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Brand, artifact, and trademark

Brand, artifact, and trademark

If there is one blunder in marketing and branding literature to single out only, it is a misrepresentation of a brand with a trademark.

Brand is generally mis-understood as a logo of particular company, product or service. When advertisers say: “let’s rebrand it,” they mean either to rename a company or a product or to change its visual identity, its logo and colors, and other visual stuff of visual identity. The name and visual identity can be legally protected as trademarks. Trademarks are fixed physical entities, and only as such can they be legally protected.

So, when marketers say “branding,” they talk about visual identity as it is solidified within the trademark and not the brand.

The brand name, logo, packaging, nameplates, company cards, etc., are visual expressions of the brand’s identity.

I have developed very basic heuristics about what a brand is and what is not. If something alive is being talked about, that could be brand; if not, that certainly was not. The brand is living, whereas the trademark is not. The logo is nothing but an extension of the trademark. The ecosystem of a brand’s visual and other moments of truth is vast but should not be confused with a brand. Vastness of trademark extensions might be complicated, but never complex.

The brand is a meme that lives on the substrate of brains and enables repeating and repeatable neuron activities so that a system of activities attributed to one brand differs from another.

As such, as a meme, “brand” produces its phenotypes as emergencies. Memetic phenotypes are like genetic phenotypes in human, animal, and plant bodies. The difference is that memetic phenotypes (emergencies) come as artifacts. Artifacts are thus physical memetic emergencies that we can see, hear, touch, or taste and are, as such, the brand’s moments of truth.

The brand is living as it replicates itself in competition with other brands on the principles of evolution: longevity, fecundity, and fidelity (Dawkins, S. Blackmore).

Humans are memetic machines infected by memes, But we are not memetic machines only. Memes abuse us, but as agents, we actively rearrange memes in novel memetic fields with mutated memes. We create memes like we create babies. At the moment that they separate from us when they are born and thrown into the world, they begin their own life attached to their phenotypes/artifacts. They need more support when young but eventually begin their independent life. More and more, they are re-evolved in the brains of their customers.

There is only one distinction between brands and humans. Brands are not agents. They have their memetic code that defines their phenotypes. That memetic code is then reproduced according to memetic evolutionary principles but lacks agency property. Brands that have long lost their commercial value, like Shakespeare, still live long after the agents behind die, but they are not agents on their own, like humans or animals, for instance. They are pure viruses of the mind.

It follows then that you can devise a “how to do it” recipe book for trademarks but not for brands. It also follows that any title that promises easy solutions, like three steps for successful branding or nine rules for branding, is misleading and a disgrace of 100.000 years of human evolution.


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