Before we go begin there is one thing we must make clear, neither your brand nor your branding can be simply defined by your logo.
There is often no real distinction between brand and branding, a common yet sizeable mistake that could cost a business its potential success. The situation is often further clouded by the lack of understanding of many marketing agencies. There is tendency to jump straight into the branding stage before a clear brand has been established, simply because it’s what the client has asked for.
It’s crucial that business owners and marketers understand that you simply cannot start branding a business without having a clear, well-understood brand already in place.
“Every great design begins with an even better story.” – Lorinda Mamo
If you are not able to clearly define your brand it will be very difficult for an agency to create branding that echoes your brand effectively.
Businesses are not always able to explain their brand in a simple way that their team, their customers and the creative agency they might be working with can understand. This is where problems occur as the story, and therefore its effectiveness, becomes diluted through a lack of understanding of where the business has come from and what it stands for.
To define your brand there are a number of things you need to think about. And, it’s important to go through this thinking process before you start work on your branding.
What is brand?
Simply put, your brand is the instant reaction someone has when your business is mentioned.
In more detail…
Your brand often stems from the reason you went into business in the first place. The change you wanted to make, the purpose of your product/service and why you felt the desire to create it all play a strong part in defining who you are as a company.
Stories are powerful. And, every strong, recognisable brand has a story behind it.
Ralph Lauren’s son David explains why he’s proud to wear Ralph Lauren clothing:
Your brand is the vision of your business. It’s the promise you keep as an organisation and the core idea behind everything you do. It’s what you want to achieve as a business, which again comes back to the ‘why’.
A great example is Patagonia’s mission statement:
‘Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.’
Your vision is not your sales objectives, your growth forecasts or your profit targets. Your vision runs deeper than the figures, it’s the reason that you as a business owner would do what you do even if it made you no money at all.
Your brand is how you are going to achieve your vision. Each action you take will play a part in defining your business brand. For example, if you’re Patagonia you’re not going to protect the planet if you hire those who don’t care about it. You therefore need to think about your hiring process and how you will go about finding people that align with your vision and purpose.
Simon Sinek’s TED Talk on how great leaders inspire action is definitely worth a listen if you’re ready to start building your brand:
Simon also talks about what he calls ‘The Golden Circle’, a theory that represents how businesses should think about their brand if they want it to be a success.
Action is the ‘how’.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, your brand is what others say about your business when you’re not around and the emotions they feel when they do so.
“At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
Again, take Patagonia as an example. Their brand is most simply defined by three words: quality, people, ethics. The exact qualities we associate with the brand as a consumer.
It’s no good saying that you look after your people if there are reviews on the internet saying that you don’t. You will be branded as a bad employer by customers and potential employees and that can be hard to undo.
What is branding?
Your branding is your visual identity that makes anything you produce instantly recognisable. And, if it’s done well it will be recognisable without your logo needing to make an appearance.
For example, which brand springs to mind when you see this:
Your branding can include:
Your colour palette
Your marketing collateral (letter heads etc.)
Your visual style (photography + video)
Your branding is not your marketing but when your brand and your branding are brought together with strategy and creativity, that’s your marketing.
The word brand comes from the Old Norse word brandr, meaning to burn, and is of Anglo-Saxon origin. The use of brand has its roots in cattle ranching and farming, farmers used to brand their cattle in order to claim their ownership over a specific herd. The word brand was first introduced to the world of advertising in the late 1950s, by David Ogilvy, who coined ‘brand-image’ advertising.
From then on brand and branding have come to mean very different things.
Your branding is the visual mark (the mark on the animal), your brand is what that mark represents (the quality of the meat).
The biggest difference between your brand and branding is; your branding can change without your brand being affected–you can ‘rebrand’. You can redesign your visual identity, you can continually tweak your marketing creative and you can hire a new CMO, but your brand should remain the same unless there’s something about it that’s not right. A creative agency will be able to help you with your branding but they can’t help you fix your brand, that change must come from the inside.
Take Apple as an example. Tim Cook took over as CEO with his own ideas for the business and their visual identity has developed over the years but their brand simply defined by ‘hip innovation’ has always remained the DNA of the organisation.
Actually, working out who you are as a business and what you stand for is not always easy. But, there is a process you can go through to work it out.
How to define your brand
The most obvious fault is when a business notices that sales are dropping and so starts spending more money on branding rather than looking for the root cause of the problem which is often a lack of brand understanding.
If your sales are dropping because your waiters/waitresses are being rude to customers and have no interest in your brand then no amount of branding is going to change people’s opinion of your business. This is when you need to go back and re-evaluate your internal brand communication and work out what it is that’s changed and why your values are not being echoed by your employees.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as a business owner to establish your brand:
Why does my company exist?
How did we get here? (What is our story?)
What is the problem we help our customers solve?
Why should our customers trust us over our competitors?
How would our employees describe us?
What tone of voice should we be using?
Once you’ve answered all of these questions you are well on your way to knowing your brand. And, to make sure everyone involved in your business understands it we recommend putting together a set of brand guidelines.
How to create effective branding
This is a big topic in itself and consists of many elements, but the most important thing is to know your brand well first.
Secondly, you need to think about the way colour and shapes are associated with the emotions your brand represents.
You then need to think about who else is already using the colour palette you like in case there’s no chance you can compete.
Once you know the direction you’re heading in we suggest speaking to a branding expert who will be able to help you craft your branding in a natural way that speaks to your audience and echoes your brand.
There are many articles out there that talk about brand and branding as one and the same. Whilst they are closely linked–one does not work without the other–they are two very different aspects of your business.