Branding, and why it can be difficult to define exactly what a brand actually is
We make buying decisions every day where brand plays a big part in the choices we make, but it can be difficult to define exactly what a brand actually is.
The words branding and brand are thrown around by all sorts of people in different contexts and with different meanings in mind. If you Google a definition of branding you will find dozens of different definitions from Jeff Bezos the Amazon founder ‘your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room’ to David Ogilvy, the ‘Father of Advertising,’ defines brand as ‘the intangible sum of a product’s attributes’ to The Dictionary of Brand who defines brand as ‘a person’s perception of a product, service, experience, or organization.’
A simple and very clear definition comes from The American Marketing Association
‘A Brand is a Name, Symbol, Phrase, or any other feature that IDENTIFIES one Seller’s Good or Service as DISTINCT from those of other Sellers.’
There is also the emotional aspect of a brand – the associations and perceptions that instil reliability and trust between a business and its customers. Branding itself is the disciplined process of positively influencing and controlling these associations and perceptions to build awareness and customer loyalty.
Brand strategy gives direction to your brand. It provides a central unifying idea that aligns all aspects of a business including business strategy, behaviour, actions and communications. It reflects the company vision, values and culture and is focused on customer needs and perceptions.
Brand strategy defines competitive positioning, what makes you different, why someone should choose you over rival brands, your unique value proposition. It forms your marketing blueprint.
A branding agency is a firm that specialises in creating, launching, developing and maintaining brands, as well as rebranding. The role of a branding agency is to create, plan and manage branding strategies for clients. The branding agency can also deliver creative design and communication support in terms of advertising and other forms of promotion.
Most branding agencies have a branding process. At Breathe Creative we have a 5 step process:
- Brand Insight
This is the research phase to understand your business mission, vision, values, culture, customer perception, competitive advantage, strengths and weaknesses and challenges for the future.
- Brand Strategy
Establish the brand naming protocol and structure and what your brand stands for and how it should be positioned in your market.
- Brand Design
The intelligence from the first 2 phases is transformed into a visual language taking a holistic approach that communicates the essence of the brand – the big idea.
- Brand Implementation
The brand blueprint is then rolled out across all the required marketing collateral – forming a consistent look and feel, consistent positioning and consistent messaging.
- Brand Management
Having now created a strong brand that differentiates your business it is vital to build upon and maintain that strength by ensuring that customers, prospects and other stakeholders are always presented with the same and consistent brand experience.
Brand Architecture defines the interrelationship of brands within a single company and brings consistency and order. There are 3 main types of brand architecture:
A strong single master brand name is used. Brand extensions adopt the parent’s identity plus a descriptor. One of the best examples is Virgin with Virgin Mobile, Virgin Media, Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Megastore, Virgin Money….
This exploits synergy between the product or division and the parent company. A great example is Apple endorsed iPhone, iMac, iPhone and MacBook.
- Branded (sometimes known as Pluralistic)
This approach is used extensively in the consumer sector where the parent company is almost invisible but has many seemingly independent brands. Take Unilever as an example with their brand portfolio including Knorr, Dove, Persil, Domestos, Hellmann’s, Magnum, Walls, PG Tips to name a just a few.
Businesses like people have different personalities defined by their character on the inside. Branding communicates this inside to the outside. It is an expression of who you are and what you stand for. It is vital that your branding ideas come from within if they are to have any true meaning to allow your business to live your brand. A strong brand identity takes what lives on the inside of your business and makes it highly visible and audible to the outside world.
The value of a brand comes through recognition and recognition comes from consistent application of every visible manifestation of your brand, at every ‘touch point’ that your customers experience.
Branding Guidelines are an essential tool to help manage the consistency and integrity of a brand and consist of intelligent standards and rules and should be easily accessible to all internal and external partners. They should cover every aspect of the brand’s visibility from business cards to websites and everything in between.
They can be produced in various formats including an online portal, CD’s, books, binders, pdf’s, posters and fact sheets.
It is possible to brand or re-brand your business yourself if you follow the Branding Process as described above. It can be a good idea to form a branding task group taking representatives from the different customer-facing elements of your business – someone from sales, marketing, manufacturing, distribution… but it is important not to design by committee. You should plan who is going to deliver the different aspects of the process research, strategy, design, implementation and management.
If you find the thought of branding yourself daunting reach out to a brand agency like Breathe Creative – we will be delighted to help you through your branding journey.