These brand tenants should be evicted

The word ‘brand’ has been so pulverized by misuse that it has become devoid of any specific meaning. It is a verbal husk from which most of the nutrition has been extracted.

As a result, other words are frequently added to it in an attempt to inject some meaning. Thus we have Brand Core, Brand DNA, Brand Insistence, Brand Momentum, Brand Physique and Brand Science, to mention just a few notable examples of the genre.

I came across a new one recently.

A presenter from a research company of international repute was earnestly discussing the “brand tenants” of a company to a group of its senior executives. No, I did not hear incorrectly; there it was emblazoned on the screen:


These ‘tenants’ included words such as ‘innovative’ and ‘trusted’ with supporting verbiage. No one blinked, not an eyebrow was raised.

In search of brand tenants

It had me guessing for a while before I realized she meant ‘tenets’.

While tenet and tenant share the same root tenere (to hold) they mean totally different things. A tenant is a person that pays rent to use or occupy land or a building owned by another; a tenet is an opinion, doctrine, or principle held as being true by a person or especially by an organization (it says so in the dictionary).

Brand tenets, however wearisome the verbal concoction, makes some sense. Meanwhile, those company executives in the meeting are presumably quite content to believe they have brand tenants. Which is OK, as long as they don’t expect to collect rent from them.

2 thoughts on “These brand tenants should be evicted

  1. McNeal

    HA! I love it… “tenants”. What’s the going rate for a 3BR, 2Ba brand with an attached garage (to hold my Brand Vehicles, of course)? This is ridiculous. How can brand strategy firms ever expect to be taken seriously if every time clients hire a new company to solve their branding issues, they have to learn each different agency’s “brand slang”?

    Branding firms use language like this to try to differentiate themselves form the millions of other agencies out there instead of promoting a proprietary construct or point of view on existing brand theory (which has been around long enough to have an established vernacular and terminology). Why complicate things because you’re insecure about not having a compelling value prop as an agency? More importantly, why make yourself look even worse by using words inappropriately?

    Give us (clients AND fellow brand strategists) a break…

  2. Well now I’m glad I came by to read this.I tend to use the word tenets meaning it correctly but spelling it wrong.Seems I may have a bit of editing to do,I honestly thought the spelling was the same and it was context that determined meaning.Good thing I’m not still in my old Catholic school a wooden ruler would for certain be visiting my knuckles about now….

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s