Even in today’s business climate, there seems to be a lot of confusion around what Branding is, and how it serves a business. And while that’s to be expected from those outside the industry, the problem appears to be just as pervasive among those who claim to sell the service. How can a decision maker invest in brand development with any confidence, when the advice they’re given is often misleading?
When speaking with other professionals, one of the more common misconceptions we run up against is the idea that “Branding” consists primarily of a logo mark, and other visual fodder. This myth is perpetuated by industry folk who insist on referring to logos & corporate identity systems as “branding”, instead of the more accurate “brand identity.” That may sound like semantic hair splitting, but failing to understand the difference can mean walking away from a wealth of unrealized business potential.
This confusion persists for a variety of reasons. For one, a logo is tasked with fighting on the front lines day in and day out. This constant exposure can lead to people overemphasizing it’s importance (or contribution to their marketing effort). To make matters worse, there are those who perceive Branding as a superficial activity, making it easy for them to equate the practice to less meaningful pursuits, such as logo design.
When used correctly, a well-executed identity system can prove invaluable to your organization, but will never serve as an adequate replacement for the brand itself. That doesn’t stop some from trying, however. Those who do often fail to recognize that logos are not endowed with magical powers. It’s unrealistic to think that a graphic mark can go to bat for your communication strategy. Logos are best suited for increasing visibility and generating awareness, NOT conveying complex brand messages. And while logos are good at garnering positive first impressions, they can’t take the conversation much further than that. At some point, a well-articulated communication strategy must be employed.
Now that we’ve built a case against logo-based brands, let’s take a quick look at what Branding actually is. Simply put, your brand is every dimension of your business that contributes to the overall impression held by your audience. On a macro level, that includes things like your culture, code of conduct, and reason for being (to name a few). On a micro level, it consists of more visceral elements, like the customer service experience, product design principles, and many other outputs that inherit DNA from the brand pillars mentioned above. All of these things collectively shape the brand experience for anyone and everyone who comes into contact with your business.
While not exhaustive (we did say simply put), hopefully that explanation provides some clarity around what makes a Brand. But that still leaves us with the task of understanding why it all matters…
It’s been said that “if you have a business, you have a brand.” To the best of our knowledge, that’s absolutely true. The choice you have then, is whether or not you want to optimize it. You can choose to roll the dice, and be passive with your brand, letting it evolve as it will. OR, you can take the reigns and invest the time and energy needed to realize it’s full potential. An investment in your brand is, after all, an investment in your business. And while a brand can often seem fickle, learning how to nurture it is a very attainable goal – one that will pay dividends down the road.