What is Branding?

girl wearing headphones

Let’s say you’re on Bumble swiping left and right trying to find your ideal partner. You’re looking for more than just someone attractive, but also a person you can connect with on an emotional level. 

The first thing you do is check out their photos because, let’s be honest, appearances are what capture your attention first. Once you find someone who leaves a good first impression, you then talk to see if you’re actually compatible. You need to vibe with everything from their bio, story, hobbies, values, and ethics.

In that way, branding is the same as a dating app. Similar to someone’s Bumble profile, a brand is more than the visuals, but rather a story made up of different elements that attract you to them. Branding is the “total package,” so to speak. 

So, if you’ve been wondering what branding is, why it’s important, and how you can begin branding your business, you’re in the right place. 

In this article, we’re going to cover all that and look at a few examples along the way. 

What is Branding: A Look at the Basics

Most people think branding is a modern concept, but its origins date back thousands of years. Farmers would brand their cattle to make them stand out from other livestock. Craftsmen would print symbols on their goods to indicate their origins. And now, branding is used by businesses like yours to market themselves. 

Here’s a fun fact for you history buffs: First sold in London in 1885, Lyle’s Golden Syrup was recognized by Guinness World Records as having the world’s oldest branding and packaging. 

Branding is a process that helps customers identify your products or services, distinguish you from competitors, and create a persona that your target audience can connect with. 

Your brand is the set of emotions and perceptions that you intentionally cultivate around your business, which you constantly communicate to your customers through visual and verbal cues. 

In short, branding is a way to identify your products or services from other businesses.

Why is Branding Important? 

Branding is like the first domino in front of a line of all the other pieces you have lined up in your business. Time spent working on your branding efforts is going to positively affect everything else in your business. 

There was a study done that says that 95% of human decisions are made on a subconscious level. That’s why being intentional about branding is so important. 

Branding speaks to the subconscious both visually and verbally. Your logo, color palette, unique brand language, mission, values, etc, reach the subconscious and ultimately makes people decide if they like you or not.

Let’s take an example to clarify: ASOS, an online apparel store, caters to young adults, both men, and women. So, the company’s branding needs to do two things: attract men and women and target young adults. 

If ASOS’s brand is too feminine, men won’t understand that ASOS offers men’s apparel and vice versa.

So, ASOS decided to keep its branding youthful and neutral. ASOS’s logo and color palette are bold, simple, and fresh. They choose a font that subconsciously alerts them that ASOS is a bold brand for young adults.

Okay, now let’s get into more specifically what branding creates:

It raises brand awareness

Brand awareness is how easy it is for people to recall your brand name and products or services. It’s like saying you need a Kleenex when what you actually are referring to is a tissue. 

But, brand awareness is also more than just knowing a brand exists. It’s also the character traits people associate with your brand. 

Take Amazon for example. You know that no matter what product you need, you can find it on Amazon. Along with their commitment to customer service and fast deliveries, their brand has a caring, “we got your back” personality. 

Your brand gets recognition

Brand recognition is the successful use of visual, auditory, and physical cues to show your audience the character and attributes of your business. It’s when your target audience recognizes who you are based on branding components such as logo, color palette, slogan, language, etc. 

For example, if you get a glimpse of this iconic red and white logo, whether you workout or not, you’d automatically recognize it as the athletic apparel company, Lululemon. You might be more of a Nike kind of person, but you’d still instantly know the brand. That is why brand recognition is so essential

Develops loyalty to your brand

Have you ever had a really bad day and just needed to unwind on the couch with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s? (Come on, I can’t be the only one!) Why, out of the whole aisle stocked with delicious, cheaper ice cream, do I buy Ben & Jerry’s every single time? Ding ding ding: Brand loyalty. 

Brand loyalty is ultimately what keeps your customers coming back. The more your audience connects with your brand on an emotional level, the more likely they are to become repeat customers. 

Just like me unwinding with a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, consumers come to rely on brands to deliver the experience that they want without even thinking of exploring other brands that may provide the same—or an even better—experience. 

What Are The Main Branding Elements?

Now that you know what branding is and why it’s important, the next thing to understand is what actually goes into it. Keep these elements in mind when you begin branding.

So, let’s break down which elements go into branding:

A memorable brand voice

Brand voice is the distinct personality a brand takes on in its communications. From the flow of your words and the language you use, your unique voice automatically tells people it’s you. 

The easiest way to define brand voice is to look at how well-known brands use it, and there’s no better example than Wendy’s.

The wellness and lifestyle brand Goop has a cultured, trusted, and relatable that shines through, especially on its Instagram account. And you know what, people love it! 

Just look at this post:  

Their unique brand voice caught people’s attention and even prompted sales! People were in the comment section replying that they were placing their orders in Wendy’s app. That’s what a strong brand voice can do for your business.

What’s so great about their brand voice is it tells customers there’s a human behind the screen and, even though Wendy’s is a gigantic business, their voice reaches out to their customers and forms a personal connection.

Mission statement and brand values

Think back to the reason why you started your business and the goal you set out to achieve. These ideas that are swimming around in your head are the core of your mission statement and brand values. 

Your mission statement defines the overall direction of your business and what makes you different from other brands. Your brand values are the beliefs that your business stands for. Together, they serve as the compass that guides your branding efforts. 

Take a look at how restaurant Sweetgreen eloquently articulated their mission statement and brand values:

But neither is written in stone. If your mission statement and brand values no longer resonate, update them so they truly communicate who your brand is. 

To write your mission statement, here’s a basic formula to follow:

At (company name), it’s our mission to (what) + (who) + (why) + (how)

Logo

Your logo is part of your visual brand identity and a brand asset.

Your logo is the first impression of your brand, so it needs to be something that instantly communicates what you do and who you are. If a logo is the face of your brand, your website is your business’s home base. 

Website

Anyone visiting your website needs to impress and form a lasting relationship with them, it’s a part of your visual identity and is a brand asset. And a branded social media presence is a must. It can help you reach new prospective customers, build connections with your audience, tell your story, and keep audiences updated. 

This might seem overwhelming, but tools like Tailor Brands offer a one-stop shop to build your logo, website, and branded content easily. And trust me, these things are key to successful branding.

Brand style guide

A brand style guide is a rulebook that specifies your branding strategy. It includes all of the above information about your brand. You can think of your brand’s style guide as a reference book that people can use a guide for representing your brand.

Zendesk has a thorough and interesting brand style guide. The Zendesk style guide goes beyond the standard brand identity, color, typography, layout to talk about copywriting, animation, experience, sound, photography, and more. Their guidelines ensure that everything works together to deliver a consistent message. 

The key to branding is consistency, and a brand style guide will establish that. It will help guide your communication in a clear, unified message. The more consistent your brand image, the more customers will resonate with your business. 

Over to You

We’ve covered the basics of branding in this article, but there’s so much more that goes into it. Branding varies between industries, products and services, and more. 

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by all the things you need to do to get started on your branding efforts, you’re not alone! And there’s no need to stress. 

Start small by looking inward. Ask yourself why you started your business in the first place and what impact you want to make in the world. 

Branding allows you the opportunity to speak up and own your business story. 

Pretty empowering, huh? 

Carly Miller
Carly Miller

Carly Miller is a freelance content writer specializing in all things branding related. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her traveling, playing with her dog, or reading a good book.