What is Branding?
If you’re a business owner or an aspiring public figure, you’ve probably heard that you need to develop your brand.
Maybe you’ve thought about it a bit and put it on the back-burner. After all, what does branding even mean?
“Branding” is one of those terms that is often misunderstood – but it’s crucial that you get it right.
People often mistake branding for simply having a logo or mark that identifies your business. But, while a logo is part of your brand, it isn’t your brand itself. Your brand is actually emotional, rather than physical.
Here’s what that means:
As one of the most important factors to your business’s success, branding is the promise you make to your customers. More specifically, your brand is the set of emotions and perceptions that you intentionally cultivate around your business, which you constantly communicate to your customers through a series of visual and verbal cues.
That’s all fine, but why do you really need to devote time to developing your brand?
Because, branding helps to identify your products or services, distinguish you from competitors, and create a persona that your customers can connect with. In other words, it’s not just the physical products or services your business provides; it’s also the emotions your audience feels when thinking about your business – emotions that you can help to create.
Ask yourself: What do people say, think, and feel about your business? That is your brand, and you have the ability to form that impression.
On that note, let’s take a closer look at why branding is important and the elements that go into creating your own brand.
Without branding, your company is just one of millions – lost in the nebulous world of businesses trying to make a name for themselves. You’ll have nothing to stand on to help your business get noticed, aside from a (hopefully) good product.
And, on the other side, good branding helps you make a powerful impact on your audience, allowing you to differentiate your products and services from competitors and become the go-to business in the niche that you occupy.
To be more specific, branding helps you create the following:
Over time, your brand will help your business be known to consumers. As you consistently use visual cues like your logo and brand imagery, your audience will come to associate these cues with your brand. So, brand recognition refers to the amount your audience is able to identify your logo and brand colors with your business.
As you consistently implement your brand strategy (we’ll get to this below), you’ll help to generate what’s known as brand awareness.
This takes brand recognition a step further; rather than just identifying a logo with a specific company, your audience will see your logo and instantly be able to correctly associate your product or service with your brand.
So, why is brand awareness important? Because it helps businesses stand out from competitors, generate leads, and ultimately build an audience.
Brand loyalty is ultimately what keeps your customers coming back. The more your audience connects with your brand, the more likely they are to become repeat customers.
Think about your own interaction with brands in your daily life. Are you open to trying the new coffee blend from the store on the corner, or are you heading straight to Starbucks for your morning Americano?
What about when you have a specific gift in mind for a relative; are you going to Google the gift name and try to find sellers, or are you typing “Amazon.com” into your browser without a second thought?
This is brand loyalty, plain and simple. You’ve come to rely on brands to deliver the experience that you want, and you’ve formed a strong enough connection with them to keep coming back, without exploring other brands that may provide the same – or an even better – experience.
Brand loyalty is cultivated over time, and it’s a product of consistently branding your business.
Customers that are with you for the long haul.
The same way there are different kinds of businesses, there are also different types of branding for said businesses. Because various companies appeal to a wide range of audiences, it’s important to choose the best lens through which to create your brand – a lens that’s based on your audience.
Here is an overview of the most popular types of branding:
– Corporate branding: This type of branding creates a brand around an entire corporation rather than a specific product. Companies with good corporate branding are usually associated with a promise that they deliver on; for example, any time Apple comes out with a new product, their customers assume that it’ll be unique and use top technology.
– Product branding: You know how “Kleenex” is now used instead of “tissues”? That’s a result of strong product branding – branding centered around a product, rather than a company or a person.
– Personal branding: Like it sounds, this refers to creating a brand around a person rather than a business. It’s an important thing for politicians and celebrities to cultivate, although CEOs and other public figures also benefit from investing in their personal brand.
– Co-branding: Here, two companies are involved; this type of branding is specific to companies who have partnered up in order to create a joint product or service for their audience. You know how you can now seamlessly stream Spotify while you’re driving with Waze? This experience is a direct result of co-branding.
– No-brand branding: Also known as “minimalist branding”, this is a relatively new trend that assumes a company’s product is enough to speak for itself. These brands are often simple and have generic designs, based on the belief that their minimalism is what will draw in their target audience.
– Geographical branding: Are you in the tourism industry? If yes, you should consider geographical branding – branding that is specific to the unique aspects of a particular region. This type of branding emphasizes their geographical uniqueness as the selling point for a particular product or service (think Dead Sea salt scrubs and the IAmsterdam campaign).
As you can see, there are a number of different aspects a business or individual can focus on in order to set themselves apart and make their brand stand out on its own.
Now that you know what a brand is and why it’s important, the next thing to understand is what actually goes into forming a brand.
At the heart and soul of branding is your brand identity. This is the face your brand shows the world; it’s the visual representation of your brand that distinguishes you from your competitors.
To put it simply: Your brand identity is the way that your brand, with its core mission and values, is expressed to your audience.
What makes us instantly recognize an Apple product or a Nike sweatshirt? These brands created memorable brand identities, and we, as their audience, have learned to associate these identities with the businesses behind them.
So, let’s break down which elements go into creating your brand identity:
At the core of your brand identity is your logo, and it’s the symbol that acts as your brand’s spokesperson. Before you create a logo, it’s important to think about what your brand’s mission is and the values that you stand behind.
These traits should be expressed in your logo’s design, whether you use a green color palette to express an eco-friendly brand, or a cursive font to emphasize your elegant clientele.
Your brand imagery is an important part of communicating your brand identity. It refers to the acceptable images you can use across all of your communications with your audience, and it’s usually centered around the colors used in your logo.
(This isn’t to be confused with brand image, which is the way that your customers come to think about your brand over time, based on interactions they have with you.)
Your brand imagery works with other elements of your brand in order to express your brand identity.
Think of the imagery on your website or your social media accounts; each of those images needs to be carefully chosen to make sure they use or complement your brand’s colors, values, and overall messaging.
You know how the most memorable people are the ones whose personalities stand out? The same goes for brands.
Your brand personality is the “human” part of your brand – the part that your audience can connect with. Creating a brand personality is one of the most important aspects of branding, because it’s what separates your brand from the others out there. And, a personality positions your brand as a “being” with which your audience can attribute human characteristics, which is what helps them to form emotional connections.
To create your brand personality, research your competitors and their personalities, so you can distinguish yourself from the other brands in your niche. Think of adjectives with which to describe your brand; draw what you think your brand would look like as a person.
Then, when you have an idea of who your brand is, commit it to paper and prepare to consistently communicate with it. This brings us to:
Once you have your brand personality worked out, you need to come up with your brand voice – i.e. the tone you will use in your messaging that expresses your personality. Your voice should be distinctive, easily identifiable, complementary to the rest of your brand identity, and used consistently.
In other words, your brand voice should always be recognizable as belonging to your brand.
When creating a brand voice, picture your brand as a living person that is talking to their friends. What do they sound like? Are they serious, comforting, and helpful? What about sarcastic, witty, and playful? Write down three adjectives that define your brand voice, as these will help you create consistent messaging that expresses your brand identity in the long run.
Finally, you need brand guidelines that bring it all together. Although it sounds complicated, these guidelines are just a set of rules that explain how your brand works.
They include all of the above information about your brand identity, laying out the acceptable uses of your logo, the written traits of your brand voice, the types of imagery your brand can use, and your overall company mission.
Whether you work with others or are the only one running your business, your brand guidelines will make sure you’re branding your business consistently when communicating to your audience. And, like we said above, this will help to create the brand awareness and recognition that builds your audience and customer base.
Once you have a brand identity set up, it’s time to come up with a strategy that helps you implement your identity.
A brand strategy determines the who, what, where, when and how you communicate your brand messages to your audience. Think of it as the blueprint for conveying who and what your brand is.
Your brand strategy should consist of 3 things: Your target audience, brand positioning, and creative messaging.
Without knowing who your brand is targeting, it will be difficult to form connections with your audience. So, before creating a strategy, it’s important to focus on your “target market”.
To do this, ask yourself these questions:
– Who would benefit from my product or service?
– How old is my ideal customer?
– What is their income range?
– What do they do for work? For fun?
Then, write down who your ideal customer is; this is the person you should be gearing your strategy towards.
What position will your brand ideally hold in the minds of your customers? This is your brand positioning.
Think about who your competitors are, how you compare, and what sets you apart from them. What’s your position in the market, relative to them?
You can boil this down to a brand positioning statement – one or two sentences that explains what your brand does, the audience you target, the benefits that you bring to the market, and the “proof” you have to back yourself up.
When you’ve created your statement, it should look something like this:
“For [target audience], my brand is the only one in the [bring in the category of competition] that does [what sets you apart] because of [proof].”
We keep talking about how it’s important to communicate your brand to your customers, but how do you actually go about doing that?
At the heart of strong messaging is your brand story. Stories are able to elicit emotions from your audience, where dry messaging that’s all about your products and services will not. An effective brand story puts your audience at the center and allows you to form deep connections with them.
To create your messaging, first come up with your brand’s mission statement. This should define the purpose of your work and the impact you want to create on the world. For example, Bill Gates’s mission statement was once “A computer on every desk and in every home” (see how that turned out?).
Once you know your mission statement, all of the messaging you create – whether on your website, product packaging or social media pages – should embody this statement in some way. That said, make sure that your customers are always at the center of your messaging; they are the hero of your brand’s story.
Like it sounds, brand marketing is the place where your brand and marketing intersect. It’s marketing in a way that increases brand awareness, promoting your products or services while putting your brand in the spotlight.
However, brand marketing is not the same as “traditional” marketing or direct-response marketing. Instead of creating ads and touchpoints that are geared toward resulting in a sale, brand marketing campaigns focus more on building a relationship with customers that lasts over time.
What does this have to do with your brand strategy?
Well, the goal of your brand marketing is to increase your brand equity – or the perceived value of your brand – by connecting the core values of your brand with communication to your audience. Think of your brand as what your customers say about your business, and your brand marketing as what you say about your business.
In other words, you’re using marketing to communicate your brand identity and story in a way that forms relationships – a vital part of your brand strategy.
Note that brand marketing is more than just slapping your logo and brand colors on every surface in which your brand appears and calling it a day. It’s about creating positive sentiment around your brand and growing brand recognition by meeting your customers on an emotional level.
Note: Good brand marketing also includes having a strong product or service, because that’s going to influence your business’s reputation – and, by extension, your brand’s.
What does an awesome brand look like? Let’s check out 5 of the greatest brands in the world:
As one of the biggest technology companies in the world, Apple is immensely calculated in everything they do, whether they’re adding to their brand identity or communicating with their customers in a unique way.
From the design of their products to the layout of their stores, everything Apple screams clean, innovative, and high-tech. Even the ways in which they name their products – iPhone, iMac, iPod – immediately causes brand recognition, as the world has come to recognize product names with “i” as Apple’s (going back to the product branding we discussed above).
Apple has perfected their branding to the extent that customers have high expectations from them every time they launch a product or release an update – and they always deliver.
When you want to buy a friend a gift, where is the first place you look for it? What about when you need books? New technology? That’s right – Amazon.
Amazon has dominated the world of ecommerce, boasting #1 in media, electronics, and retail.
Their simple logo shows how they provide everything you need from A – Z, and they deliver on that promise – bringing anything you need straight to your doorstep.
Thanks to a strong brand, the company has managed to overtake, well, everybody, and they show no signs of slowing down soon.
As the largest fast-food chain in history, McDonald’s is one of the world’s most iconic brands. It’s nailed the concept of brand recognition over time, as anyone who spots these yellow arches knows exactly who they belong to and what they stand for.
From impeccable customer service to a family-friendly ambience and a renewed commitment to creativity, McDonald’s tells their brand story in a way that their massive audience can connect with.
Instead of focusing on why their drinks are the best, this beverage company invested in developing their personality. Their brand identity is built on community and happiness; every campaign they create is based off of the idea that coke can make people happy.
And, their red and white logo evokes the Christmas spirit, so that their audience associates the brand with the holidays, comfort, and joy. Through strong brand marketing efforts, they were able to cultivate this association to the point where customers prefer drinking coke – even if they think that competitors like Pepsi have products that taste better!
Ever notice how “Google” has become a verb? We no longer search for answers online – we google them. This is product branding at its finest; the tech company has figured out how to make themselves indispensable, affecting every aspect of our lives.
Also, the company has made a name for itself among employees as a “work hard, play hard” environment, one that businesses all over the world are attempting to adopt. Not only does this brand set an example for others in terms of how to foster customer relationships, but they’ve also made a fantastic example for how to create an incredible employer brand.
Now that you know what branding is, it’s time to take your own brand into your hands! Remember to think about the values behind your business, your company mission, and the audience you want to target before you begin designing your brand identity.
Ready to build your brand? Head to Tailor Brands and start creating a logo!