What is a brand, and why do brands matter? What is brand equity or a brand franchise? And how do you measure and manage brand equity to maximise profits over the long term? Let's first explore the notion of a brand and speculate about its origins.

The word 'brand' is most often defined as a symbol, name or sign that identifies and distinguishes one product or service from competitive products and services. We might think of 'identifies and distinguishes' as the practical or tangible functions of a brand, but these are only the visible tips of the iceberg. Below the surface, the brand may perform other functions and convey other meanings. A brand might convey or evoke associations, memories, experiences, emotions, colours, sounds, symbols, values and images. We might think of these latter properties as intangibles.

Trademark law gives us another way to think about these intangibles. Courts and lawyers use the term 'secondary meaning' to refer to the associations and values that accrue to a brand. For example, the word 'caterpillar' is the name of an insect, but 'Caterpillar' has acquired secondary meaning as a brand of earth-moving equipment with an image of power, strength, durability, high quality, hardness, diesel clatter, yellow, construction, building, and progress.