What is Branding?
Consistent branding has been shown to increase revenue by 23% but what exactly is a brand and how do you put ‘branding’ into action?
Here's what we will cover...
- Ancient Origins
- You already have a brand
- Branding: It’s what you do with your brand
- The role of design
- Branding and behaviour
- Your brand; your story
Where does the word brand come from? It has a long history, having evolved from the Ancient Norse word ‘brandr’ which means ‘to burn. ‘ From here we get the medieval practice of ‘branding’ livestock to claim ownership over it.
In a similar way, we now visually brand our products to claim them as our own and ensure they stand out from the competition. However, the concept of branding goes way beyond visual identity.
You already have a brand
The first thing to know about your company’s brand is that it already exists!
Every interaction your company has ever had with a customer or potential buyer has left an impression. That collective impression is the most basic definition of what a brand is.
Your brand is present across every channel you operate in: your physical shop, your website, your social media sites, your online advertising. Your brand is everywhere you are.
Once business owners become aware of this fact, they naturally want to gain control over their brand. But how do you control such an abstract concept?
Branding: It’s what you do with your brand
Of course, branding is a verb which means it is an active process. It is an umbrella term for everything you consciously do to improve your brand.
For example, good digital marketing agencies will be skilled at helping businesses to clearly define their brand and make it stand out amidst the clutter. This element of branding is known as brand positioning.
If no one has heard of your brand, you need to work on increasing brand awareness. Be prepared to put in a lot of work because it takes, on average, between 5 and 7 interactions with a brand before a person will remember it.
If people have a negative impression of your brand (think Skoda in the 1990s!) you need to work on improving brand sentiment.
If elements of your brand conflict with others (e.g. you produce a luxury product but put it in no-frills packaging), you need to work on brand consistency.
If your existing brand doesn’t reflect your business values or is at odds with customer expectations, you might want to consider a rebranding exercise.
All of these activities come under the definition of branding and when you understand the strengths and weaknesses of your current brand, it is easier to create branding campaigns and KPIs to measure their effectiveness.
The role of design
Unless you have a visual impairment, vision is likely to be the strongest physical sense you use when going about your daily life. While sound, smell, taste and sensation all play their part in branding (and are well worth experimenting with), it is visual design where most businesses focus their attention.
This is why many people think of branding and logo design as one and the same thing. Graphic designers use their knowledge and skill with colour, layout, typeface and imagery to create assets that reflect and strengthen a brand. These assets are likely to include a website, business cards, letterheads, shop signage, uniforms, vehicle livery and possibly customised social media platforms and a proprietary app.
The centrepiece of your branding is your logo, a composite symbol which should succinctly represent the more abstract qualities of your brand.
Some companies spend millions on designing their logo while others strike it lucky and manage to create a powerful logo for peanuts. You will come across some famous examples in our upcoming Branding Training course.
Branding and behaviour
Focusing too much on visuals can mean neglecting other important aspects of your branding. One important element of your brand is the behaviour of the people you have working for you.
Yes, behaviour is part of branding too – and that includes telephone manner, attitude, attire and grooming.
If everything from your online ad to your website to your product packaging is slick and high end, your customers will expect to be greeted in the same professional manner when they call to report a problem or visit your shop to pick up an order. If you or your staff look scruffy or act carelessly, you will create a dissonance (an uneasy feeling) around your brand which is likely to harm your reputation.
That’s why, when thinking about branding, you need to begin with your core values and use these to define a set of brand values and brand guidelines which cover absolutely everything that could make an impression on your existing and potential customers.
Your brand; your story
Bringing all of the above together, it should become clear that branding is nothing more or less than the way you tell your story. Remember that and your brand will always be differentiated and consistent because you will be coming from an authentic position. Communicating your story to your chosen digital agency will help them to reflect your values in every marketing campaign they run for you.