What Is a Brand?

December 9, 2020

Quick: What’s the first name that comes to mind when I ask you to think of a brand?

Coca-Cola and Apple are the two many people will mention first. Why is that? It isn’t just because they’ve been around a long time – even though they have. And it probably isn’t because of the companies’ worth, as notable as they may be. Lots of brands fit those descriptions. And it isn’t only because they have such recognizable logos and colors, though no one would mistake Coca-Cola red for its biggest competitor’s blue, or the minimalist whitespace and design of anything from Apple.

The real reason is that these two brands represent much more to people than just a color or style. If you look at Coca-Cola’s messages, the brand is all about human connection, whether inferring that through nostalgic images or through direct messaging, like the “Share a Coke” campaign. As a child, I knew the words to the iconic “Hilltop” commercial song, “I’d Like toTeach the World to Sing,” before I understood what the song was really even about.

“Hilltop” may be seen as hokey by today’s standards, but it’s an important part of Coca-Cola’s brand promise, that is, Coca-Cola brings people – any people – together. (Also, all these years later, I have to admit feeling a bit nostalgic watching it again as an adult.)


Apple is different. I mean, that’s literally its brand. In 1997, when the company was performing poorly and being compared to toys by the industry, Steve Jobs knew he needed to change Apple’s brand and brought in the right creative team to help give it life. What came out was a company-saving pivot from a focus on what we call “speeds and feeds,” or technical specifications, to the company’s primary value: Think Different.

Originally the choice for artists and designers, Apple developed a reputation for doing things differently and almost dared its users to go along for that ride. It was so successful that when Apple branched out into other innovative technology products, its users excitedly bought in without confusion about why a computer company would make something called aniPod or an iPhone.

Vintage 1997 Bondi blue iMac from Apple. It sure didn’t look like an IBM computer.
Vintage 1997 Bondi blue iMac from Apple. It sure didn’t look like an IBM computer.

What is a brand?

 It’s easy to think of a brand as just a logo or wordmark because we see so many of them throughout our daily lives. But clearly, a brand is something more; it’s both physical, or at least graphical, and intangible. The graphic logo, or wordmark, colors, typography and styles all come together to paint a cohesive picture that can evoke emotion. Even people who don’t work with brands understand, for instance, that using Comic Sans in a document “feels” like a children’s birthday party invite. You wouldn’t use it for a corporate annual report, for instance. The graphical representation of a brand is often referred to as its identity.

The intangible side is where things get interesting. This is the side that makes people only choose a certain brand of tennis shoes or peanut butter. It has less to do with price or components – all tennis shoes have soles, different color options, ways to lace or secure them, etc. And all peanut butter is made with, well, peanuts. Smart marketers discovered the intangible side of a brand a long time ago, and that is, the shared values with your audience that drive loyalty.

So, why do some people only buy Jif brand? Because “choosy moms* choose Jif.” Its brand promise and its values were that if you’re taking care of kids, you’re only choosing the best. And by extension, Jif promises to be the best for you and your kids. (*Jif probably has the same brand promise today, but with less stereotyping.)

And who isn’t familiar with the Nike brand? You don’t need to be an athlete to “just do it.” It’s a lifestyle and value set that resonates with people who stay active and need the right shoes for their activities. Or, in the case of Apple, you believe in or you want to “think different.”

It takes time and effort to build a trusted brand, so you might be confused about why a company would rebrand. Let’s use Deem as our example.

The Deem rebrand – Right This Way

You can think of our brand refresh a bit like Clark Kent changing into Superman. Clark Kent is serious, polished, very competent and a little nerdy. He does good work and we love him. But when you see Superman, there is no messing around. He means business and you know exactly what he’s out to achieve. Superman is the same guy with the same mission and passion – just with a better outfit. 

Clark Kent, left, and Superman, right.
Which Clark Kent do you want to save you from a bad situation?


Deem has a long history in business travel, and our identity has evolved alongside our technology advances and position in the marketplace. As the corporate travel industry rapidly changes, we are tackling new challenges and designing better solutions.

For some time, Deem has been planning the changes that are now materializing. Our evolution includes a major rebrand that includes a fresh identity for Deem.

“Updating our identity lays the foundation for Deem’s future growth,” said Tahnee Perry, VP, Marketing, Deem. “It helps support the launch of new products and services. It embodies Deem’s mission to transform travel for travelers around the world.”

So what exactly are we changing? We’ve updated wordmarks and colors, and we have more refined positioning. Our look might have changed, but our passion and our values haven’t.

We are on a mission to transform travel. We’re doing that by putting the traveler at the center of everything we do, because we know that travel is better for business when it’s better for people. This rebrand advances Deem’s evolution in the corporate travel booking software space as our newly named company president, David Grace, continues to move forward our mission and deepens our commitment to our values.

“With a difficult year for the industry almost behind us, we’ve strengthened our resolve to make travel better for business,” said Grace. “We’re well positioned to move ahead. And our tagline, Right This Way, invites everyone to join us on our journey as we further invest in creating innovative travel solutions for businesspeople.”

The Deem identity embodies the ideas of streamlined travel and forward movement. We’ve indicated this with the bold, upward-pointing arrow that anchors the initial letter D in the Deem mark. The clear simplicity of the typeface choice is meant to convey both authority and friendliness. And the color has been updated to a sophisticated black primary color, with a fresh version of Deem’s signature blue to compliment the new style.

Deem's fresh new logo
Deem's fresh new logo


When put all together, Deem is demonstrating our commitment to the travel industry by continuing to invest in our technology and innovation, our people and our partners. We’re doing it to make travel better for the businesspeople who work hard and the businesspeople who support them.

You may travel for business reasons, but travel is about people. So, we’re inviting you to come right this way. We have great things on the horizon.


Deem's mobile-first Etta platform is available for both iOS and Android.


Diana Rose Brandon
Director, Marketing Content

An accomplished business writer and creative professional, Diana heads up content for Deem’s many content areas including PR, social media and blogs. Her background includes creating visual and written stories for the travel, consumer electronics and technology industries. Diana is a story junkie who loves to travel. When she isn’t writing, you can usually find her reading, playing word games or behind a camera.

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