to associate positive emotions with themselves in order to succeed. Nevertheless, building a service brand allows marketers to avoid skill vs skill comparisons, which are always difficult to prove. There are also new online service brands, for example, subscription brands, which have influenced changes in loyalty and technology expectations. In essence, they now rely on the user experience and perceived value to promote their services, as these traits are very sought-after among consumers.
4. Corporate Brand
We also call these brands organisational brands, as they are closely related to the organisations that stand behind them. Fundamentally, these brands define those organisations and reassure the consumers in the quality and the service of the companies. Most often, corporate brands have all the necessary capabilities and assets, as well as values and priorities to meet the needs of the consumers. Moreover, they have a global or a local frame of reference, performance records and citizenship programmes, as well as a rich heritage that speaks volumes about the company behind the corporate brand.
5. Investor Brand
If an investor brand is powerful, it will deliver share price resilience and show a knowledgeable understanding of value. These brands are most often publicly listed brands, which are seen not only as investments but also as performance stocks. Thus, in order for these brands to succeed, investors have to blend their strategic and financial knowledge, as well as work on their purpose and value proposition. Moreover, they should achieve a wider reputation through CSR.
6. Non-Profit Brands or NGO Brand
Although NGO brands are usually frowned upon in the non-profit community, these brands are still important because many are now competing to get a bigger cut of the philanthropic pound. Thus, these brands are not just looking into fundraising to gear their social missions forwards. They are also paying attention to value models.
7. Public Brand
We also refer to these brands as government brands. Basically, these are brands related to the way the government is acting towards citizens and entities. Even though we cannot associate consumer choice with these brands, they do still exists and are vital for boosting people’s trust in the way government does its business. However, most are on the fence when it comes to their existence. Some people actually believe public entities should focus on developing trustmarks rather than using brand strategies to develop public brands. Moreover, some brands are not public by nature but have become so present in our lives that we almost assume they are a part of public services. Such brands are Google and Facebook, which we can also call embedded brands.
8. Activist Brand
These brands come with a purpose that’s always related to some social cause. However, they promote their purpose so well that, more often than not, their consumers opt for them because they’ve distinguished themselves in their minds. A good example is Body Shop, which is completely anti-animal cruelty, and Benetton. Benetton has been fighting global issues and bigotry throughout its existence. Nevertheless, not everyone favours these brands; even Benetton has a few haters.
9. Place Brand
In order to attract tourists, residents, investors and even businesses, destinations and cities can build a brand around themselves. They build it so as to associate the locations with positive ideas rather than facilities. That way, they can show people just how many choices they’ll have if they relocate to a particular city or decide to visit it. However, in order for these brands to be successful, service providers and citizens have to play their part. A good example of a place brand would be Las Vegas, as it’s become well known due to the saying “What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”.
10. Nation Brand
In contrast to place brands, nation brands are related to the reputations and perceptions of a country. The pioneer of these sorts of brands is Simon Anholt.
11. Ethical Brand
Businesses can build ethical brands and use them in two different ways. They can use them to describe how the brand works and which practices it uses in order to improve the overall business. For example, an ethical brand might devote its work to CSR and worker safety. Meanwhile, we also have ethical brands that denote quality marques. These are important, as they reassure the customers that the brand is, above all, responsible. A good example would be Fairtrade. Also, note that most ethical brands are a part of NGOs, like Trade Network and WWF’s Global Forest.
12. Celebrity Brand
Of course, celebrities can also build brands around themselves by combining social media with different products, content, appearances and even gossip. Back in the day, the business model for this kind of a brand included ad appearances. However, nowadays, celebrities can also endorse products, become brand ambassadors and get associated with brands via product placement. For example, a celebrity can wear a dress by an ethical designer on the red carpet and associate themselves with a good cause.
13. Ingredient Brand
Some brands opt to collaborate with ingredient brands so as to increase their value proposition. These brands can add more to the mix in terms of quality and manufacturing. They are the feature elements of the bigger brand and can lead to more sales and more following, because they are combining their fans with another brand’s fans. Some of these brands are Teflon, Gore-Tex and Intel.
Lately, it’s become evident that people are not really interested in finding out what goes into the product they’re about to buy. They are also looking for integrations rather than add-ons, as well as smaller products that work just as well as the bigger ones. This, ingredient brands are not as popular as they were before.
14. Global Brand
Otherwise known as household names, these brands are famous on a global level. Thus, their business model most often relies on availability, familiarity and stability. Nevertheless, these brands are often under threat, as they have to implement changes, either big or subtle, in order to stay relevant. They used to be consistent, as consistency was a major part of building a global brand. Today, it still is, but these brands also have to adjust to the changing cultural tastes and expectations.
15. Challenger Brand
These are the so-called changemakers that are changing the way we view and use conventional marketing resources. In essence, they are here to challenge the dominant players and “make some noise”. As such, they bring their business ambitions to a whole new level and are changing category decision-making criteria so as to improve their own position on the market.
16. Generic Brand
Just as the name says, these brands have lost their distinctive traits and are plain and generic. There are three forms of them. We have generic brands such as Sellotape, Xerox and Google, whose names have even passed into our vocabulary. We even use their brand names as verbs. Then we have generic brands that are on the verge of ruin, as they’ve lost patent protection, for example. These brands are specific to the healthcare industry, as the competition there is fierce. Since they’ve lost their patent, anyone can beat them now. The last form of generic brands is the one that has no brand value at all. These brands have unlabelled and unbranded products, and they feature a functional description instead of a brand name.
17. Luxury Brand
Now, we all know what luxury brands are. These are usually designer brands whose products can serve as status symbols. That’s why most people tend to aspire to buy luxury brands — so that others can admire them. Moreover, luxury brands are often endorsed by their consumers via stories, associations and quality. Nevertheless, they are vulnerable to market shifts, as well as changes in consumer confidence and perception. Luxury brands are always being pressured to create affordable products, as most people cannot afford them right now. A good example of such a situation would be Coach. A luxury brand, Coach, had a few obstacles in 2014. They couldn’t boost their revenue because China and Japan had cut their sales growth. And as we all know, these two countries are the leading target markets for luxury brands.
18. Cult Brand
Instead of having customers, cult brands usually have fierce followers. Moreover, they pick fights with their market enemies; in essence, they challenge them, just as the challenger brands do. However, real cult brands usually focus on their own obsessions and passions rather than on what their competitors are doing. They set the rules their followers comply with. Furthermore, if they decide to market their products or services, they do so in such a way that others flock to them. They rarely have to chase people to pay attention.
19. Clean Slate Brand
Clean slate brands are the complete opposite of brands that rely on a mainstream brand strategy, which includes history and heritage. Instead, these brands are actually the pop-up versions of regular brands. As such, they don’t have any proof that they’re good nor are they well known. However, they move fast in order to give their consumers something new and modern. Thus, they can become quite popular over a short period of time.
20. Private Brand
Also called private labels, private brands are actually brands that are trying to weaken the name brands’ asking prices. Instead of offering value, like the previously mentioned name brands, these private labels focus on OEM-sourced, value-based retail offerings. As such, they don’t inspire a huge level of loyalty or appeal among consumers. However, if they work on those aspects, they could increase their value. Moreover, they could play a bigger role in the part of the market that focuses on the “affordable premium”.
21. Employer Brand
Lastly, we have employer brands. As the name suggests, these brands focus on the employee value proposition and deal with high-quality staff employment. In essence, these brands are doing their best to better the recruiting process. Furthermore, some of them also expand on those efforts and work on developing a productive and healthy work culture. Nevertheless, even though employer brands seem like a good idea, they are often just that — an idea. We can rarely find real employer brands due to a multitude of reasons. Most companies have a huge HR staff that has to handle the whole recruiting process, which means that the employer brand doesn’t have a real purpose in the end. Moreover, marketers are rarely interested in solving people issues. Thus, the satisfaction rates in many corporate cultures around the world are poor and need improvement.
Having seen so many examples of different types of brands, it’s no wonder people are confused. They don’t know how to define a brand, as there are many definitions that we can relate to this term. What’s more, these are not the only types of brands out there. We can also classify brands according to their structure or brand audience.
For example, there are endorsed brands, as well as power brands and HOBs (house of brands) if we focus on just the brand architecture models. Moreover, there are B2B, B2T, B2C, H2H and B2G brands, which all have different brand audiences.
As such, it’s obvious that one brand can be many different things at the same time. We can own a product brand that’s also a challenger brand or a brand that’s reached a global level. Thus, we mustn’t forget that building a successful brand will depend on the contexts in which it’s situated, as well as the categorisation we apply.
More often than not, it’s difficult to make a brand stand out, as there are a plethora of ways one single brand can be defined. However, in any case, marketers should make sure that their brands generate value and are in line with the overall brand strategy. Moreover, in order to grow a successful brand, one needs to ensure it stays relevant and that it’s, above all, able to be distinguished in each context we place it in.