When we talk about branding is very much misunderstood and reduced to its aesthetic component: visual identity. For many, branding is still just about the visual identity – name, logo, design, packaging, etc. However, the concept of branding and its understanding have evolved over the years. Brands are essentially patterns of familiarity, meaning, fondness, and reassurance that exist in people’s minds.
Branding makes a memorable impression on consumers and sets a level of expectation by your business towards customers and clients. It distinguishes you from the competitors and clarifies what you offer.
A brand can come to life through different mediums, including advertising, customer service, social responsibility, reputation, and visuals. These elements (and many more) work together to create one unique and (hopefully) attention-grabbing profile.
So, what is branding?
Branding is the process of identifying, creating, and managing the cumulative assets and actions that shape the perception of a brand in stakeholders’ minds.
Reducing a brand to only one element (visual identity) makes every other branding-related concept fall short when connecting the dots. Understanding the true essence, one has to dive deeper into its meaning.
Here is a rough breakdown:
1. Continuous process
Branding is a continuous process. People, markets, and businesses are constantly changing, and your brand has to evolve with the times.
2. Identify, create, manage
There is a structured process to branding. You must first identify who/what you want to be to your stakeholders, create your brand strategy to position yourself accordingly, and then constantly manage everything that influences your positioning.
3. Assets and actions combining
First, your brand needs translating into assets, visual identity, content, products, ads. It is followed by actions, services, customer support, human relations and experiences. Next, this needs to project into your stakeholders’ minds, slowly building up that perception.
4. Brand perception
This positions your brand’s reputation. It is what people perceive your brand to be. This perception results from the branding process (or lack thereof).
Stakeholders include possible clients, existing customers, employees, shareholders, and business partners. These external groups build up their perception of their interaction with the brand.
Why is branding important?
Branding is critical to a business because of the overall impact on your company. Branding can change how people perceive your brand. It can drive new business and increase brand value – but it can also do the opposite if done wrongly or not at all.
It is important to remember; brand strategies around built the intent on how a company wants to play a role in the lives of the people and the communities around it.
Remember, reputation builds whether a business does something about it or not, resulting in a good or bad reputation. Therefore, understanding and using branding only mean taking the reins and controlling what that reputation looks like—That’s why it is essential to consider branding from the very beginning of your business.
Branding is not an “expensive marketing tactic that only big brands use”. Branding has a lot to do with common sense and is influenced by the market you’re in. Branding involves a consistent mix of different competencies and activities, so its cost depends on the level of marketing you want to do and how you want to implement it. For example, high-level consultants will be more expensive and branding an international, multi-product business will be much more challenging and resource-heavy than a local business. There is no one-size-fits-all approach.
Branding increases business value
Branding is essential when generating future business. A strongly established brand can increase a business’s value by giving the company more leverage in the industry, making it a more attractive investment opportunity because of its firmly established place in the marketplace. A strong reputation means a strong brand which, in turn, translates into value. That value can mean influence, price premium, or mindshare. The brand is a business asset that also holds monetary value and must have a place of its own on a business’s balance sheet because it increases its overall worth. Although this is a controversial topic and a difficult task for many companies, giving financial weight to the brand is as essential as branding itself – this is called ‘brand valuation’.
Branding generates new customers
A good brand will have no trouble with receiving referral business. Strong branding leaves an impression amongst consumers, and they are likely to do business with you using a name they can trust. Once a brand has been well-established, word of mouth will be the company’s best and most effective advertising technique, just like with a person’s reputation, the reputation of a brand precedes it. Word of mouth will pass the perception on and further reinforce or tarnish the reputation of that brand. If the reputation is positive, potential new customers may come into contact with the brand, having an already-positive association in their mind that makes them more likely to make a purchase from this brand than from the competition.
Improves employee pride and satisfaction
Employees who work for a strongly branded company and truly stand behind the brand will be more satisfied with their job and have a higher degree of pride in the work they do.
Remember, human interaction is the basis of commerce, and employees are the first line of communication for any brand – the first ambassadors. Employees that have a good association with the brand will positively impact the clients and partners they interact with, leading to better leadership, more involvement, and better products and services.
Creates trust within the marketplace
A brand’s reputation ultimately depends on client/customer trust. The more you trust a brand, the better your perception of it, the stronger its reputation and, thus, the brand itself.
Branding searches for the best way to earn and maintain trust between the company and its stakeholders. This is established through an attainable promise, positioning the brand in the market and then delivering on that promise. In highly crowded markets, trust is crucial because it can differentiate between intent (considering to buy) and action (making the purchase).
Branding in practice
Branding is not a one-pager; it is an ever-evolving subject spanning many areas of expertise: business management, marketing, advertising, design, psychology, and others. Branding also has different layers, each one with its meaning and structure. It is not the same as marketing, but there are many common grounds between the two, so we cannot acknowledge or deny that branding and marketing are somehow subordinate to the other. On the contrary, they are interdependent, and their primary goal is to serve the business.
Design Simplified is a great place to find some clarity and expertise regarding different aspects of branding, such as employer branding, country branding, brand design, brand governance, and brand valuation, to name a few.
#branding #brandstrategy #reputation #sustainablility #corporateidentity #reputation #marketing #design #advertising