Branding is word that’s bandied around a lot – you’ll see it on LinkedIn, hear it at networking meetings and read about it in business books, blogs and journals. But what is branding, and why should you be paying attention to it ?
In this article, I’m going to give my definition of branding, and show you it’s a good investment for your business.
The difference between ‘brand’ and ‘branding ?
For me, these words mean different things, although they are often used interchangeably by business consultants, marketers, brand specialists and even graphic designers !
Brand : An overarching definition of the personality of your business, giving you a clear identity and approach that you can apply consistently to everything from your content to your customer service. Brand is the customers ‘experience when interacting with your business, product or service.
Branding : Sometimes referred to as corporate identity, branding is the visual elements of your brand identity – your logo, your colour palette, your font, your image styles and the way you present your business. Branding is the uniform your company wears to identify itself.
Why do organisations brand ?
The first thing to say here is that branding isn’t new. There’s evidence from Pompei that shows businesses used colours, images and advertising to differentiate them from the competition. Although it certainly has roots in the distant past, it was really during the 1960s and 1970s that the concept of corporate identity being used as a business strategy was embraced and popularised by big companies. Modernist, abstracted logos with graphic standards manuals detailing how a company must present itself became the principal rule of ‘good design is good business’.
Today, creating a brand for your organisation is a fundamental strategy, and every business should have one. In an increasingly crowded marketplace, it’s even more important than ever that you stand out. Focused businesses understand that having an agreed proposition, that’s clearly and consistently stated – and always followed through – is a strategy that will put them in a better position for success.
What is brand strategy ?
A brand strategy sets out how you will approach your target markets. It is the foundation of your marketing and sales strategy because it identifies the following things :
- Your vision and purpose
- Your product or service proposition(s)
- Your target audience(s)
- Your competition
- Your areas of difference
- Your business personality and approach
- Your values
Defining these areas helps you to be consistent in your messaging – whether that is visual, written, video content, presentations, pitch meetings or more. Your brand strategy is part of the branding process and will influence the work that graphic designers like me create – without knowing these critical things about your business, it’s impossible to design a visual identity that truly reflects your organisation.
How does branding affect behaviour ?
There are two elements to this – the way the company behaves, and the experience customers have.
When you have a strong brand strategy, and that is clearly reflected in your visual identity, your employees are more likely to be happy working in your business, and therefore deliver better value to your customers. In fact, 32% of respondents in a Jobvite study said that they had left a new job because the brand represented at recruitment wasn’t the brand they experienced when they started the role.
Brand and workplace culture are closely knit. There’s no point devising a brand personality for your business and just leaving it on paper.
Customers are savvy – they instinctively understand when a brand experience is genuine and when it is not. And, because people are naturally more likely to complain than to praise, you’ll get plenty of negative feedback if the brand experience doesn’t meet the promise. On the other hand, good brand experiences result in return business and referrals, as well as a better community reputation – so it’s more than worth the investment.