What is Branding?
A Deep Dive into the Correct Definition
A few weeks ago, I met my friend and fellow business owner for lunch and brainstorming. We helped each other generate ideas to build our businesses and reach new clients in the rest of 2017. We talked about people we know who might need the other’s offerings.
My friend looked at me, scrunched up her face and said, “I’m not sure how I could explain to people what you do because what you do is so…..”
As she searched for the word, I panicked a little. Her face didn’t make it seem as though the word would be positive.
“It’s so nebulous,” she said with a smile, satisfied with her word choice.
While I’m not a theoretical mathematician -- work I’d consider “nebulous” -- I agreed with her. I’m a branding expert and I think the word, “brand,” and the concept of branding, are confusing.
This gave me the idea to make branding less nebulous. Less confusing. In this and some upcoming posts, I’ll provide an overview and detailed breakdown of branding and the branding process because I believe both are critical concepts every business must master. After all, this is precisely how great brands distinguish themselves from all others.
So, what is a brand? Online dictionaries define it this way:
brand - [brand] /brænd/
- kind, grade, or make, as indicated by a stamp, trademark, or the like: the best brand of coffee.
- a mark made by burning or otherwise, to indicate kind, grade, make, ownership, etc.
- a mark formerly put upon criminals with a hot iron.
- any mark of disgrace; stigma.
- branding iron.
- a kind or variety of something distinguished by some distinctive characteristic: The movie was filled with slapstick—a brand of humor he did not find funny.
- a burning or partly burned piece of wood.
But for the work we do -- helping people and companies identify and convey their uniqueness in order to fully experience their competitive advantage, I define brand this way:
“Simply put, your brand is your legacy. It’s what you want to be known for. It can be summed up in a few words or phrases. When people hear your brand name (or your name if it’s a personal brand) it evokes thoughts and feelings, logical and emotional responses. Strong brands elicit strong reactions, both positive and negative. It’s important to understand that a brand is a two-way street. There’s the work you do to create your legacy and there’s the opinion held by others. The goal is for your intention to match the impression you make. Remember, though, a strong brand does NOT appeal to everyone. It will resonate strongly with some and may be disliked by others.”
–Jocelyn Ring, The Ring Effect
Another way to think of a brand is through the end results or the benefits of having a strong brand.
The marketplace can be crowded and your brand must showcase your uniqueness. There might be 10,000 businesses who offer a product like yours. When you spend the time to find what sets you or your business apart, you’re able to attract clients who are looking for the benefits and results only you provide.
Your uniqueness doesn’t need to be grand or terribly granular. You can, and should, showcase one unique advantage you provide. This can be a daunting step that’s tempting to skip. Large companies often spend tens of thousands or even millions of dollars to define their uniqueness. They’ll invest in this because they know the benefit of standing apart from the competition -- of doing one thing exceptionally well and being rewarded for that skill.
Finding and defining your uniqueness is one of my favorite things to do with our clients!
Let’s look at some of the benefits of properly defining your uniqueness:
1. Doing so provides you a compass to make decisions. When you have a brand strategy in place, it cuts decision-making time in half or even more. Business decisions become easy because if they’re aligned with your values and mission -- all part of your brand.
2. It attracts the right clients by taking a position. You’ll find that some people wholeheartedly agree with you and others don’t. Your brand helps you attract and build relationships with clients you can provide results for and that you enjoy working with. If you have a strong brand, you’ll be top of mind and relevant to people when they are looking to solve a problem.
3. It creates a connection with your audience. A strong brand is tied to values and beliefs. You’ve probably heard the expression that people tend to do business with those they know, like and trust. They also do business with people or companies that believe what they do, view the world the same way and want similar results. By aligning at a core value level, you can create a relationship more easily and continue to deepen that relationship.
4. It provides a roadmap for how and where you reach your audience. You probably have some favorite brands, either personal brands or organizations. You might admire the way they produce products, articles, social media posts, advertisements or speak in such a way that without seeing a logo or their name you know exactly who or where it came from. You might even find yourself a bit envious of how good everything they do is. And, you may wonder what their special gift is. It’s not a special gift, it’s a strategy or roadmap that helps them provide a consistent brand experience.
5. It allows you to command a premium. Take an example from the supermarket. Strolling down the spice aisle you might see a store brand of salt and a national brand nearby. The national brand may be twice as expensive. Why can the national brand charge twice as much? It’s because shoppers believe the premium brand is higher quality. The premium brand has been around for a long time, it might be what their mother used. It’s a combination of logic and emotion sustained by the strong national brand.
“Branding” is the process of getting you to the benefits of a strong brand.
A proper branding process to create a brand from scratch or to rebrand an old one takes time. Personal brand development usually takes three to four months. A corporate branding can take up to two years. From there, the work to build and refine the brand is ongoing, and the benefits of the effort will remain apparent.
In my next post, I’ll explore the steps we take in properly creating a new brand or re-creating an old one. You might be surprised at the work and time involved. You certainly will be struck by the results!
Meanwhile, if you’d like help figuring out if it’s time for you or your company to rebrand, click here.