Cohere, Branding and Brand

I recently became a member of Cohere, a collaborative workgroup in the Old Town area of Fort Collins, Colorado. Cohere provides the infrastructure of a corporate environment (only lots hipper and with great coffee) and is designed for the flexible workstyles of independent contractors and consultants.

While there are conference rooms and private areas, most of the action at Cohere takes place in an open office where you’re surrounded by all kinds of cool people working on their own stuff. You can feed off of the group energy and be super productive, sample from what’s going on around you and learn something, or participate in the free wheeling, mostly business oriented, discussions.

To make things even better, and in my case irresistibly so, these cool people know lots of things I don’t and see other things in fresh new ways. There are no office politics so opinions flow freely.

Some of the Cohere folks are designers of the marketing communications and web persuasion. They create powerful images and user experiences. I wouldn’t have a clue where to start on many of their projects.

Yet, as it turns out, their work and mine are closely related.

They deal with Branding. In my work, I deal with Brand. What’s the difference? If you check a few marketing books or Google both words the results are so confusing you’ll probably wish you’d just accepted that the “ing”-thing was it and gotten on with your life.

My take as a Marketing Physicist is a little simpler:

Branding is about creating the interface between a buyer or user and the organization providing a product or service. Branding attracts and then provides an emotional and intellectual shortcut – we interact with Branding through our five senses and our brain says, “I feel I know them” and hopefully even “I think I know what to expect from them.”

Brand, on the other hand, is what happens inside of the envelope created by Branding. Brand is the sum total of how well a company keeps its promises to its customers.

Brand has three major parts that a company controls: the desired marketing position, a compelling market offer or promise to prospective customers, and competently and predictably keeping that promise.

My personal focus is on the second part – I help companies discover unmet customer needs and create new, high margin, market offers to address those needs. I also help in the positioning and operational performance areas at the request of some clients.

Every week, while I work at Cohere helping companies with their Brand, my Cohere neighbors are working their Branding magic to make a Brand attractive, accessible, current and clear. We work together, for different clients, in a hip place without a cubical in sight. Oh, and with great coffee.

And if I have questions about my website, I know who to ask.

Michael Clingan can be reached at or at 970-613-0923.

  • Funny, I just read an article in Transworld Business by Jeff Harbaugh about the difference between being a label and a brand (in the clothing world). From what I got out of it… I’m on the verge of becoming a brand, but probably still a label. I think people would buy something from a label because they would like the way it looks, but people would buy something from a brand because it was made by that brand (and they like the way it looks). Haha.. I’m still confused though.

  • I totally agree with the “buy something because of the brand.” I think Coloradoans in particular shop this way. Don’t we all love our North Face, Mammot, Marmot and Mountain Hardware gear? I’ve totally bought something b/c of its brand and what I perceive that brand says about me when I wear it!

  • Cohere just published a short piece I wrote on the difference between brand and branding – – thanks Angel.

  • Branding or Brand? New @coherellc

  • Cohere Member Guest Blogger: On Branding and Brands:

  • Michael

    Suzanne, Thanks for your comments. I checked out the Jeff Harbaugh article as different people and industries can use the same term very differently, particularly as you move between B2B and B2C. Harbaugh seemed to be using brand (I’ll use a small b) to represent a label that has achieved a certain level of traction, over a period of time, in specialty or larger retail outlets. I think that’s a common way of using the word “brand.”

    The same word is used to describe what a company represents and what buyers can expect from it. I often see “having a Brand” (big B) confused with “being a brand” so it was nice to read, in the current issue of Transworld Business, a nice interview with Jen Rapp, Patagonia’s Director of Communications and PR. The interview is all about Brand as Patagonia’s promise to its customers includes being super environmentally conscious. Rapp talks about how they keep that promise and how they’re creating an entire ecosystem in the fashion industry that operates as they do.

    Patagonia’s founder and CEO, Yvon Chouinard, has previously stated that he has little use for being a popular brand and recommends customers avoid buying what they don’t need, even from Patagonia. Interestingly, even as he was belittling being a brand, he made a very strong Brand statement.

    Angel, Thanks too for your comments. Consumer brand sensitivity is actually strong everywhere but it varies a great deal with product category, location and many other factors. For example, the brands you mentioned are closely tied to lifestyle and location. They’re not big brands in Miami, Miami has its own favorite brands.

    I learned something about the localization of brand sensitivities during a recent trip to a tony part of LA where I had lunch with two friends who live there. Younger than me, they were both wearing Gucci sunglasses with large gold embellished frames not to be seen in Fort Collins.

    The first question they asked me was what my favorite model of Ferrari was – I drew a blank and finally blurted out that I like the one that has four-wheel drive. They laughed and gave me one of those looks. Apparently I’d gotten my Lamborghinis and my Ferraris confused.

    If only they’d asked which I like better, a Subaru Forester or a Subaru Outback! Oh well, I’m a Brand expert and not an expert on all brands.

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