Recently I was asked to explain the difference between BRAND and BRANDING. The easiest way to explain this is to look at each term individually.
The American Marketing Association says “a brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers” This is talking about a brand IDENTITY. How your business is differentiated from another through your brand name or image. These things certainly help to create a brand in the minds of customers, but a brand is far less tangible than this.
“Your brand is not your idea. Surprisingly, many executives believe they can control how their brand is perceived by the masses of consumers. They cannot.”
Peter Getman, Launch A Brand
Your brand is not your idea, what you think you’re all about – it’s what OTHER PEOPLE think you’re all about. So this isn’t something that YOU determine, it’s what your audience decides.
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I like to say that a brand is the emotions, experiences, perceptions and memories that are held about a business – or “Associations” as the Design Council puts it – whether you’re there in person or not. The ideas that people have about your business hopefully because of the things you have done to help them come to that conclusion.
“A brand is a result, not a tactic.”
Lucas Conley, Fast Company
Your brand isn’t really owned by you. The ideas about what your business is all about are in the minds of other people. You can only hope to have SOME control over these thoughts through your actions (through branding! This will all make more sense in a moment!) Your brand is what someone says to their friend about you when they’ve just bought your product or received an email that they opened or visited your shop or when someone else has told them about their experience.
“Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room”
Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon
Branding is managing the expectations. You have a brand regardless of whether you want one or not – Muji means no brand, yet it has a very strong brand – so as you can’t change the fact that you have a brand, surely it’s better to work WITH it? If you interact with people in any way at all, then you have a brand. Because those people will have decided what they think of you.
“Your brand is whatever your customer says it is”
As you’ll have gathered by now, a designer can’t create your brand for you. A brand is something that you can’t really create yourself, but something you can try to shape through your actions. Which is where branding comes in.
“Branding is the art of aligning what you want people to think about your company with what people actually do think about your company.”
Branding is the actions which help to shape a brand. What the business does to help others make a decision about what that business stands for. Creating a brand strategy is the starting point for this, but putting it into ACTION is branding. Branding is telling your story, sharing your idea, being true to your values and consciously applying these throughout your business. Doing your brand as you see it to help others see it the same way.
“Authentic brands don’t emerge from marketing cubicles or advertising agencies. They emanate from everything the company does.”
Howard Schultz, Pour Your Heart Into It: How Starbucks Built a Company One Cup at a Time.
Your Brand identity – how your business looks – is one way to help shape the impression that someone has of your business through using details such as the colours and typefaces that you use to indicate what you’re all about.
Having a beautiful brand identity does not guarantee that people will think a certain way about you, but it will give you the best possible chance at all of the touch points to create an amazing first impression and then to repeat that first impression over and over so that it becomes memorable and something which people will recall when needed.
It is a lot easier to do branding with a clear brand identity, however, there is NO point spending time of money on a brand identity if your product or service isn’t amazing. It doesn’t matter how incredible you look, if you then ruin that impression when people get closer to you then your brand will not be what you want it to be.
Creating a brand identity is NOT the first step to branding. The first step is to get clear on what your brand IS to you and to others and to work out what it is that you actually stand for. This isn’t always easy, especially if you’re a start up and still working out who you – but if you want to have success branding so that you can have as much control as possible over the brand that you will become, then it’s essential. This is why when I start working on a brand identity project with a client I ask lots of questions to get to grips with what the brand IS before I start. Otherwise it’s a waste of time. If you don’t go through this with your designer before you start the project then you need to make sure that you tell them about your brand so that they can design from the right place.
Some of the questions you should be answering are:
– what do you do?
– how do you do it?
– what are your values?
– who is your audience?
– how are you going to reach them?
– what are your plans and goals?
Branding has many actions, and these can include:
- marketing – online and offline
- product design
- your website
- packaging design
- your blog
- the experience of working with you or buying from you
- sponsorship and partnerships
The best way to be thorough with ensuring that you are branding is to list every single touchpoint in your business from places such as your website or shop window to things like your voicemail message or email signature, your advert in the local magazine or the background in your photographs – literally include EVERYTHING in this list – and then look at each touchpoint and determine what you can do to help your brand as you see it shine through. Think about the senses – the music you play in your shop, the soap you have in the toilet, the mug you provide the tea in, the way you present your product, the way you sign off your emails.
So branding is the verb to the noun brand. Branding is DOING, your brand is a constant work in progress. Branding is essential to make sure that others have the right impression of your business so that the right people are attracted to you and want to work with you. Branding is reputation management, consistency and a willingness to ALWAYS do better, be more and communicate clearly.
Now that the distinction between BRAND and BRANDING has been cleared up – how can you use branding to shape your brand?
Amy Purdie is the founder of Whiteacres (where you are now) she can help your business become irresistible to your ideal clients so that they can’t wait to work with you.
Amy has been enjoying designing logos, brand identities, illustration, print work and websites – since 2007 fuelled mainly by tea and chocolate.