Brand is supposed to be everything in marketing. Your business is a brand that, in turn, has brands. Even you are supposed to be a brand.

There's a lot of validity in the idea of brand when used right. But many people have gone off the deep end. They worship the name, not the idea behind it. Do that and the results you get may not be the ones you want.

The dangerous misconception comes when someone confuses the usual presentation of a brand--the image, name, and other visible aspects--with the concept that brand represents. A brand is shorthand for the distilled experience that people have with a business. It involves the quality of products, the expectations of customer service, the confidence in the promised results.

In other words, brand is an action of perception on the part of customers and even employees. Your brand is not something you define, but something that others experience and observe.

When savvy marketers talk about brand, they mean this expanded view of what it's like to do business with a company. To promote the brand really means to remember all the qualities of the company, product, or service and recognize who is most likely to appreciate it.

For example, you might say that a company has a young brand. It doesn't mean that you advertise to youth, but that young people tend to be the ones that gravitate to what is being offered, and so you reach out to them.

That's where the mistake happens. People make the incorrect jump between the brand and advertising the brand. I've seen many companies spend large amounts of money trying to rebrand themselves. They assume that new advertising, collateral, and other aspects of communicating image can change the brand.

But nothing could be further from the truth. The only way you change brand is by changing the company and everything about the way it does business. True branding is uncovering the truth about your business and its relationship to others. If there are problems with the brand, you fix them by fixing the problems in the company and how it conducts itself.

I often see a similar problem among solo practitioners. Many talk about creating personal brand when what they really need is to understand their strengths, where they can provide value to customers, and the reputation they create by the way they do business.

If you want your marketing to soar, stop focusing on the brand shortcut and put your attention on all the details of how your business operates. Know who your natural customers are. Improve product and service quality. Make people delighted that they chose to do business with you rather than a competitor. Get those basics to shine and you'll be amazed at how your brand glows for all to see.