Brand Foundation: Conceptual Design Process

My four-year-old son asked me the other day “Mom can you email Mimi the picture of you on Facebook?” Another day he asked his father (my husband) “Are you on Facebook?” How is it that at four- year old has grasped the concept of Facebook? The concept of sharing and being a part of something. Facebook is a great example how the conceptual branding design process is important to providing a foundation to building a successful brand identity. But what is “conceptual branding,” and the  “design process of a brand” and “brand identity”?  I’m going to take a stab at answering these questions and how they provide the foundation to building a successful brand identity.

What is a brand?

One could write a book on all the definitions and ideas about what a brand is. But for the sake of this conversation, I’ll keep it short. Tybout & Calkins (2005, p. 8 para 2) defines a brand as “sets of associations linked to a name or marked associated with a product or service.”  For instance, when I think of the brand Nike associations that come to mind are athletic, running, sports, working out etc. Or as Tybout & Calkins (2005) point out, some of Coca-Cola associations include cola, refreshment, red, the Real Thing. I, on the other hand, associate Coca-Cola with “too much sugar,” and “zits,” because drinking that stuff used to make my face break out and there’s way too much sugar in that drink for me.

Conceptual Branding

Concept. Now that we grasped the idea of what a brand is, what is conceptual branding? Tybout & Calkins (2005) tells me that a brand is a concept and that consumers experience brands as concepts or a set of properties and associations that give the product a specific meaning and it’s the way in which we differentiate one item from others we experience. We know what associations are (what comes to mind when we think about a brand) so now properties are the characteristic of the brand like it’s rich, creamy, tasty, soft, hard, has four legs etc.

This sounds a bit confusing but the example of a chair not being a chair but a concept that we apply to a piece of wood (or whatever material the chair is made of) based on its fit with the properties and associations that agree with our idea of what a chair is (Tybout & Calkins, 2005), then it makes a little more sense. To compare, a rock is not necessarily the usual concept of a chair, because though a rock is sturdy like a chair I don’t of sitting when the word “rock” comes to my mind-and, for the most part, most of us. But there’s this one rock in my neighborhood I sit on but when I see it I don’t say to myself “there’s my chair,” I think “I’m going to sit on this rock.” That might change after writing this blog.

Brand concepts. Marketers are aware that people think in terms of concepts and it is their goal for consumers to have the intended concept of their products. And the process of attempting to influence the properties and associations that create consumers concept of a product- what Tybout & Calkins (2005) refer to as brand concepts.

Design process

The design process is where marketers are intentional in their decision making about names, colors, symbols etc to help consumers perceive a product (Kellogg, 2005) or get the intended concept. Another way Tybout & Calkins (2005, p. 32, para 3) describes brand design is that it “is a step between the articulation of the brand concept and the creation of advertising and other contacts with the consumer.” In addition, design cues embodied in packaging, positioning, promise, essence (which I’m sure I’ll get a chance to blog more about) are also part of the process that creates the meaning of the brand with consumers (Tybout & Calkins, 2005).

Successful Brand Identity

Brand Identity. Brand Identity is another word layered with meaning. In short it is who a brand says it is and is  the essence of a company and all the elements that make it what it is (Mylonadis, 2013). And I’m sure “all those things,” could turn out to be an endless list. But “essence” is the word that stood out to me as Tybout & Calkins (2005, p.49 Para 1. ) describes “essence” as brand meaning that is co-created by the company and the customers. It is the customer’s interpretation of the brand whether intended or not intended by marketers (Tybout & Calkins, 2005).

Successful brand identity is when a brand has communicated who they are to consumers and consumers clearly understand and interpret the company’s intended meaning of the brand. Something like Facebook. Their message is so clear that even a four year gets it.


A brand is a set of associations linked to a name. Associations linked to Las Vegas are sin, fun, nightlife etc (Kellogg, 2005). It is also is the concept, set of properties and associations that give the brand a set of meaning that makes it different from others. Conceptual branding is the process of attempting to create the intended concept in the mind of consumers. This is done by how the product is designed, which includes many cues such as name, color, symbols and the like. It is also accomplished by brand positioning, promise. It’s also a company’s essence, the shared meaning co-created by customers. When a brand has communicated who it is (it’s brand identity) utilizing brand design, and consumers have interpreted the intended message, then the brand has created a successful brand identity.



Mylonadis, H (2013 ) You are who you say you are-Building a Brand Identity Part 1. Retrieved from

Tybout, A. M., & Calkins, T. (2005). Kellogg on branding: The marketing faculty of the Kellogg School of Management. Hoboken, NJ



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s