What is a brand?

There’s a lot of confusion floating around about what is, and isn’t, a “brand”.

This makes sense, given branding traditionally referred to a way of marking the ownership of your livestock or the source of a product. Even the dictionary definition of the word hasn’t been updated since the dark ages.

The meaning of the word “brand” in a business scenario, has extended far beyond merely an identifying mark, or in another word, a “logo”.

So then, what is the meaning of the term “Brand”?

A brand is a unique combination of perceptions, visual elements and messaging that represent a company, product or service.

While that statement may seem like industry jargon, let’s take a look from the other side of the coin.

An extremely useful perspective to take is to think of a brand as a person, rather than a company. That individual consists of an external image, along with a set of internal values. It needs to build relationships, connecting with people (customers / clients) through shared values and reflected behaviours, earning favour and trust over time. Just as any person would have to do. This makes the process of having other people get to know, like and trust the brand much easier to wrap our heads around.

When we meet with someone, they create an impression in the way they talk, hold and express themselves as well as how they choose to dress. The impression created might be one of and outwardly expressive character with loads of flourishing movement and vibrancy. Or it might lean towards demure sophistication and quiet determination with a hint of wistful mysticism. Onlookers will be asking themselves if the persona presented resonates with them and reflects their ideals or values.

What a person does is equally as important as what they say. Being consistent and living up to promises is all part and parcel of building trust with an audience.

“A brand is a person’s gut feeling about a product, service or organization.” – Marty Neumeier

What is a “Brand Identity”?

This refers to the part of a Brand that includes the unique collection of visual / graphic elements (logo, colours, fonts, imagery, graphic style = Visual Brand Identity) along with your tone of voice and key messaging. Ideally, these convey the essence of your company to the marketplace and aim to connect with your target audience.

A strong brand creates a powerful connection between you and your customers, employees and other key stakeholders. Developing a brand is more than just a creative exercise – it’s a discipline involving research and analysis, management and implementation. Collaboration is key in creating a brand that is built on solid ground and it needs dedication to keep building connections and aligning business with brand.

It’s important to remember, a brand is much more than a logo

Let’s say that you’ve decided to take the jump and start your own business. Cudos to you, that’s wonderful!

You’ve spent months painstakingly selecting a name, getting everything registered, saving up startup cash. Then what do you need next? A website to display your services or products. A business card to hand out in person. A few social media profiles to start building a community and help with promotion. Then of course you’ll need a logo for all of these things, right?

This is such a natural progression in any fledgling business and money is always going to be tight at this stage in the game. Where we run into trouble is when we move to create these items and we haven’t done the background work. Lots of questions start to arise.

Take the example of creating a website – Which colours, fonts, imagery, graphics should be used? What voice and messaging style should be used to speak to the desired audience. Wait… Who’s the target audience? What are we selling and why? Why does my logo look just like my main competitor’s? Oh, I don’t really have a logo… Do I really need one? What do I need?

The result of being unprepared can lead to too many iterations to count, not being aligned with core values, goals or audience, things never feeling quite right or finished, struggling to make sales from communications appearing forced and inauthentic. This can leave us feeling mightily frazzled, confused and having wasted a lot more time and money than we anticipated.

What’s really needed is a well developed brand that is consistent, aligned with your values, goals and target audience. That excites you to own it and instils confidence in both you and your customers because it’s authentically aligned with your values and goals. A logo by itself is a core piece of any brand identity but they’re part of a much bigger picture.

The aim of the game

So hopefully now it’ll be a little clearer what a brand is and that there’s more than meets the eye when it comes to brand creation.

Amidst the bombardment of media that we’re all flooded with on a daily basis, it becomes ever more important to cut through the noise and enable direct lines of communication with those we intend to help. By making a brand easy to differentiate and connect with in a genuine way, we can then align real wants and needs to the benefit being offered.

Coming up next…

Thanks for taking the journey through my first blog article! My next article will be exploring the notion of Logo design – what is a logo, the varying types of logos and why we need one in the first place.

Stay tuned! Elise xox