Brand identity, being ‘on-brand’ and brand strategy are all terms that we regularly hear, especially when it comes to marketing. We use the terms so frequently that many of us attach one meaning to the term without really knowing what branding actually means. So, what is branding and is it possible to define branding in just one sentence?
Giving branding a single definition is difficult because it is all-encompassing and means something different to every company. However, there’s a simple definition of branding we can pin down:
Your brand is the perceptions and emotions that your audience has towards your business. Branding is the actions you take to create that brand, whether through your logo, website, ad campaign or workforce.
A brand refers to how your customers and workforce perceive your company and should be the reason behind every business decision you make. Branding should guide your marketing, which is why defining your brand identity is the first step.
If you are wondering what branding is and why it is crucial to your business, read on for our expert guide.
What is the Definition of Branding?
In one sentence, branding is the setting of expectations and promises by your business, so that customers know what they can receive with your products and services. Branding can be defined as ‘who you are’ as a business, or a ‘business-to-customer promise’.
Your brand is the value proposition that you set up for your business, your customers and anyone who may interact with your organisation. Branding is about how your customers connect with the company across different touchpoints, and the voice and personality that your business has.
It can be easiest to define a brand by its goal or purpose: a brand is what you want to define your business by and distinguishes you, your products and services from your competitors. Put simply; it’s what people know you for, including your logo, brand colours or the feeling they get when they think about your brand.
What Branding is Not: Common Branding Myths
As a term, branding is often misunderstood and misused among businesses. It is much more than just a logo or colour scheme, and it runs much deeper within an organisation than these aspects.
Here are some common myths about business branding debunked by a branding expert.
Branding is not your visual identity
Elements such as a logo and business card work together to form your brand identity. But, this is just one part of your overall branding. When you look for a designer to create a logo or website, you are asking them to create a brand identity that will reflect your brand, not create a brand for you.
Consequently, businesses should have a brand strategy in place. This should incorporate what the core values are, what the business stands for and what the unique selling points are.
Branding is not the face of your business
Some will define branding as the face of your brand. However, branding penetrates more deeply than that. Branding goes through the core of your business to create a true representation of your company. You may say it is how you want to be seen, known and remembered.
‘Brand’ is not the same as ‘business’
Typically, organisations will use the terms business and brand interchangeably. However, the brand is an essential aspect of your business; it isn’t the business itself. Your brand can impact your business, and when done right, it can improve brand awareness, perception, reputation and even increase sales.
‘Branding’ is not the same as ‘marketing’
Branding and marketing are two terms that are often confused with one another. Marketing is a process used to create awareness for a product or service. Branding is one factor that shapes your marketing strategy: your brand is what you want the world to see, and, in turn, your brand is what people perceive you to be.
Why is Branding Important?
Your branding impacts every aspect of your business and is critical to your success. Branding can influence how your audience sees you and works to drive new business and build loyalty. These are just a few of the reasons why branding is vital:
Builds your brand recognition
In order to build a successful brand, you must be recognisable to your audience. When you focus on your branding, you can carve out a unique style for your business to help build your brand recognition.
When you grow this recognition, you will become known to your audience, and they will instantly know your brand when they see your logo, advertising or website. Just using a brand colour is known to increase brand recognition by 80%. This is where your brand identity becomes vital because it is the face of your business.
Helps you stand out from the crowds
No matter the industry you operate within, there will be competition in the market. Branding is a great way to stand out from the crowd and let your customers know what makes you unique.
You can use your branding to show customers why they should choose you over your competitors and what it is that you are doing differently.
Creates a connection with customers and builds loyalty
Building an emotional connection with your audience is vital for success. That emotional connection moves a customer from a one-off buyer to a brand enthusiast. Branding encourages loyalty and builds on that emotional connection. Various aspects of branding, such as your brand voice and colour scheme, can be used to help you create a relationship on a deeper level.
Ensures a consistent brand experience
These days there are so many ways that a customer can connect with your company, and branding helps to ensure a consistent experience however they choose to interact with you. That could be through social media, in person or on your website.
Branding means you can control exactly how your audience perceives your brand, no matter what channel they use.
Generates new customers
When you have good branding, it makes generating referral business much easier. A strong brand will create a positive impression among customers, and they are more likely to choose your company because of familiarity.
Branding creates assumed dependability and trust from consumers, even if they have never used your business. A well-established brand will benefit greatly from word of mouth and customer referrals.
Which Businesses Need Branding?
Branding is essential for businesses of all sizes. Whether you are a small start-up or a large organisation, branding is the link that connects you to your customers.
It is a common misconception that branding is only essential for big businesses with international recognition and substantial marketing budgets. Branding is just as vital for the small companies who often let it take a back seat.
In actual fact, these small businesses often need to leverage their branding even more so than the well-established organisations which already have a loyal following.
What are the Key Elements of a Brand?
Building a brand strategy requires you to look at various elements of your business. The key elements of a brand are:
- Your Audience: In order to create a brand that speaks to your target market, you need to understand precisely who your target audience is. Once you know your audience, you can create branding that speaks to them personally.
- Your Promise: Your brand promise should speak to your target audience and tell them what they can expect from your business, services or products.
- Your Values: The core values of your business are one of the most critical elements of your brand. They will define your company and its decision-making process.
- Your Voice: Every company has a different voice, which helps define the brand personality. It could be playful and fun or concise and serious; it all depends on the audience you want to reach.
What is a Brand Personality?
A brand personality is the characteristics that humanise your business and help your consumers to relate to you. This should be a consistent set of traits that help define your business, your values and your audience.
As we mentioned before, people buy from people, not businesses. This is why every brand needs its own unique personality.
In general, there are five types of brand personality, but these are adapted and developed depending on the company.
The five most common brand personality traits are:
What Makes a Good Business Brand?
Simply having a brand isn’t always enough to be personable and trustworthy; your brand needs to be relatable. The last thing you want is branding that is cold, faceless and corporate. You want to build a brand that is memorable and personable.
Think about big brands such as Coca-Cola, who have successfully humanised their business and built a globally successful brand in the process. Coca-Cola is associated with excitement and happiness. Consequently, consumers choose them for the experience and brand name.
TV viewers across the globe wait eagerly for their Christmas advert to hit the screens, and big-name celebrities have endorsed their products for many years. In recent years, people have been able to buy a bottle of Coca-Cola with their names printed on it. This, again, makes the brand feel more relatable and personable.
Whatever your branding means to you, there are some key elements of the definition that can keep you on the right track.
Elements of a strong business brand include:
Of course, your branding can go through changes, but at all times, branding should be consistent. It needs to make sense to your business and have fluidity. Consumers need to see your branding and immediately link that to your business as they build an impression of your company in their minds. If something doesn’t match up between branding and business, customers can lose trust.
Branding creates emotions and feelings. It can create a link or attachment between the audience and the business. Association with third parties can also improve brand integrity too. For example, sportswear brands that partner with athletes can mean that the association a person has with an athlete can transfer to the business. Creating these positive associations in your branding, whether internally or externally, all help.
People trust and relate to other people, not businesses. This is why you must have branding that is relatable and personal to your audience. If customers don’t trust you, they won’t invest in your products or services. Remember that real people create brands and businesses, but marketing messages often feel robotic and insincere. When you can create a humanised brand, you can spark a connection between yourself and your target audience.
Your brand is not only who you are but what you want it to be. It is the combination of your current brand positioning and where you are striving to get to. What do you want to be known for? What are you known for now? The definition of branding is all about your journey of self-discovery, which can evolve and change over time due to the fluid nature of branding.
How Can You Define Your Brand?
Now that we have covered what branding is and why it is vital for your business, you might be wondering how you can get started on improving yours. Building a brand takes time and won’t happen overnight.
There are three steps to building a strong, recognisable brand:
- Incorporate it into every aspect of your business
Whatever stage of business you are at, it is vital to have a definition of your brand and what it means to you. This doesn’t have to be as daunting or as complex as it may sound. It is simply being honest about your business, your values, the type of customers you want to attract, your philosophy and the journey you want your business to take.
By looking at the factors below, you can create a strong brand foundation to drive the success of your business.
Here are four ways to define your business brand:
Check your values
As we mentioned before, branding isn’t your logo and website; it is your message and values as a whole. This can also be considered your brand essence. Write down your core business values, and then check if your website, social media and marketing materials accurately reflect them. Think carefully about the wording, look and feel of all these communication channels.
Understand your audience
Determining your brand definition is more than merely having an understanding of your business. You need to know, in detail, what your customers and wider audience think. It is easy to make assumptions at this stage, but don’t presume to understand what your clients and prospects think.
Your branding definition relies on you knowing exactly what your audience thinks as well as their habits, desires and needs.
Liquid runs brand consulting workshops with your key stakeholders and can your suppliers, partners and customers to determine and define your brand.
Get help from a branding expert
Branding is all about how your company is perceived, and looking at that yourself is impossible. Seeking help and feedback from a branding service can help create a clear message for your values, reputation, and brand. They will be able to help you communicate this branding to your audience in the most effective way, and work with you to come up with a unique and compelling brand strategy.
Once you have defined your values and your unique selling points, you can begin working to make sure all your messaging is consistent and reflects your brand.
Ask the right questions
You can define your brand by asking yourself several crucial questions:
- What are the company objectives, goals and purpose?
- Who are your ideal clients?
- What do potential clients and customers think about your company?
- What are your company values, and how will you live these?
- Do you have USPs or qualities that you want your audience to associate with your brand?
- When people think of your brand, what is the first word that will come to mind?
- How does your business, products or services benefit your customers?
- What are the defining features of the business?
How to Make Your Branding a Reality
So, you know the definition of branding and how your business defines your brand. You’ve also worked out the scope of your brand definition by understanding what your customers and prospects want. Now what? It is time to make your brand definition a reality.
As branding is a crucial aspect of your business, it is important to be comprehensive. Consider all of these elements if you want your brand definition to be as thorough as possible. Once you have defined your brand, it’s time to look at brand alignment: ensuring everything your business does matches your brand’s promise.
Today, you have the opportunity to expand your brand through media content. Whether it is social media, podcasts or vlogs, you can get your brand message out yourself. There is no need to rely on other resources and media channels to share your messages for you. When creating your own messages, you are in complete control of your branding.
Here are three key ways to use your business brand:
1. Nail the blueprint
The visual representation of your brand needs to reflect your business. When you are happy that your logo, fonts, style, colour palette, messaging, story and visual imagery matches how you want to portray your business, make these all accessible for your employees in a brand style guide. This blueprint outlines your brand’s elements and how to use them.
Finally, ensure that everything your company produces for internal and external applications is consistent with the style guide. This helps solidify your brand and improve brand awareness while avoiding confusion over your brand message. Before publishing anything, ask yourself; is this on brand?
2. Train your employees
Your employees are your biggest brand ambassadors. As a result, they should know your key messages, how to communicate them, and what makes your brand unique. Make sure your business has regular training to keep your brand attributes fresh in their minds. This training doesn’t have to be formalised into brand guidelines, but you need to make sure all of your staff have the same brand vision. The more they feel a part of your brand and business, the more they want to contribute and stay to build the brand and be a part of the growth.
3. Integrate your brand
From omnichannel communication to new product releases, your branding should integrate seamlessly with everything your business offers. Demonstrate your business values, philosophy and message across every touch point of the business, from staff interactions and involvement to customer experience and engagement.
Consistently using your branding on social media, online, face to face or in any form of communication helps to build your brand message. Integrating your brand throughout everything you do will help create brand honesty and trust.
Remember your branding shouldn’t be an add-on at the end; it should shine through everything you do from start to finish. Branding is also an ongoing process, which is why effective brand management is essential.
Ready to Take Your Branding up a Gear?
At branding agency Liquid Creativity our team is on hand to help with all aspects of branding. Whether there’s one area that isn’t quite hitting the mark, you’re rebranding or even starting from scratch; our branding experts can help.
We’d love to chat more to find out how we can help. Get in touch with us by calling 03 9329 3888.