Seth Godin was probably the first business author I read during my MBA who didn't feel like a theoretical physicist trying to build Ikea shelves. Although he could be blamed for the occasional airport literature, he's a brilliant raconteur capable of expressing complex ideas with brilliant shortcuts.
A short video of his has been bouncing around the internet lately, where he pinpoints the difference between what he calls a brand and just a logo:
If Nike opened a hotel, I think we would be able to guess pretty accurately what it would be like. If Hyatt came out with sneakers, we'd have no clue cause Hyatt doesn't have a brand; they have a logo. If I swap the signs on a hotel at that price point, you couldn't tell if you were in a Mariott, if you were in a Hilton, if you were in a Hyatt, the hallway, the room, I don't know where am I. No brand. So what it means to have a brand is you made a promise to people. They have expectations. It's a shorthand. What should I expect the next time? And if that's distinct, you've earned something. If it's not distinct, let's admit you make a commodity, and you're trying to charge just a little bit extra for peace of mind
This is pure gold.
Except for one thing. A brand is just the surface. It's visible, yes, and encapsulates a promise, yes. And it gels over time when the company has been consistent at delivering added value to the market–i.e., not falling in the commodity zone. It's not coming out of nowhere, though...
Replace brand with strategy, and you're there.