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Published July 3rd 2008


Defining brand image as a multi-dimensional entity and working with individual dimensions explicitly has several important benefits, in both practical and conceptual terms.

If by watching a brand we mean the measurement and tracking of its image online, then we need a clear and operational definition of what a brand image is. We propose that a brand’s image is best construed as an aggregate of how that brand is perceived along multiple related topical dimensions.

This way of defining brand image as a multi-dimensional entity and working with individual dimensions explicitly has several important benefits, in both practical and conceptual terms.

Definition of Brand
It is essential to first elucidate the meaning of the concept Brand. Once there is a clear definition of Brand, we can work our way upwards to developing the rest, all the while using our understanding to resolve conceptual and practical ambiguities.

We can start with what it is not: a brand is not a real entity.

Corporations, organisations, companies, services, products, ranges, people, news items are real entities. A brand, on the other hand, is a symbolic concept used to group all the related information under one umbrella.

The definition from Wikipedia makes the above point more clear: “A brand is a symbolic embodiment of all the information connected to a company, product or service.”

This concise statement clarifies the two defining features of the Brand concept:

  1. it is a symbolic entity
  2. it groups together all the relevant information connected to another entity.

Definition of Topic
Topic is a generic term we use to refer to the subject of any identifiable conversation/information associated with a brand. Taking the “Barack Obama” brand as an example, its possible topical dimensions are [according to our Brandwatch, at the beginning of April 2008]:

  • Jeremiah Wright
  • Trinity United Church of Christ
  • Contraversial former pastor
  • Democratic nomination
  • Phil Gramm
  • Infinitesimal substantive differences
  • White House hopeful
  • Economic speech
  • Kenyan father
  • Kansan mother
  • Student scholarship
  • State convention
  • Law professor
  • Passport records
  • Former classmates

It is easy to see that Brand and Topic are inevitably defined in terms of each other: a brand consists of its associations with a set of topics, and topics exist with reference to a given set of brands.

Definition of Brand Image
Once the definitions of Brand and Topic are clarified as above, it becomes easy to define Brand image: A brand image is how a brand is perceived along the different related topical dimensions.

An immediate advantage of this definition is that it is readily operational: if the set of topics related to a brand is known, the monitoring of the brand image consists of evaluating how that brand is perceived in the context of these topics.

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