What We Talk About When We Talk About Branding
"Branding? Of course I know about branding!"
Branding. It’s one of those words. You know the ones I’m talking about. One of the often thrown around, low-hanging, rolls off the tongue words heard far and wide over social media, meetings with creative types and everyday conversations where business pops up. Unfortunately, it’s not always used correctly. Sometimes it’s an approximation, other times it’s mistaken with practices such as marketing, or promotion. It’s time to clear up the confusion, get back to the basics, and talk about what branding really is.
A brand is an identity, the ‘essence’ of an organization or individual. People on the outside see a brand as what is being offered, or promised to them. Branding then is the process of creating a name, symbol, or design that identifies and distinguishes a product from other products in the market. This involves determining the qualities, values and experiences that are important, or ‘essential’ to a company, and conveying it to customers. It is a distinct practice from marketing, but not separate. While marketing is the active role of promoting and selling a product or service, branding is the foundation of any marketing effort.
Marketing is a shout from the rooftops. Branding is the building one stands on with their megaphone.
While marketing, in a general sense, may convince a person to buy a product, it’s the brand that will determine if they become a loyal customer or not. To do this, a company must consistently meet the promises of their brand. A brand is built with many components, but ultimately the direct experience a customer has with the bought product or service is what leaves the strongest impression.
What’s needed is a brand strategy to ensure both the communication and delivery of the brand message match. It’s what separates a strong brand from a weak one. And is how a brand’s perception can alter, for better or for worse. A brand strategy extends past the product, including customer service, advertising, company policies, continuous development, and really anything a business does that interfaces with existing or potential customers.
Branding is a constant evolution, helped or hindered with every decision and action made from within an organization. It requires consistency, truth and a voice that is incorporated throughout all forms of communication. It’s not the same as marketing, but does underpin it. A company’s success relies on its brand, and understanding what it is and how it’s created is the first step on the path. So the next time someone brings up branding, you’ll know how to separate the word from the buzz!
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