What is the difference between a product, a business and a brand?

One of my favorite shows is Shark Tank. Often, people will appear on the show with a really good product idea. The sharks love it, but sometimes they say, “That is a great product idea, but not a business.” So, what is the difference? And is a brand something different from a product or a business? Let’s dig into these questions.

To get there, let’s take a closer look at one of my prized possessions: my Yeti Rambler 32 oz. mug. My first Yeti was a gift from my cousin, but this one was quickly and tragically lost. After some wailing and gnashing of teeth, things got better. For Christmas, my wonderful wife got me a new Yeti Rambler Mug, in Husker Red. Go Big Red!

Here is a quick recap of my product experience: I opened the box and there inside the mug was a decal and a website to register my product. Yep, you can register a mug. Inside the box was a small catalog with all the other products Yeti offers. I had no idea they made all this stuff. This was a real business!

Yeti has a neat product. I imagine it started when someone wondered why a beverage holder could not stay colder or hotter for longer periods of time. They found people who knew about metal alloys and space-age polymers – or whatever these Yeti mugs are made of – and did some prototype testing. Finally, they had this awesome product ready for market. But, how did it turn into a business?

When a product or series of products (or services) find a viable market, then it becomes a business. Yeti realized this great product had the potential to change the way people transport and carry food and beverages. Was there a market for this? I imagine Yeti began to explore this through aspects of life they were already passionate about; maybe tailgating, hiking, and camping.

So Yeti crafted a great product and made more products that served similar functions for a variety of uses. They found the markets – including stark raving fans like me – for these products. A business was born.

But, it didn’t stop there. They branded themselves. The concept of branding is something new to me personally. When I started in this business 10 years ago, I wanted to help reshape the way people think about risk, cash-flow, and building wealth. But at that point, I was more self-employed than building a business. But that changed. Over the last 6-plus years, Phillip and I have hired a business coach, invested in marketing, technology, and ourselves. As all of these aspects of what we do take shape, it feels much more like we are running a business.

More than that, we are building a brand. Not just slapping our name on pens, or even cool mugs! We are taking that uncommon way of helping people think about risk, cash flow, and building wealth – and celebrating that Uncommon spark. This is a movement, a feeling, and a word that we want people to emotionally engage with. We want you to look inside yourself and realize what makes you Uncommon. We want to help you build an Uncommon life!

Yeti does the same thing with something as simple as a food or beverage container. They are on a mission to help people enjoy the outdoors, their friends, family, and events with fresh food and beverages at an optimal temperature. They are reshaping the way we think about transporting and consuming food and drink with their amazing products.

“We sell mugs,” does not make for a compelling business or brand. But Yeti invites you to come along, grab a nice hot coffee, and share in those experiences that make life special. Product, business, brand; different aspects of something larger. A great product is one thing. But the Shark Tank sharks will tell you, it’s just one mug among many without a good business plan and branding that connects with your market and creates stark-raving fans.