What Is A Brand?

August 18, 2022

What is a brand? Hmm emoji.

To understand what a brand is, you first need to know what it isn’t. And it isn’t just a logo. It’s very tempting to get trapped by the ‘pretty’ of marketing. With so many colours, fonts and design options, it’s understandable the excitement surrounding all this ‘pretty’ can lead people to think a brand is a logo. But it’s so much more than that. A logo is only one element of a brand and there’s a lot of thinking required before the focus shifts to how a brand should look. So what is a brand and how does it differ from branding? Let’s compare.

A short history of branding

Before we delve into the difference between brand and branding, did you know the word ‘brand’ has been used since (around) 950 A.D.? The word comes from the Old Norse word ‘brandr’ which means ‘to burn’. Back then, the word referred to the burning of wood but its meaning evolved over the centuries and was later used to describe the marking, or ‘branding’, of livestock so owners could identify which animals were theirs. The Industrial Revolution signaled another evolution in branding. Businesses turned to burning their marks into the wooden boxes they’d use for transporting products so they’d stand apart from competitors selling similar items.

Over time, these marks became more recognisable and symbolised quality. In the 1800s, the value of these marks paved the way for countries around the world, including France, the United States and England, to introduce trademarking laws so businesses could protect their identities. 200 years on, trademarking remains a key consideration for businesses today.

What is a brand?

A brand is the sum of all the sentiments people have about you and your company and the products and services you offer. Think about the brands you love and why you choose them above others? What do you feel when you use them? Do you feel more successful wearing your Rolex, safer on the road behind the wheel of your Volvo or like you’re part of a community when the juice maker at Boost calls out your name when your drink is ready?  The best brands are the ones who elicit the most powerful feelings and create the strongest connections.

What is branding?

Branding, on the other hand, refers to the activities you undertake to influence people’s feelings. And it’s more than a logo. Branding is reflected across the board in the consistent design of your marketing materials, the key messages you want your consumers to know, the quality of your company events and the experience your consumers have when they visit your website. It also extends to the way your business premises looks and the way your staff present themselves and interact with clients. Branding permeates everything you do and everything your consumers see. Any inconsistency, or chink in the armour, will send mixed messages to your consumers. Instead of feeling confident about your product or service, you will leave them feeling confused.

Good branding is key to business success

Branding communicates who you are, what you stand for and what your customers can expect when interacting with you. Consistent branding creates value in your brand and a sense of trust in the minds of your consumers. We are more likely to do business with people – and brands – we trust so good branding makes good business sense.

Branding is strategic

Branding is not marketing fluff. It’s your marketing foundation. It’s done for a reason and the reasons differ for each business depending on where they sit in the market. One of the key reasons a company invests in branding is to be distinct and set themselves apart from their competition. Companies will also use branding to engage and attract clients, customers and project partners. Some businesses may need to invest in branding to protect their brand and alter any negative external, or internal, perceptions associated with the business. Sometimes, companies will want to revisit their branding to refresh their look which may have become stale. Other catalysts for a brand refresh can include external industry reform or a change in a business’ purpose.

Branding is not just the marketing person’s job

Good branding helps companies build, and nurture, positive relationships with their customers. When done well, it inspires action, trust, loyalty, positive word of mouth, referrals and return business. For this reason, branding success can’t be left to one marketing person to do. It’s a team sport and, if a company is to succeed, it’s in everyone’s interest to get involved.

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