Branding, 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?
The definition of branding
Three-word answer: Who you are.
Five-word answer: A business-to-customer promise.
One sentence answer: The setting of expectations and promises by your business, so that customers know what they can receive with your products and services.
The explanation answer: Your brand is the value proposition that you set up for your business, your customers and anyone who may interact with your organisation. It 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. Whether it’s your logo, colours or the feeling they get when they think about your brand.
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.
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 it is done right, it can improve brand awareness as well as perception, reputation and increase sales as well.
Your brand is what you want the world to see and, in turn, your brand is what people perceive you to be.
What your brand definition should be
Whatever your branding means to you, there are some key elements of the definition that can keep you on the right track.
Of course, your branding can go through changes, but at all times, it needs to 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 mind. 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.
Your brand is not only who you are but what you want it to be. It is the combination of your current position 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.
What is your branding definition?
Whatever stage of business you are at, it is vital to have a definition of your own 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.
You can define your brand by asking yourself several crucial questions;
• What’s the company objectives, goals and mission?
• 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 can you define your brand?
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 workshops with your key stakeholders and can interview your suppliers, partners and customers to determine and define your brand.
Make your brand definition 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 getting to know 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.
1. Nail the basics
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 company style guide. This blueprint outlines all the elements of your brand and how to use them.
Finally, make sure that everything your company produces for both internal and external applications, is consistent with the style guide. This helps to solidify your brand and improve brand awareness while avoiding any confusion over your brand message. Before publishing anything, ask yourself; is this on brand?
Your employees are your biggest brand ambassadors. As a result, they should know what your key messages are, how to communicate them and what makes your brand so special. Make sure your business has regular training to keep your brand attributes fresh in their minds. This training doesn’t have to be formalised, but you do need to make sure all of your staff have the same brand vision as you do. 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.
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. Consistency online, face to face or any form of communication helps to build your brand message. This integration of your brand throughout everything you do will help to create brand honesty and trust.
Remember your branding shouldn’t be an add on at the end, it should shine through everything that you do from start to finish.