What is Branding?

September 16, 2009 | Branding

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Branding is a very popular and even over-used term in the business and marketing sectors. It can mean different things depending on who is talking/writing and who is listening/reading.

Some phrases I’ve heard to define branding

A brand is a promise. This is a phrase I see quite often, and it’s honestly always a bit vague and confusing to me. I guess that is sort of the point: this message is that your brand is not tangible. However, I would argue there are clearly tangible parts to a brand. These are parts can be called your brand identity and include your logo, your trademarked designs and services, your corporate look and feel, among others.

You don’t build your brand, your customers do. This is another sentiment that stresses that all of brand building is not within your control. However, I think this is a bit extreme, as you do have some control. And businesses should make every effort to grow their own unique and thriving brand.

A brand is more than a logo. This I can agree with. However, it seems to suggest that designers are out there saying “here’s a logo, here’s your brand” which I don’t think anyone falls for any more. A complete brand system would include a logo, and then much more. It’s not enough to just rubber stamp your logo on something and call it branded, it should move into the areas of layout, color systems, fonts, photography and imagery as well as the tone and style of writing.

How do I define branding?

Your brand is like your reputation. Who you associate with, what you say, and how you act matters. How you present yourself matters. Can you be trusted? Do you words and actions paint the same picture? And like your reputation, you do not have complete control over it. Others may misrepresent what you do, or even go so far as to slander you. But if you are honest, present yourself well, and keep your head up any misguided jabs will not harm you too much.

And when you don’t have a reputation, your brand is your first impression. This is often key for a start-up, or a company that is growing. You have the opportunity to show the world how you’d liked to be viewed. And you do that with your logo, your presentations, your web site, your customer interactions, among other things.

Is it all about design?

No. Branding is definitely more than a logo, and it’s even more than your design systems. But without those elements, it’s hard to contain and quantify your brand.

For example, Coca Cola is always listed as one of the most valuable brands in the world. Imagine their success without the scripted logotype and their hourglass bottle shape. If these elements were not so easily identifiable it would be much harder for them to build their international presence.

Want to see some examples from small businesses?

It can be difficult for a small business owner to imagine their own branding strategy, when they compare themselves to giants like Coca Cola or Google. At the Visible Logic web site, we’ve just reorganized our portfolio to show the branding systems that we’ve developed for our clients. Creating branded elements that build a cohesive look and feel from logo to web to print is an important start for business owners looking to build their own brand. Take a look and get some inspiration for all the places you can present yourself.

And finally, how to do define branding?

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