Just Thinking Out Loud
The Design Council defines a brand as: “a set of associations that a person (or group of people) makes with a company, product, service, individual or organisation. (Source: The Power of Branding: a practical guide. The Design Council).
An 'association' can be defined as
a. A mental connection or relation between thoughts, feelings, ideas, or sensations.
b. A remembered or imagined feeling, emotion, idea, or sensation linked to a person, object, or idea
Now of course these thoughts,feelings and sensations may very well be based on reality or perception - and you could very well argue that perception does its fair share in defining reality
But these are things we experience
These are all important aspects when we create a perception of a brand.
Experience defines the brand. So if my only experience of a brand is the TV Ad I see, or the website I experience, they still play an important role