The Dictionary Definition of a Brand

Definition of the word brand // Wellstruck

Are you ready to join us on a nerd journey? While refining our own definition of the word “brand” for this post, I looked it up in the Merriam-Webster dictionary. Here's the part of their definition that was most relevant:

  • 4a :  a class of goods identified by name as the product of a single firm or manufacturer make
  • 4b :  a characteristic or distinctive kind <a lively brand of theater>
  • 4c :  brand name

Womp womp. That really doesn't touch on the broader way the word is used in the business, design, marketing, and advertising industries. I think it's time the Merriam-Webster added a new definition, so we propose the following addition:

A brand is the perception of a business (or person or product) resulting from its quality, messaging, and aesthetic over time.

So how can we get this added to the dictionary? With your help, of course.

If you haven’t seen it, the Merriam-Webster dictionary runs a delightfully nerdy (and often hilarious and snarky) twitter account, which they use to clarify and argue about correct word use. They also recently shared a flowchart of requirements to add a new word or definition to the dictionary:

How to get a word added to the dictionary. By Grammarly & Merriam-Webster // Wellstruck

Ladies and gentlemen, our plea meets all the requirements! We didn’t make it up, it isn’t notable because of recent events, it will not be short-lived, and it has a prolonged and widespread use in a variety of sources.

We just submitted our definition (above) to Merriam-Webster, and we'd love to have your help in catching their attention. Help us out by tweeting out the link to this post:

Oh, and in case you're wondering how we came up with our definition, we combined our own knowledge from 10+ years of experience in the industry with lots of additional research. Here's a little proof — a list of several definitions of “brand” or “branding” from experts that exemplify this broader definition:

  • AIGA (the professional association for design) in “What Brand Really Means”: “Immersive brand expression is visual, verbal, behavioral, environmental, physical, digital, conversational and sensual.”
  • Debbie Millman, in an interview about her book Brand Thinking and Other Noble Pursuits: “I think humans use brands to project who we want to be in the world, how we want people to perceive us, and how we want to communicate what we feel about ourselves and our place in society.”
  • From the New York Times’ article Technology Titans Lead Ranking of Most Valuable Brands, Jez Frampton (global chief executive of Interbrand): “Our relationship in brands is our fundamental trust in them, and if they deliver in accordance with their promises.”
  • Jacob Cass of JUST™ Creative in “Branding, Identity & Logo Design Explained”: “Brand is perceived emotional corporate image as a whole.”
  • The first three Google results when searching for “what is a brand?”:
  1. Forbes: “Beginning in the later part of the 20th century, marketers began to grasp there was more to the perception of distinctive products and services than their names—something David Ogilvy described as “the intangible sum of a product’s attributes.”
  2. AYTM: “Ultimately, it’s the way consumers perceive a brand that defines it.”
  3. Persuasive Brands: “While many people refer to a brand as a logo, tag line or audio jingle, a brand is actually much larger. A brand is the essence or promise of what will be delivered or experienced.”
  1. Elizabeth Talerman: “A brand is a simple mental model that represents, collectively, what people feel, think and say about a product, service or company, and where meaning is established over time through consistent positive experiences and engagements.”
  2. Adam Braun: “Branding is the sum of the look and feel and voice of a company or organization that transfers into people's experiences and perceptions of the company or organization itself.”
  3. Jordan Hruska: “Branding is strategically engineered identity applied to a company, entity, person, or even a concept/idea, intended to commodify it and render it easily recognizable, and thus, easily shared, traded, reproduced, and purchased by potential consumers.”

We'll keep you posted! Thanks for nerding out with us.