Everyone talks about branding in the commercial world. It’s dropped into discussions about advertising, business, retail and any other kind of marketing activity with an assumption that we all understand precisely what it means. In fact, it’s not always completely clear that when people are talking about branding they’re really talking about branding!

It can be confusing. And without a proper understanding of both brand and branding, your marketing efforts are likely to fall short of your goals. Get it right, and the sky really is the limit.

Here we’ll take a look at branding, explore what it is, how you can use branding effectively and how it can help your business grow.

What is branding?

We all have our favourite brands. Some of them may be global and ubiquitous, others may be niche and local. Some may reflect our personal values and passions. Others may just be useful and reliable. Lots of brands completely pass us by, or even worse, may be associated with negative impressions in our minds. We all encounter brands every day, so much so that we may take them for granted.

So what exactly is branding?

Branding is the process of creating a clear, strong and positive perception of your business, its products and services in the minds of your target customers. This is achieved through practical elements such as your logo and design but will also include less tangible components such as your mission statement, the ideas underpinning your business, its goals and values. These will then be communicated throughout all of your marketing communications.

History of branding

Originally, branding was a mark of ownership stamped onto cattle to identify their owner. Today, a brand is often defined as a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one company’s goods or services from another.

However, a brand is way more than that. A brand lives and breathes in the hearts and minds of your customers. A brand is a customer’s gut feeling about a company, product, service or individual. In fact, brand ONLY exists in the minds of your customers. It’s how one customer will describe your brand to another. And you have to earn it!

Companies can only influence the impression that customers have about your business. What you do to influence your customer’s perception of your business is called branding.

Branding is important because it can transform people’s perceptions of your company, its products and services. When people hear the word branding, most think of ‘visual identity’ such as logo, colours and packaging. It’s much more than that. Branding isn’t just the ‘clothes you wear’ but crucially your personality and morals too. All these parts come together to form what your company, product or service projects to the world.

Branding in action

At Dawn Creative, we help companies create, refine and improve their branding performance. This is how we operate…

Working together with Row & Sons it became clear that there was a disconnect between their visual communication and the compelling history behind their brand and products. The company’s roots stretched back to the 19th century to provide butchers with wooden chopping blocks and other essentials.

We wanted to build on their long-standing values to ensure they were correctly positioned within the market. We drew on traditional butcher ration books to reference a new set of typography and constructed a logo and accompanying marketing materials influenced by traditional elements of carpentry and joinery.

Full-Metal Software creates cutting edge products and solutions and we wanted to reflect this in their brand identity. We took them through our 180-degree process, drawing up a purpose, vision and mission that sits comfortably with the positioning of the company today. Their ability to understand complex client problems and translate them into an intuitive, fit-for-purpose solutions inspired our approach to creating a compelling visual brand identity.

When we visited WOW, a chiropractic clinic in Warrington for the first time we were struck by the inconsistency in their visual identity. This created unnecessary confusion for customers. After our brand workshop, where we delved into the core of the business, we identified ‘wellness’ as their core offering. Ultimately helping people be the best they could be. This underpinned our entire approach to their future branding strategy.

The key ingredients to any brand

There are four distinct parts to a brand. These include brand materials, brand traits, brand values, and brand promise. Each of these touchpoints shapes the customer’s experience of your brand which, in turn, impacts their perception of your business. When branding fails it is often because some of these aspects are poorly pitched or contradictory.

Brand Materials

These are the things you say, things you do and things you make. They are tangible items you put out into the world to represent your brand (visual identity). Think of them as the smart suit you wear to look good. Brand materials can include logos, colours, websites, flyers, packaging, advertising etc. These all need to be rooted in your brand traits and values, turning ideas into something tangible and easy to relate to.

Brand Traits

These are the unique characteristics of your brand. This is how things feel, look and sound. Understanding what makes your brand unique is key to developing your branding. Traits such as trustworthiness or dependability can help build confidence. Traits such as innovation can generate excitement.

Your brand traits will inform your brand personality and it’s important for this to be properly defined so that it resonates with your target audience. It will be a key factor in the success of your marketing and will also help inform who your marketing efforts will be targeted at in the first place.

Brand Values

Like your own personal values, brand values are a set of guiding principles that you care about, the people you care about and the problems you care about. The most successful brands are built on a strong set of values that shape everything from product and service development to visual identity, and the marketing channels that are used. Understanding your brand values isn’t an optional extra. It’s critical to the success of your branding.

Brand Promise

This is a commitment, whether written or unspoken, that you make to customers. It identifies what they should expect from all interactions with your people, products, services and company.

Your brand is important to your business no matter the size of your company. Branding will:

  • Improve recognition
  • Create trust
  • Generate new customers
  • Build value (financial and emotional)
  • Inspire employees
  • Help generate referrals
  • Provide clarity and focus
  • Set you apart from the competition
  • Above all, Branding generates sales = Money

So to conclude:

Marty Neumeier says the goal of branding is simple: ‘To delight customers so that more people buy more things for more years at a higher price’.

While this is a snappy quote, it underlies a basic truth. Businesses that are selling their products and services have a sound future. They also help business owners and the people within the business to achieve their other goals and to live out their values. You can have the best products inspired by the smartest ideas and the highest ideals, but if no one is buying those products you don’t have a business.

Branding gets other people as excited about what you’re trying to achieve as you are, and gives them good reasons to part with their hard-earned cash on your products or services.

Commonly asked questions

In a nutshell…

What is a Brand? – The perceived emotional image in your customer’s mind.
What is Branding? The things you do to influence your customer’s perception of your brand.
What is Brand Identity? – The materials that form part of the overall brand.
What is a logo? – A logo identifies a business in its simplest form via the use of a mark or icon.

Dawn Creative will help take your branding to the next level

We hope this has helped clear up the confusion around brand and branding. To expand on some of the ideas that we’ve explored here we’ll be introducing a series of blogs, each covering the various touchpoints we have mentioned.

In the meantime though, if you have a burning question about your brand then feel free to ask us, or you can check out some of the recent brand projects we’ve helped our clients with.