What is ‘Branding’?
There is so much that comes into ‘branding’ there is often a misunderstanding as to what branding is, why we need it and how we do it. In this blog, I will be discussing some common misconceptions around branding, what branding is and how to approach it with a clear head.
Branding relates back to the Old Norse word brandr or “to burn,” and refers to the practice of branding livestock – a mark of ownership, which developed to products and objects. The Trade Marks Registration Act of 1875, then made it legal to own that mark and we now associate branding to taking ownership more than just physically, but in every way.
So really… what is branding?
This is a very common question – and not a silly one! Branding gets confused with many different aspects of branding, marketing, design and more. Yet these are all elements that come into the process of branding. Branding is essentially how others perceive and view your company/service/product. A brand portrays a promise, a feeling, an expectation and makes you unique.
Putting it simply, Jeff Bezo, Amazon’s CEO says: “A brand for a company is like a reputation for a person.”
So to start off, let’s highlight what branding is not:
- It’s not just a logo
- It’s not a letterhead
- It’s not a website
- It’s not a set of business cards
- It’s not just marketing
- It’s not just advertising
Branding can be difficult to define and as we’ve established it cannot be defined by a single element: a logo, a letterhead or business cards etc. A brand could be a company, service, product or any person(s) with a voice. Branding is how others see you, the emotions, opinions and perceptions they have about you.
Brand Strategy and Brand Identity
For the business, it is looking at areas such as the ethos, the mission statement, values and the unique selling point (USP) of a company – the what, why and how. All wrapped up together these layers create a brand strategy and both shape and communicate your brand, your persona to the public. This brand strategy is the formation of the brand identity.
So when a designer works with a company to develop their branding (the brand design), the brand identity should already be established by the company. The designer can then work with them to develop the foundations of their visual identity for the brand or enhance their current brand.
The kind of questions that can help a business form their brand strategy are:
- Who is your target market/demographic?
- What was the idea behind the company name? Is there a story?
- What is the overall message/ethos your business portrays?
- Describe the company’s core values in 3-5 words.
- What do you want your branding to accomplish?
- What distinguishes you from your competitors (what’s your USP?)
These are pretty much the same questions I would send to a client looking to develop or create their brand identity, as their brand design needs to be in complete synchronicity with their strategy.
The Company + Brand strategy + Brand identity = Branding
The brand you create helps determine what potential customers will remember about your company, such as:
- What your brand represents
- Company associations
- What convinces consumers to or not to:
- buy your product
- use your service
- follow your daily life
- work with/for you
- have brand loyalty
That’s your brand – that’s it! (So, basically almost everything about your business right!)
Justcreative.com also hits the nail on the head when it comes to simple, key explanations of brand, identity and the logo:
“What is brand? – The perceived emotional corporate image as a whole.
What is identity? – The visual aspects that form part of the overall brand.
What is a logo? – A logo identifies a business in its simplest form via the use of a mark or icon.”
How do I improve my branding?
- How do I define my brand?
- Where does design come into my brand?
- What are brand expectations?
- How do I get my business branding right?
Are these questions resonating with you? Growing and creating your brand is a never ending task. It doesn’t happen straight away, but every interaction with a client or customer can help you achieve a better brand perception and therefore create greater potential for your business to gain success.
Let’s run through these questions.
How do I define my brand?
I would strongly recommend you always start by creating your brand strategy – no brand can exist properly without one. This is at least the beginning of becoming ‘brand ready’ and gets you on the process to making a brand identity. Start with looking at the mission statement and values of your company, so what do you stand for and what is your message? Then move on to doing deeper research – what else exists in your industry and who is your target market – who’s the competition? Finally, you will want to plan how you will integrate and communicate your brand (the platforms, methods etc) and ask yourself, what do you want to achieve (with your company/brand)?
FREE BRAND STRATEGY GUIDE DOWNLOAD HERE
This free, downloadable brand strategy guide will help you get on the road to feeling ‘brand strategy ready’.
Where does design come into my brand?
Once your brand strategy is clear, you can start to implement it through design and then your chosen advertising/marketing platforms and so on. The visual design elements of a brand are really the biggest part of your brand identity and can be made up of almost anything, including but not limited to:
- Your logo (a single image that symbolises and identifies the entire brand)
- Branding materials, including: letterheads, business cards, stationery, digital elements, a website, products, etc…
- Extended marketing materials (such as for specific campaigns, promotions, products or services all within your brand): flyers, brochures, books, etc…
- Your main sellable products, packaging and services
- Apparel/uniform design
- Signage (interior & exterior)
- Messages, emails and actions (indirect or direct communication)
- Extensive digital communications: social media campaigns, graphics, instagram story, etc…
- Anything else visual that represents the business
Your brand representation also continues through the other senses: smell, touch, taste, and audio.
The design of your brand really culminates and brings together the vision you want to offer to anyone on the outside looking in at your business… which is pretty darn important!
What are brand expectations?
If you don’t create a brand and create your own brand expectations, then your customers or clients will do it for you – good or bad – and that perception will (with or without your knowledge/approval) become a part of your public image and branding.
To avoid this as much as possible, make a promise to your customer through your branding and from the first point of contact. You can’t be 100% in control of your brand, because the outside world will have more power over that, but you can make the right impression through providing great brand interactions with repeat or potential customers.
Make a great impact through brand ‘touchpoints’ – aka, any interaction and communication between the brand and customer base. These touchpoints give the consumer an experience with your brand and what may later become a connection with your brand. So this includes every possible type of contact: social media, flyers, face to face, products, services, messaging, emails, testimonials and so on.
Plus, it’s not just about the physical anymore – customers want a feeling, a vibe, *that* connection (the one just mentioned) and value. This is where the digital application of branding has grown extensively. Viewers like:
- useful information and interesting stories
- to read (and share) great stories from brands they trust
- feeling socially conscious… doing business with companies that value what they value or support causes that matter to them can be a really big deal these days!
In the 21st century, it is invaluable to be sharing, promoting and existing as an honest, open brand. It doesn’t have to be perfect, but it’s a start.
How do I get my business branding right?
Essentially, there’s no wrong or right answer to getting your branding ‘right’. It’s a journey and a process that develops and matures over time, along with your business. Your needs at the start are likely to be very different compared to a few years down the line.
There are however, a few things to remember to keep you on the beaten track and make sure you’re as proactive about good branding as you can be.
- Be consistent
- Integrate your brand everywhere
- Create a tagline – be responsive and use it!
- Be true to your voice, message and values – even if they change (it’s okay to change)
- Talk about it – to everyone!
- Better branding creates easier marketing (don’t we all love marketing when it’s made easy for us!)
If you have any more questions about branding, design (or anything else), then drop me a comment below or contact me at: enquiries[@]katiebirks.co.uk, visit my contact form or of course, drop me a message on facebook, twitter or LinkedIn. I’m always up for a chat!
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And don’t forget to download your free brand strategy guide below to get your branding on the right path!
Thanks for reading 🙂