Branding should not be a verb.

Branding in marketing - never verb a nounBranding, in marketing, is something that ‘is’ not something you do. In short, we are better thinking of it as a noun rather than a verb.

A soon as we start selling a product or service with a name, a brand exists. It emerges from the interaction of the product or service with the world at large. A business can create a new brand simply by bringing something to market.

We can then develop that brand, improve it, promote it and communicate its benefits, protect it, grow and diversify it – but branding itself as an activity, has no meaning, unless you are a cattle farmer.

I spotted an article the other day proposing that branding was an unethical activity. I was about to rush into print to respond, when I realised that I couldn’t because the argument was based upon an incorrect premise – that there was an activity called ‘branding’.

Dangerous shorthands

The unhelpful and uninformed use of the term has grown out of lazy journalism. Just as ‘marketing’ is misused to mean anything from advertising to PR, branding is a shorthand for all forms of brand development, identity creation and brand communication. It is also a handy term when a pejorative inference is needed to criticise those bad, mad men and women.

I work in brand development – but I would never describe myself as a ‘brander’ – because I don’t ‘brand’.

Perhaps it’s time for all of us who work on brands to champion a bit of clarity, and in the words of one of my favourite quotes: ‘Never verb a noun’.


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