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What is a Brand Name?

Updated on November 16, 2014
heidithorne profile image

Heidi Thorne is an author and business speaker with over 25 years of experience in sales, marketing, advertising and public relations.

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Though it cannot be counted or touched, an organization's brand and brand name are its primary assets. But exactly what is a brand name?

A brand name is an identifying word or words applied to organizations, people, products, services and concepts that differentiate them from others in the marketplace. The name is one piece of the market branding identity which also includes colors, logos, fonts, taglines, customer service standards, and much more.

A brand name may also be referred to as a trade name. It may or may not be the actual legal name of the organization, person or product, but it refers to the name which is used and known in the marketplace (often referred to as an assumed name).

Example: The Ford Motor Company produces automobiles bearing the Ford and Lincoln brand names.

History of Brand Names

The origins of branding can be traced to ancient civilizations, with the word "branding" referring to marks which were literally burned into products (similar to branding livestock) to identify their creator or owner. However, it wasn't until the Industrial Revolution and the evolution of packaged products that brand names developed into branding as we know it today.

Prior to the Industrial Revolution, products were usually produced locally. To help consumers identify non-local products that could be relied upon time and again, a consistent brand name and image became a necessity.

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Brand Name, Store Brand, Unbranded and White Label Products

In today's consumer market, brand name products occupy a significant share of retail space. However, two additional types of products are offered side-by-side with them: Store brand and unbranded products.

Store brands, also referred to as private label or house brands, carry the retail store's name or brand name. For example, drug giant Walgreen's offers Walgreens named products and Target's food line is called Archer Farms. These products may be of a similar quality to large brands. However, these store brands are rarely marketed separately to help keep them priced competitively compared to national brands.

Unbranded products carry no brand name whatsoever. A can of peas may be simply and literally labeled "Peas," often with a white label. These are not to be confused with white label goods.

White label goods are products that are manufactured without a brand name, but are sold to other organizations to resell under their own brand name. Many store brands are actually white label goods which are then labeled with the store's name. Some white label goods are actually made by national brands for the sole purpose of selling to retailers for resale.

In tough economic times, consumer commitment to buying brand name goods often drops in favor of store or even unbranded products. And because consumers are aware of the fact that some store brands are actually national brands under the label, they have less resistance to trying store brand products.

While selling white label goods to retailers may be a strategy to help national brands build sales, there is also the danger of these store brands cannibalizing the national brand name products. Though this strategy can help build total market share, it can also reduce revenues and profits from national brands' higher priced products.

Investment in a Brand Name

Businesses invest heavily in promoting and legally protecting their brand names, particularly through marketing and advertising. This is more than just an image boosting exercise, it is an investment in future profits and growth.

The way this investment can aid in a business' growth would be through the introduction of additional products which carry the same brand name. For example, a manufacturer of popular hair care products may decide to introduce a skin care line. This is referred to as brand extension. In a similar move, the hair care manufacturer may decide to introduce a new type of hair styling gel. This new styling product would be referred to as line extension.

For both brand and line extension, a strong brand name can improve the chances that consumers will try the new products since they are already familiar with the company's offerings.

Disclaimer: Any examples used are for illustrative purposes only and do not suggest affiliation or endorsement. The author/publisher has used best efforts in preparation of this article. No representations or warranties for its contents, either expressed or implied, are offered or allowed and all parties disclaim any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for your particular purpose. The advice, strategies and recommendations presented herein may not be suitable for you, your situation or business. Consult with a professional adviser where and when appropriate. The author/publisher shall not be liable for any loss of profit or any other damages, including but not limited to special, incidental, consequential, or other damages. So by reading and using this information, you accept this risk.

© 2013 Heidi Thorne

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    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Sheri! It is pretty shocking. It's the same situation in the promo biz. A few manufacturers make the stuff that everyone else sells. Kudos for even thinking about doing the private label thing. Daunting task in my opinion. Writing on HP is much more fun anyway, right? :)

    • Sheri Faye profile image

      Sheri Dusseault 4 years ago from Chemainus. BC, Canada

      Good hub Heidi. Years ago I was in the make up biz and was consdering do a private label thing. I found out, to my amazement that there were only a few factories making pencil eyeliner. It was all the same product, from very high end designer stuff, to "cheap" low end drug store stuff...exact same product, just packaged different! So save your money and buy the cheap eyeliner! Thanks for this.

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Thanks, Kasman, for the kind comments and support! Glad you found it interesting. Even though I've been in marketing a long time, I still am learning new stuff every day, too. :) Cheers!

    • Kasman profile image

      Kas 4 years ago from Bartlett, Tennessee

      I love the history on brand names! I had no idea it referred to the original term of branding. I learned something new with this hub, so because of this, I'm voting up and sharing! Great job on the background!

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      Hi Alan! Agreed, the retail brands can be dramatically more expensive than store versions. Also, I love the Quaker packets that provide the fill line for water or milk. Genius! Can't imagine why they didn't do that before.

      And since I live out in the suburbs, you definitely need your own wheels here, too, for shopping at the discounters or warehouse clubs.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 4 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      For the past decade or two the supermarkets here have marketed products on three levels: national/international branded goods, own labels and 'market value' (economy or basic quality). The first can be up to four or five times the cost of the last, and that tells you a lot about 'brands'. Sometimes the same factory churns out branded or value products using different packaging. If you want to pay the difference, who's to stop you?

      I have to admit I've been buying one branded product over the past few months. Quaker Oats 'Oat So Simple' sachets have a front cut or tear line and a pour line on the back, to level up the amount of milk you pour into the microwave bowl, stir, put in the MW for a couple of minutes or so, stir again and ladle out into your bowl. Nobody else does it here, so I'm stuck with the 'brand'. Still, it's not that bad with a discount price at Tesco (I gather they didn't do so well in the States, they've lost money over there in a grand fashion)!

      That's another form of 'branding'. Store names like M&S and Waitrose tell you you're going to pay more on goods than Sainsbury's, and at the bottom end of the market you've got Asda - a part of the Walmart Group. Around here you need your own wheels to shop at Asda or Morrisons.

    • heidithorne profile image
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      Heidi Thorne 4 years ago from Chicago Area

      I was just getting ready to check out for the night, too! But I figured, git 'er done. :)

      Thanks so much for your support and encouragement, billybuc! So appreciate it. And I totally get the whole patience thing with the Internet. Have two other blogs. It's taken a few years, but seeing results. In fact, I've seen some faster results with HP than with the blogs in some cases. Interesting, eh?

    • billybuc profile image

      Bill Holland 4 years ago from Olympia, WA

      I was just about to shut down for the night and up popped Ms. Heidi. I guess I have one more in me.

      You know your business; there is no doubt about it. I hope you are seeing a great many views with this niche. If not, hang in there. It usually takes a few months for hubs to circulate on the internet. You are doing a good job with these hubs.