What is a Brand?
Branding is a way an organization, company, or individual is perceived by those who see and experience it. It’s more than a name, or a logo, but a recognizable feeling that is evoked when someone happens upon it.
Think about Nike. What’s their brand? It’s not the cool shoes, or the workout gear, or any other tangible products that they sell.
It isn’t the upbeat ads that feature cool animations mixed with people working out that motivate you to “just do it”, though those are very effective marketing tools.
Not even Nike’s logo or name has anything to do with their brand, and it turns out that Nike’s brand isn’t any one specific thing.
You can’t hold it, touch it, or buy it. But you can feel it.
Brands exist solely in the mind of the person who experiences it. Who experiences your brand? How about your employees? Or your investors, the media, or, most importantly, customers!
A brand is the perception of your company. It’s what people feel about you.
Business Value Of A Brand
A brand is a measurable tool that drives ROI. Nike’s brand may not be tangible, but it is still the single most important aspect of their entire company. It’s the most valuable asset they own.
The active lifestyle, the motivational feeling that you get when you put on their shoes, or the association that you feel when you hit one of their golf balls all contribute to a large audience of dedicated purchasers of their brand.
The Nike brand is the sole reason why most devoted Nike purchasers won’t buy something made by Adidas, or any other Nike competitor. They’re devoted.
A strong brand increases the likelihood of customers choosing your products over a competitor. It will attract more customers, at a lower cost, who are happy to pay a higher price and buy more often.
Fundamental Elements of A Brand
Brands are composed of multiple different elements. To better understand what goes into a brand, we’ll take a look at the fundamental core: branding.
A brand compass displays the direction that your company is going, and the reason behind it. Your brand compass is made up of your business’s purpose, mission, vision, values, and strategic objectives.
A brand archetype is a concept or idea that people are inherently familiar with, regardless of culture or country. It’s the story that your brand tells in the feeling it conveys.
This is what makes your brand unique to you. Nike’s brand personality is being active and staying on top of your health to promote a better and healthier lifestyle.
It’s the main reason that its brand is identifiable with its customer base, and the core reason that Nike’s created an almost personal relationship with their customers.
This is what you do better than any other business out there. It’s what sets you apart from your competition, and why customers or clients should choose you over your competitors. Defining your competitive advantage to differentiate yourselves is critical to any business’s continued success.
Just as important as having the advantage, is being able to accurately communicate that to your customer base. Creating the base framework that encompasses your unique value, the customers that you’ll be serving, and the competition that you’re facing is the single best way to define your business’s competitive advantage.
It’s the promise that you make to your customers. Ford’s promise, whether you agree with it or not, is reliability. Their slogan is “Built Ford Tough”, and if their loyal customer base disagreed with it, they would go out of business.
The brand promise is usually a tagline or slogan, but it can be implied instead of overtly stated. It’s mainly conveyed in your messaging, ads, social media, and on your website, and if you make a brand promise, you better deliver on that promise.
Never, ever, break your brand promise.
The visual identity of your brand is made up of specific colors to evoke certain emotions, typography to go along with your voice, photography, the icons that you use, and more.
The effective visual identity of a brand embodies all the fundamental elements of your brand which includes your compass, personality, archetype, and promise.
Your brand’s visual identity is your company’s is the mark that it leaves on the world. It’s an aesthetic that carries meaning and has the incredible power to communicate the feeling of your brand in an instant to all who come in contact with it.
Instead of the way your brand looks, the verbal identity is how you sound through your messaging, voice, story, and copywriting.
Its name and tagline are its front-facing elements and should carry meaning, either explicitly, or implicitly utilizing a brand narrative.
Your verbal identity makes your brand human, which makes customers able to identify with it. Whenever your brand’s voice is heard via marketing material, ads, or your website, a potential customer should be able to immediately recognize it and instantly evoke those emotions and feelings, as Nike does.
What Is Branding?
Branding is the process of shaping the way your company is perceived by all who experience it. Perceptions dictate behavior, and Nike creates the perception that buying their products makes you have a healthier and more active lifestyle, therefore improving your life.
Psychological perceptions, even completely subconscious ones, still have a profound effect on the way we buy.
Branding contains the power to shape your perception of a specific company because perceptions are possible to purposely shape.
Even if we don’t know it, we are always searching for meaning in the world around us, and without it, we feel lost; we want everything around us to make sense.
Our brains don’t care about the difference between perception and reality. To our brains, they’re the same thing.
The way we perceive things directly causes us to decide what’s real. This is where the huge power of branding comes in. If a brand can effectively shape our perceptions, and our perceptions become our reality, then logic concludes that:
Branding has the power to dictate reality itself.
That may sound insane, but in its application, it’s 100% fact. The power of a strong brand is what leads Nike to spend millions of dollars on it year after year.
No matter what type of branding you’re doing, be it branding for healthcare, corporate, product, or anything else, you effectively are leveraging the ability to create reality, and can convince customers buying behaviors in insanely valuable ways.
Positioning is critical to effectively communicating your brand’s unique value proposition to the customer or client you’ll be serving. When positioning, you define the exact place that your brand will occupy in the mind of those you will be serving.
What differentiates you from your competitors? Are you affordable, or are you high-end? Are you energetic, or calm?
Every single one of these qualities occupies a specific place in your customer’s minds, and where your brand exists in their minds will sway their behaviors towards your brand.
It’s critical to first understand your customers, your competition, and your unique value, to ensure that you position your brand to be unique, valuable, and hard to forget.
Brand Experience is the way a customer can experience your brand. This includes how it looks, smells, feels, or tastes. From your mobile experience and website to in-store and experiences with products, and everything in between.
The best and most meaningful experiences are just that, meaningful, and memorable, authentic, and most importantly, consistent.
Why Invest In Branding?
Branding is too often seen as an expense against a company’s marketing budget – that’s not it at all. When you understand how important branding is to the influencing of a customer’s behavior, the more you’ll see that it’s not simply a tactic.
It’s a long-term strategy that can yield huge, measurable results throughout the entire life of your company. Here are a few benefits that you can expect from investing in your brand:
Attracting your ideal customers through customer research
Increased marketing effectiveness through core messaging, personality, and positioning
Closing deals more easily – well defined and strategically positioned brands are much easier to sell
Higher prices – consumers buy brands, not products. If you position your brand to command authority and value, you can charge accordingly
Business value boost – stronger brands perform better financially than their counterparts. When you invest in your brand, you’re setting yourself up for long-term success.
A strong brand will pay dividends over the lifetime of your business. A smoother sale, a more loyal customer base, and the benefits don’t stop there.
To sum it all up, your company’s brand is the way the world is perceiving you. There’s no smarter investment than shaping that perception to your advantage.