What is Branding?

what isAccording to the American Marketing Association a brand is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers.

Next to just a name, term, design and symbol I also feel that branding is an experience or a feeling that a customer gets from your brand.

A brand can be anything, a product, a company or even yourself.

To me, Branding is:

The experience or the feeling you try to give to people about your brand.

People will have formed an opinion about your product, company (etc.,etc.) that, if done correctly, corresponds with the message you try to put out.

Successful branding means that people will understand your brand and (preferably) choose it as their favourite. When branding is successful they will pick your brand from your competitors because the feeling you put out about your brand corresponds with theirs.

Branding is more than just a logo

Branding doesn’t mean get a logo and stick in on everything. Branding tells the story you want to get across to your prospects, customers and all others that come into contact with your brand. When you’re dealing with a brand you are basically asking yourself the question, what are the values of my brand?

  • What is my mission, what do I stand for?
  • What is my personality, how do I deliver my message?
  • How do I interact with customers?

It’s all these things and more, and based on those values you create a brand strategy.

Successful branding doesn’t happen overnight

Or at least, not for most companies. One thing that irritates me when I see people in new high positions in a company, whether it’s a new CEO or a new Head of Communications, is that they almost always don’t like the current brand and want to change it into something completely different. Thinking that that’s going to make them money and get in new business.

To me, that’s actually the worst thing you can do. A brand takes time and you need to give it that time. Changing it every three years isn’t going to help. As with a lot of things, with branding consistency is key. You need to be consistent in your messaging, in your look and feel and in your interaction, that’s what’s ultimately going to get your customers to know and understand who you are and what it is you stand for.

It seems so logical to me, if I say to people today that chocolate is my favourite snack and tomorrow I tell them it’s cupcakes and the next day I say that it’s carrots all because I think that that’s what’s going to make them like me even more, think again.  It will only confuse them. They won’t see me as someone that likes chocolate, or cupcakes, or carrots. They will just see me as someone that likes a lot of things and can’t make up her mind. If you were to ask them what it is that I really like, they wouldn’t be able to tell you.

It’s the same with companies. If you change your brand every few years, your prospects and customers will never really know what it is you stand for. The best known brands are mostly brands that haven’t changed much since the day they started. There are of course brands that have changed a lot, but still, the majority of the brands that are considered strong brands are brands that have evolved through the years but did not make any drastic changes.

Brands shouldn’t change, they should evolve.

1920s coca-cola ad, drink coca-colaTake coca Cola for example, the brand hasn’t changed a lot, they’ve still got the distinctive logo, bottle and colors. They have evolved through the years though, they started to sell Coca-Cola from bottles which was a bold idea at the time. They quickly started bottling Coca-Cola in the distinctive bottle we all know today and they branded Coca-Cola as the Cola to drink from bottles. Later on it evolved into ‘Drink Coca-Cola’, ‘Always Coca-Cola’ to the current ‘Life Begins Here’. Eventhough the message and even the packaging has evolved, you still know what Coca-Cola stands for. Coca-Cola is still seen as a quality bottled coke that is favoured by many.

The same thing should be true for your company. Figure out what it is you stand for, create a consistent message and visualisation and stick to it. It’s like Malcom X said, “If you don’t stand for something you will fall for anything.” Don’t let your brand fall.

Branding isn’t something you do, it’s something you are.

The last and to me most important thing about branding  you should never forget is that branding isn’t something you ‘do’, it’s something you ‘are’. You can’t say, as of now our company is known for it’s nice receptionists and friendly employees, but when people come to the office they aren’t greeted in such a way. Your brand should also attract the kind of people that your brand claims to be. If you claim to be a nice brand, employ nice people. They will already have a piece of your brand in them. You can’t teach people to be totally different from what they are, they have to be a bit of your brand in order for them to carry it out to others.

Branding also isn’t something you can just put on your tasks list to tick off once you’re done. Branding is something that happens 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. It’s not just a logo on a building or a poster on the wall, it’s how you answer the phone, how you treat your employees, how you treat your customers, etc. It’s everything you do, all the time. You can’t make people do the things you want 24×7 but if it’s something they already are, it just comes naturally.

This is my (long) take on branding. What’s yours?