What is branding and why should it matter to your company?
Branding is essentially the practice of shaping your company’s identity, image, and personality, in a way that resonates with your intended audience. For years, business leaders and individuals alike have misunderstood the term “branding”, assuming it had something to do with their logo design or the colors they use on their website.
In the past, even the Cambridge dictionary defined branding as the act of providing a company with a specific symbol or design to identify its services. However, we now know that the way a customer perceives and interacts with a company is reliant on much more than the brand’s logo.
Here’s everything you need to know about the concept of branding, and what it takes to create a successful brand.
Defining Branding: What Does Branding Mean?
Branding is simply the act of building a strong brand, through the consideration of various concepts like brand identity, brand promise, brand values, and brand image.
The term “brand” has actually been around for much longer than people realize, and was derived from the word “Brandr”, which meant “to burn”. You may be familiar with the word “brand” referring to the mark burned onto cattle by ranchers to signify ownership.
Today, the definition of “branding” has evolved beyond the concept of simply burning an image onto something. To create loyal customers, companies need to develop a brand which conveys a certain set of emotions from people who interact with their organization.
Essentially, your brand is what people think and feel about your company, while branding is the actions you take to cultivate those responses.
When the Coca-Cola company chose it’s iconic red and white coloring, or Google designed it’s eye-catching logo and choice its brand name, those were acts of “branding”. Choosing a specific kind of typography for your website, or adjusting your brand image with a certain selection of photographs and graphics shared on your website is branding too.
Branding refers to all of the actions your company needs to take to break through the clutter of an over-saturated market, and grab your customer’s attention.
Why is Branding So Important?
Good branding and brand management is crucial, because it influences what people think and feel about your company. A good brand should convey your mission statement and capture the attention of your target audience. The right brand will also set your startup or business apart from other companies in your industry, and give your audience something to rally behind.
Branding is an action which can apply to both companies, and people. For instance, the Apple company has a distinctive brand experience and brand personality. However, Steve Jobs, also had a personal branding statement and identity of his own.
What many people don’t realize is that every company and individual already has a brand. If we look at a brand as the reputation, feelings, and messaging you’re putting out into the world; it’s fair to say that most of us do this without even realizing it. A good branding strategy means you can actively influence the customer experience, and design what kind of message you want to send.
With an effective branding strategy, you can:
- Stand out from the competition: Branding helps you to define the ways you’re different and special to other brands in your industry. Differentiation is one of the most important concepts for any entrepreneur to invest in, because there will always be other companies out there similar to yours. Branding is what helps companies like Nike and Adidas to sell similar products, but still appeal to very different people.
- Build brand recognition: If you want to attract a strong customer base and earn a consistent profit for your large or small business, you need to be recognizable. A strong brand, complete with a great brand name and tagline, and an impactful visual identity will help to create a memorable experience for your audience to recognize.
- Create consistency: A good branding and marketing strategy is a great way to give your customers an insight into what they can expect from your company. Your brand, whether it’s professional, playful, or youthful, gives your customers an insight into what to expect from you. When you use the same color palette, brand design, and personality on every channel, from social media to in-person interactions, this creates a sense of familiarity.
- Leverage emotional connections: Brand loyalty comes from a customer experiencing a sense of affinity with your brand. When you build your company and brand guidelines, you’ll commit to certain values and promises which will tell your audience what your company stands for. The identity you choice will help you to connect with your customers on a deeper level, by showing you share the same values.
- Attract talent: Good corporate branding isn’t just a good way to attract customers. It can also help you to reach the right employees. A strong brand message will resonate with the kind of people you want to help you grow your organization. Good brands appeal to stakeholders, and even inspire investors.
What are the Elements of Branding?
There are many different elements involved in creating a strong “brand equity” for your business. Usually, companies create a specific set of guidelines, or a document to help ensure they maintain the same consistent image across every channel. These guidelines will include information on your:
- Mission statement and brand values: These are essentially the important “compass” elements which guide your company and help you make crucial decisions. Your mission statement will define the overall goal of your operation, such as to make computer technology more accessible to the masses, while your vision and brand values will show you how you’re going to achieve your goals, perhaps focusing on sustainability and ethics.
- Brand visuals: Your brand visuals are the aesthetic elements which help to identify your company. These include your font and typography choices, your brand color palette, your logo, and any specific images or graphics you use in your brand assets. Your visuals can expand and evolve over time, but should remain relatively consistent.
- Brand voice: A brand voice reflects how you interact with your audience, whether it’s investors and customers or employees. Your tone of voice could be fun and youthful, or sophisticated and professional. Your voice will also define what kind of words you use, and which channels you use to speak to your audience.
- Your company name: Your name is an important part of your brand, responsible for differentiating you from all the other companies in your sphere. Your name needs to be something that’s easy to remember, engaging, and descriptive enough to appeal to your target audience, and tell them something about you.
- Other brand assets: Since there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to branding, there can also be various other elements which make up your selection of brand assets. For instance, your website is a brand asset, as is your physical store if you have one, any business cards you produce, leaflets, and radio jingles.
How to Ensure Good Branding
Creating the perfect brand takes a lot of time and focus. A huge number of companies have had to engage in rebrand activities over the years, to ensure they can keep their identity up-to-date and in line with their customer’s preferences.
A good set of brand guidelines will help you to maintain a strong brand, but it’s important to look at this document regularly to ensure your branding efforts are still having the right impact on your audience. Over time, as your audience and your business change, you may find that you need to change your branding too.
In the meantime, make sure you:
- Define your brand persona: Before you start working on brand awareness, make sure you know the identity and personality of the business you want to convey to others. Determine what kind of company you want to be in the eyes of your customers.
- Find your target audience: To create the right consistent brand, you need to know your audience. Find out who you’re trying to reach, and what type of branding is most likely to appeal to them, then implement this at every touchpoint.
- Know your brand promise: Ensure you’re consistently following through on the same promise to your target audience. Ask yourself how you’re going to make their lives better, and how you’re going to deliver what you promise.
- Perfect your visual brand: The templates you use to showcase your visual brand will impact the gut feeling you give your customers as soon as they interact with you. Do your market research to find out what kind of brands your customers already respond to.
- Give something back: Remember today’s customers like businesses that stand for something important. Make sure you give something back to the communities or groups your customers care about.
Make the most of Branding
Ultimately, branding is an important action involved in building the perfect business. While the concept of branding can seem daunting at first, it’s something you need to commit to perfecting over time. Sometimes, the best option will be to seek out support from experts in branding who can help you to develop your assets, like graphic designers and marketers.
However, ultimately, you need to decide what your brand is going to be and how you’re going to share that identity with the world.