Brand is one of those things many people (including engineers AND marketers) misunderstand. Some think it is a color, a logo, a label, a trademark, a phrase or some combination. It is not. Brand is exactly this: what those who have heard of your product/company ‘think’ your product/company is about. That’s it.
Where in the mind of your target audience does your company/product sit?
Which ‘mental filing cabinet’ do they put you in?
Can you influence it?
These questions have led to the development of most modern branding theory. The answers may surprise you.
Learning where in the mind of your target audience your product lives is easy: just ask. Ask your customers. Ask them how you compare to competitors. Ask them what they think. http://surveymonkey.com can help.
The answers should let you see what kinds of filing cabinets exist (usually arranged in the minds of users by “Price”, “Value”, and “Quality”). But can you get into a “New/Empty” filing cabinet? Can you be the “most/best” of something, so your file comes up first in the mind?
You can influence where in the mind your product lives. To do this you must first really understand your product & your competitors products. WHAT SETS YOUR BRAND APART? What are you really special at? Nothing? Going to be hard to file you in a cabinet. (no room for ‘not best at much’ category).
Figure it out or make it so. Be the “most or best” at something. Unequivocally.
Now how to brand it that way? Exude your most-ness. Your messaging should refer it. Your graphics should bleed it. You should get your customers give testimonials claiming it. You should get reviews saying it. You must emphasize at all times, you are the ‘most/best/only’ X.
Build that brand on top of your key distinguishing attribute. Then stick to it.
Got a new version of the same product that is even more “mostness” of the same key benefit? Fine. Keep the same brand name.
Got a new product with different feature mix? Fine. Build a new brand! DO NOT extend your old brand. Don’t even keep the company name unless you have to (see P&G, Kraft, etc.). The new brand should exude it’s new uniqeness and key attribute. (not attributes mind you).
Debate welcome below in comments.