What the Heck is a Brand?
Updated: May 11, 2022
If you're confused about what a brand is and how to create one for your business, don't worry, you're not alone. The word "brand" might be one of the most ambiguous terms in the English language.
If you talked to 10 different marketing agencies and asked them, "What is a brand?" I'm confident you'd get 10 different answers with some loose overarching themes.
Even though branding is confusing, it's important you lock yours in.
Why? Because the absence of brand will become your brand. If you don't take ownership of how you want people to perceive and understand your business, that will inevitably become your brand.
What do I mean?
If you don't have a consistent visual identity, people won't know when they're engaging with your business or product out in the real world.
If your brand doesn't have emotion tied to it, customers will move on to a brand that does.
If your brand isn't intentional, then you will be ineffective at reaching your target audience.
If you lack consistency, you won't be showing up for your customers and they'll stop showing up for you.
What does that mean for your brand?
If you don't have a solid brand, that means that potential customers will be confused about your product or services, will find your brand lackluster, will go to someone else to get what they need, and that your business or organization will fail to fulfill your objectives.
How do you fix this?
If you're struggling to nail down your brand, the best thing you can do is take some time to assess what your brand looks like now, and where you'd like it to be in the future. There are four key areas that every brand does well. We'll go over them briefly here (and yes, we've included pictures for those of you that like to skim).
First things first, let's define "brand."
In simple terms: A brand is the tangible and intangible means through which a person perceives, identifies, and interacts with your business or organization.
Brands are Visual
This is probably the most common way we think of a brand. A brand's visual identity has several components including their logo, fonts, color schemes, submarks, packaging, and more. These visual aspects help create predictable identifiers for your brand.
Top brands have their visual identity on lock. Nike has the swoosh, Apple has clean visuals, and Coca-Cola is known for their bold red color scheme. These aspects of their visual identity help us to instantly recognize and interact with their products.
Having the visual aspects of your brand dialed in will help ensure that your business is recognizable to potential customers.
Brands are Emotional.
Great brands make us feel something. When you think of your favorite brand what comes to mind? What do you feel? Brands not only communicate emotions about themselves (e.g. trustworthiness, quality, trendy, innovative), they also communicate emotions about you (e.g. empowered, intelligent, healthy, happy).
What do you feel when you put on a new pair of shoes from your favorite brand? How do you feel carrying the newest model of your favorite piece of tech? What thoughts come to mind when you think of companies that are innovating their market?
Brands can and should be aiming for positive emotional experiences, but brands often fall prey to negative emotions too. Think of companies whose products hurt the environment or businesses that mistreat their employees. When companies have a negative perception or emotion tied to them it can deter customers from buying their products or make it harder for them to hit new levels of growth.
Emotional experiences drive purchasing decisions. What emotions come to mind when people think of your brand?
Brands are Intentional
Strong brands operate with intention. An important aspect of having an intentional brand is knowing who your target audience is and how to reach them.
A great way to figure out the intention behind your brand is to ask yourself these key questions:
What is our purpose? What are our values? What is our brand promise? The answers to these questions will help your brand interact with customers in a meaningful way.
When we talk about purpose we're simply asking: What is it that your brand is trying to accomplish? What problems do your products solve? Who is your organization trying to reach?
What are your companies or organizations values? For example a brand that values quality will look a lot different than a brand that values affordability. Their customer base, communication style, and the way they engage with potential customers will look different.
What is your brand promising to those who invest in it? Are you offering a superior product, better customer service, or trying to impact a person's quality of life? Each of these will have an impact on your brand.
Brands that operate with intention are the difference-makers in their market. They are trusted, they have a voice among their peers, and their products and services are making a difference for their clients and customers.
Brands are Consistent.
The fourth, and perhaps most important thing, that elite brands do is this: They operate with consistency.
Quality brands communicate with consistency. Their brand voice, brand personality, and visual identity are almost formulaic. When we say that, we don't mean that your brand should be boring or can't break the mold. It means that when you do, it'll be in a way that is consistent with your brand.
One of the companies that does this well is Apple. Their advertising is very consistent. Who they are as a brand is very consistent. Apple has done an incredible job of showcasing their product in fresh and innovative ways while still staying on brand. Their TV commercials are formulaic and yet, they are still engaging to their target audience. Why? Because they've figured out how to stay on brand while still breaking the mold.
If you can figure out how to be consistent as a brand, you can give more of your attention to creating a product or service that people love.
We hope you found this helpful.
If you need help with brand strategy or building your brand, reach out to us for help. Our team can help you discover your brand, flesh out your visual identity, and create messaging and collateral that will give you a consistent brand presence.
Ready to take your next steps?