Brand building


above-the-line (ATL)

Traditionally this referred to mass media communication channels, including television, radio, print, low CPM digital banner ads and out-of-home media. These channels are useful for reaching large audiences to raise brand awareness and position an offering. ‘Line’ definitions are becoming more blurred as communications channels multiply and become multipurpose.

acronym names

Names created by abbreviating two or more words, ideas or names.  Either pronounced letter-by-letter or as a word. Examples include IBM (International Business Machines), H&M (Hennes & Mauritz), IKEA (Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd), 3M (Minnesota Mining and Manufacturing). Acronyms often sound generic, are less memorable and require more investment to promulgate.

affinity marketing

A strategy of associating a brand with charities, sport or entertainment events through sponsorships or partnerships to develop reach and create positive impressions among wider audiences.

art direction

The practice of applying aesthetic sense to a communications piece to create an appropriate expression in line with the creative brief.

audio branding


below-the-line (BTL)

Traditionally, tightly targeted marketing activities that run outside mass media channels. Includes PR campaigns, direct marketing, promotions, events, sponsorship, and digital channels including social media and email. ‘Line’ definitions are becoming more blurred as communications channels multiply and become multipurpose.


For organisations, brand is synonymous with reputation. A strong brand is the equivalent to a strong reputation. Reputation is built in multiple dimensions, and is reflected in brand messages, images and other tangible associations.

brand alignment

A strategic exercise aimed at addressing an organisational issue through branding. Effective organisations align business strategy and brand strategy.

Also called brand refresh, brand revamp, rebrand, brand revitalisation.



brand ambassadors

Key people who promote a brand because they believe in it, or are paid to promote it, or both. These people typically have leadership qualities and are enthusiastic about what the brand and company stands for. They are a source of information and inspiration for other stakeholders, especially customers. Fostering relationships with brand ambassadors can also positively influence corporate culture. Also called brand champions, brand evangelists, brand influencers.

brand building

Activities that increase the value of a brand. These include branding and marketing communications.

brand DNA

The core idea a brand seeks to be associated with in the mind of an observer. This idea is developed through a brand building methodology.

brand equity

The intangible value of a brand relative to how recognisable it is, derived from aggregated stakeholder opinions.

Not to be confused with brand value, the economic worth of a brand.

brand function

The practical role of the brand. For example, how a product, service or organisation might be described on a government form.

brand identity

A brand identity is the totality of elements that identify and distinguish a brand in people’s minds. These elements include (but aren’t limited to) the logo, colours, typography, images, messages, nomenclature and even scent, sound, tone of voice and writing style. 

brand image

What people perceive the brand to be. Brand building activities can help improve a brand’s image.

brand personality

A distinctive collection of human characteristics applied to a brand with the aim to produce a consistent experience that resonates with an audience. These traits align how a brand looks, speaks and conducts itself. 

brand positioning

The locating of a brand among defined competitors and/or in people’s minds to ensure distinction, and relevance to stakeholders. The positioning includes real competitive differences as well as perceived differences that can be developed by brand builders. A strong positioning builds memory structures that help people recall and choose the brand. 

brand promise

The unique proposition/benefit/value the brand promises to deliver to its audiences. This statement asserts what people can expect from it. Fulfilling promises builds a stronger reputation for a brand, which in turn increases brand value. Also called a brand value proposition, or unique selling proposition/point.

brand purpose

A declaration of an organisation’s reason for being. It expresses why the brand matters and how it benefits the wider world. It communicates an organisation’s fundamental belief and goal that will inspire stakeholders. The stated purpose of a business should go beyond simply generating profit. Several studies reveal that purpose-led businesses outperform financially.

brand refresh

brand revamp

brand revitalisation

A brand alignment with an added focus on modernising an outdated corporate identity.

brand strategist

A person whose role is to originate and develop a brand strategy to help an organisation achieve its goals. Strategists use research techniques and methodologies to generate insights that influence the creative execution of a brand and its communications.

brand strategy

The plan that defines what, when and how to communicate, to advance the operational strategy and objectives of an organisation, or the marketing of a commodity or service.

brand touchpoints

Any point where the customer comes into contact with the brand, offering an opportunity to influence their perception/behaviour. Examples include POS, help desks, websites, social media and advertising.

brand value

The net value of the cash flows that can be attributed to the brand dimension of an offering. An intangible asset of a business that helps to make up the difference between a company’s book value and market value.

Not to be confused with brand equity, the measurement of a brand’s intangible value.

brand value proposition

brand voice


The process of defining and expressing a brand through words, images and design to influence perception.

business strategy


Marketing term for the information cascade that occurs when people decide a product, service or organisation is worth talking about or interacting with.


coined names

Names that didn’t previously exist before being created and defined by an individual or team. Examples include Coca-Cola, Google, meme, World Wide Web.


compound names

Names that combine two or more words or ideas. Examples include Microsoft (microcomputer + software), Netflix (net + flicks), Walmart (Walter + mart). Also called portmanteau words.

consumer staples

content management system (CMS)

A digital application or platform that enables website content to be managed effectively. Wordpress is the most popular example.

content marketing

The strategy of creating content relevant to a target audience’s interests in order to attract interest in a brand, with the ultimate hope of leading to a sale. Content marketing is typically associated with an inbound marketing strategy.


Text ready for publication or review. The term originated when a newspaper writer would pass a completed piece to the editor with the instruction to “copy” (reproduce) it.


The individual responsible for originating marketing messages.

corporate citizen

The recognition that a corporation has a wider effect on society, and its obligations to society go beyond minimum regulatory compliance and generating profits for shareholders. In many sectors, perceptions that a corporation is a good corporate citizen contributes to the value of its brand because it becomes a more attractive choice for like-minded customers and talent.

corporate social responsibility (CSR)

An evolving approach to self-regulation of a business that aims to develop positive corporate citizenship. Includes internal initiatives that aim to reduce or eliminate practices that have negative social or environmental effects, and initiatives of a philanthropic, activist, or charitable nature. A company with strong positive CSR credentials is perceived as a good corporate citizen.

cost per thousand impressions (CPM)

How much advertisers pay for every thousand ads displayed. (CPM stands for cost per millemille being Latin for thousand.)

creative brief

The document that informs the creative team about the requirements, objectives and deliverables for a creative initiative. The Stepworks Creative Brief Engine is an interactive tool that streamlines the production of an effective creative brief.

creative direction

In brand building, the process of ensuring a creative team’s output is aligned with a company’s brand identity, business strategy and tactical objectives.

customer experience (CX)

The overall experience the customer undergoes when interacting with a product, service, organisation or brand. This experience is generally formed from contact with brand touchpoints.


descriptive names

Names that describe the function of the product or service. Examples: Pizza Hut, China Mobile, General Motors. These names require little thought from an audience. While they add value at the point of sale, this comes at the expense of being less distinctive and less emotive, therefore less memorable. Also called functional names.

design director

The individual in a branding agency responsible for ensuring a creative team’s design proposals answer the creative brief.


A trait traditionally thought of as an important business advantage. However, newer research shows that distinctiveness, not differentiation, is more likely to lead to a sale. Exceptions include offerings with a clear advantage in price or availability.


A distinctive quality, such as a unique feature, mnemonic or promise, increase the memorability of a brand. This brand recognition raises the likelihood of choice at the point of sale.

Distinctiveness combined with availability leads to growth in sales.


earned, owned, paid media

These three channel categories generally complement each other in a through-the-line strategy.

Earned media is unsolicited positive coverage by third parties. Examples include word of mouth, news reports, social media influencers and testimonials.

Owned media are channels controlled by the brand or organisation. Examples include websites, social media channels and flyers.

Paid media describes messages that involve a paid-for component. Examples include advertising, sponsored influencer posts, product placement and event sponsorship.

employer branding

Activity that enhances the perceived value of an organisation to employees and employment candidates.

evocative names

Non-obvious names that evoke an association with the product or service, or emotion connected with the brand. These are generally more effective because they are more distinctive, and are thus more memorable. Examples include Google (googol is a very large number), Amazon (a large unstoppable flow), and Nike (Greek goddess of victory).


fast moving consumer goods (FMCG)

These products are sold quickly at a relatively low cost. Examples include non-durable household goods such as packaged foods, beverages, toiletries, confectionary, cosmetics, over-the-counter drugs, dry goods, and other consumables. Also known as consumer packaged goods (CPG) and consumer staples.

functional names



A line of text in a prominent position, such as in an advertisement, or located at the top of a webpage or editorial story, applied to summarise the content and attract readership.

hygiene factors

Attributes (eg professional, honest) that are expected for a business or service, and which won’t contribute to a brand’s distinctiveness.


inbound marketing

A technique for attracting customers to products and services via content marketing, social media marketing, search engine optimization and branding.


A diagram or flowchart with captions and illustrations that makes a complex process or mental journey easier to understand.

intellectual property (IP)

Ownership of ideas, concepts and content. An important dimension to brand building is staking out legal ownership of valuable trademarks and copyrights.


key performance indicators (KPI)

The range of qualitative, quantitative, objective and subjective metrics indicating degree of success. In a branding context, this can include volume or value of market share, perceived awareness and return on investment.



A graphic, symbol or wordmark that represents an organisation, product or service, typically applied to enable identification and promote awareness.


A consistent typographical design used to represent the name of an organisation, product or service (as opposed to a graphic symbol). The name can get a graphic treatment such as customised font or letter forms for a unique brand identity. Coca-Cola, FedEx and Samsung are examples of logotypes. Also called a wordmark.



The discipline of creating awareness and desire to influence behaviour of a target audience towards a specific outcome, such as sales, sign-ups, or change of lifestyle habits, opinions, perceptions or beliefs.

marketing communications (marcomms)

The use of different marketing channels and tools in combination. Marketing communications are how an organisation brings a message to its desired market, or the market in general. Examples include advertising and public relations campaigns, brochures, POS displays and other collaterals, websites and other digital channels.


A communication strategy using language and writing to build perceptions in an audience’s mind. Messaging is used to tell stories, make value propositions, influence decision making, and distinguish a brand. Messages repeated often and in creative ways build memories structures for audiences and reinforce brand recognition, and ultimately drive sales. Messaging is usually supported by visual communication to enhance effectiveness.

messaging framework

A structured approach to articulating the central messages of a brand before they are amplified in various channels. The messaging framework may include a brand strategy, brand model with promise, purpose and positioning phrase, mission, vision, values, brand story, and other key messages. A comprehensive messaging framework will enable brand builders to consistently produce clear, relevant, effective communications aligned with stakeholders' needs and desires.


mission, vision, values statements

These interconnected ideas are part of the Balanced Scorecard (BSC) methodology formally applied by many global organisations. In that context these statements clarify the organisation’s aims to align management and provide an anchor for decision making. Generally such statements are for internal reference and should be interpreted by brand builders in a way more accessible to wider audiences.

Mission statements summarise what the organisation is doing to achieve its vision. This is generally on a 5 to 20-year timeframe.

Vision statements describe the end state achieved by fulfilling the mission. This is generally on a 5 to 20-year timeframe.

Values statements commit team members to a set of non-negotiable character traits in their conduct on behalf of the organisation.

motion graphics

Animated graphic design content or video footage which creates the illusion of movement. The term is often used to differentiate from (stationary) graphic design. Motion graphics often feature in commercial animation, video, film and/or audio developed for brand building and marketing communications.



The methodology of creating, identifying and assigning names to companies, products and services for competitive advantage. Effective naming helps communicate a branded offering’s features, benefits and/or values to distinguish it for audiences, making it easier to notice and remember. Naming also affects trademarking. Different types of brand names include coined names, compound names, descriptive names, evocative names and acronym names.



A consistent customer experience across multiple channels, online and offline. Websites, apps and retail spaces offering a uniform experience amplifies the effectiveness of the branding and reduces the leverage of the channel.

out of home (OOH)

Mass media outside the home, typically visible to the general public. Includes billboards, signage, hoardings, public transport.


positioning phrase

Also known as tagline and slogan. This brief but important message is often placed near a logo. It may be viewed as the mental gateway to a brand, and will appear prominently at multiple audience touchpoints. The positioning phrase aims to place a key idea about the brand in people’s minds. An emotional positioning phrase may be more effective for a descriptive or well-known brand name. A more obscure brand name might benefit more from a descriptive positioning phrase that enhances understanding. A “positioning phrase” is often called a “tagline”. This can cause confusion because headlines are also misleadingly referred to as taglines.




An estimation of the number of customers exposed to a brand or communications initiative, such as an advertising campaignitem. In recent years reach has been misguidedly criticised for being an unreliable indicator or vanity metric for demonstrating effectiveness. Reach is a key consideration for building brand awareness that leads to growth.



Brands increasingly have to appeal to digital agents in addition to people. Search engines dispatch robots (“bots”, “spiders” or “crawlers”) that visit websites, read and classify the content, then rate its relevance. Websites can be written and coded to help ensure pages rank highly in search engines.


A text file placed in a website directory that directs search engine robots (spiders and crawlers) which pages to index and which to omit.


sales enablement

The process of providing sales teams with appropriate knowledge and support tools to engage prospects and sell effectively.


sonic branding

The use of music and other sounds to help brands build distinctive, relevant and favourable memory structures that engage audiences. Also called audio branding.


The intentional overarching approach an organisation takes to outperform rivals. Usually by offering something no one else can sustainably offer, by doing what everyone else does but cheaper, or by creating unique perceptions of otherwise generic commodities.

Business strategy is an integrated set of choices that consider the leader’s ambitions and objectives, stakeholder needs, a distinctive approach to winning, plus all the systems and skills needed to increase the chance of success. Brand advances strategy because human understanding and perception is crucial for successful execution. 

Not to be confused with tactics, the details of how the strategy will be executed.



The details of how the strategy will be executed. Not to be confused with the strategy itself.


A common though imprecise term for a line of text in a prominent position, such as fixed under a logo to reinforce a company’s brand.

theory of change

A methodology applied primarily by philanthropy, not-for-profit and government organisations to plan, evaluate and promote long-term social change. Theory of change has a strong influence on brand strategy.

through-the-line (TTL)

A combination of above- and below-the-line marketing. Through-the-line is increasing in popularity and effectiveness, as ‘line’ definitions become more blurred from communications channels multiplying and becoming multipurpose. Also called 360º marketing.



tone of voice

A brand’s own unique way of communicating its personality through language to get noticed, remembered and recognised. Tone of voice is a part of the brand identity. Tone of voice parameters are expressed in guidelines to help writers understand how to apply it across touchpoints consistently and effectively. Also called tone and manner, brand voice and brand tonality.


Intellectual property that identifies an asset as originating from a particular legally-recognised source.


unique selling point/proposition (USP)



A set of beliefs that govern the way an organisation operates and expresses its culture. These values assert perceived strengths and qualities that guide actions, influence codes of conduct and behaviour, and set a benchmark for measuring performance, purpose and action. Values may be expressed in brand purpose and brand promise.

viral marketing

A type of marketing where products or promotions are rapidly shared among customers.


visual identity

A term that specifies the elements of a brand that can be perceived through sight within the wider context of brand identity.


word of mouth (WOM)

Organic conversation about a product or brand that spontaneously occurs between individuals. Positive WOM is actively encouraged by brand builders as it’s potentially the most effective form of marketing. Closely related to the reputation of the brand.


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